Over the years, Brett Brown’s annual luncheon with members of the media has become the unofficial start to the season. Amidst the pasta and salad, the event also provides hints about the paths the Sixers’ head coach might have the team take over the course of the year. Let’s examine some of Brett’s key comments from yesterday afternoon:
Brett Brown: "I want the #1 seed...of course we're going to say not to the detriment of Joel's health, but I will put out there now: I want the #1 seed."— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) September 25, 2019
As a team that lost a Game 7 on the road last spring, it’s not surprising that the Sixers recognize the value of home court advantage. The goalposts have been moved once again for what constitutes a successful season; the Sixers have Milwaukee and the number-one seed in the East squarely in their sights. While Joel Embiid and Al Horford are going to receive their rest games throughout the season, don’t expect much tinkering with the rotation just to “try things out”. Each and every game will be treated as meaningful and I’d anticipate minutes to be doled out accordingly.
Ben Simmons’ shot
Brown on Simmons’ jumper:— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) September 25, 2019
“It starts here and here first completely — the willingness to shoot. The time that he has invested over the course of this summer is the best by a longshot that he ever has.”
Brown is going to be moving Simmons away from the dunker’s spot. “You’re not going to see me put him down there In the beginning of the year.” Is going to have him in corners more and encouraging him to shoot threes.— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) September 25, 2019
Ben Simmons backed out of this summer’s FIBA World Cup with Team Australia to get ready for the season, and Brown clearly thinks his 6-foot-10 point guard has made some progress with his shot. We’ve all seen the workout videos and been some degree of either excited or skeptical about them. His coach believing things are going to be different this season feels like a particular level of certainty for me, though. If Simmons can just space the floor from the corners, that development would be huge for a Philadelphia offense now missing JJ Redick’s gravity and short on lights-out shooting.
Al Horford’s role
Brown said Al Horford will be the backup 5 in addtition to the starting 4. But the coach doesn’t expect to “burn down” the veteran player. So, at least early in the season, other players could get quality minutes. But look for Horford to start at the 5 when Embiid is out.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 25, 2019
Everything Brown lays out here is what people expected following the team’s free agent signings. Horford will both start next to and spell Joel Embiid, but Kyle O’Quinn will also have an actual role in the rotation, and not just on nights when one of Embiid or Horford sits. Good job by Elton Brand to turn a situation that was an Achilles heel for the team last season into one with some degree of depth.
Josh Richardson as point-of-attack defender
Brett says he’s inclined to have Richardson guard opposing team’s primary ball handler. Describes him as an ideal fit.— brianseltzer (@brianseltzer) September 25, 2019
“The secret - as important as anything - mortar. He has the chance to hold us together.”
While Ben Simmons did an excellent job against D’Angelo Russell in last season’s playoffs, it seems Josh Richardson will be the guy the Sixers have defend opposing point guards. Whether the 6-foot-6 Richardson is up to the task of stopping small, lightning-quick point guards like Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving will be one of the crucial X-factors for Philadelphia this season.
NBA teams have used zone defenses for short stretches more and more in recent seasons to throw opposing teams a curveball and make them think about something else during game preparation. Given Philadelphia’s size and length, I’d be curious to see how much ground the Sixers could cover in a zone.
Asked about a go-to guy, Brett Brown said Joel Embiid is our crown jewel.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 25, 2019
Another big question is who will have the ball in his hands for the Sixers late in games, after Jimmy Butler filled that role admirably for the team last season. Tobias Harris’ name has come up a lot this summer in regards to that conversation, but Brett Brown brings up Joel Embiid here. It’s always more difficult for a big man to be the crunch-time scorer because he needs someone else to get him the ball, whereas a guard or wing can just create for himself from the perimeter. If anyone has the talent to make it work, though, it’s Joel.
We are less than a week away from training camp. Hallelujah!