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LB Mailbag part 1: can Brett Brown save his job, title odds, Horford’s role and more

Philadelphia 76ers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

We asked our twitter friends for some questions, hot takes, or ideas. Five of our writers banded together to discuss. This is part 1 of 2 of our Liberty Ballers mailbag.

Dave Early: If I bet a buddy 100 kidney beans (my buds and I always bet in dried legumes and then you don’t have to pay any casino in surprisingly refreshing bean ‘juice’) I’d win 2000 beans. Another way of saying that is 20:1. There’s a simple little equation you can do now to calculate the percent, here 1 divided by 20+1. That’s about 4.65 percent. My gut says “yes” here. They have two stars, they can win a chip about one out of twenty tries, that would be 5 percent.

Jacob Goldstein, who created PIPM statistics, gives them less, he thinks their chances are 4 percent. Nate Silver of 538 gives them a staggeringly high 15 percent shot to take home the Larry O.B. jawn. VegasInsider gives them a 3.4% chance, offering bettors a better deal at 28:1. And there’s this unquantifiable but exhilarating possibility Zach Lowe is “sneakily high on Philly” that necessitates incorporating:

Let’s average my gut, Goldstein, Silver, both betting sites and Z-Lowe and say the Sixers have a 6.87 percent shot at a title! So go ahead and bet your last kidney on that one.

Daniel Olinger: The answer is no.

However, if you’re interested in making some money, I might recommend Ben Simmons under 2.5 made threes in the bubble games, Josh Richardson averaging under 3.1 assists and Joel Embiid under 1.5 made threes per game. Then again, I also would never ask myself for any betting or financial advice ever, so do with that what you will.

Tyler Monahan: I wouldn’t mind trading one first round pick in order to get Horford’s contract off the books but that also depends on what else is included in a trade. Both Shake Milton and Matisse Thybulle’s names have been thrown around in hypothetical trade proposals, when you attach them to Horford and one first it’s hard to swallow, giving up more than one pick just seems to be too much.

Dave Early: Is Otto Porter healthy? Does Marc Eversley now with Chicago want Al? I wonder if someone could talk me into some kind of Horford+assets for Porter deal.

Tom West: I’m not sure Horford will play off the bench full-time. Instead, I’m expecting Brett Brown to take more of an experimental, situational, match-up based approach when the season returns (Horford has only had one 3-game run off the bench so far). But when Horford does play off the bench, I’d say Shake Milton has a good chance to take the starting spot. He’s shown he can do more in a larger role, he’s the kind of quick-trigger shooter that’s needed to boost spacing, and he can serve as another ball handler to work alongside Ben Simmons (in pick-and-rolls, for example), which would be ideal.

As for the second question, there are a couple of ways you could go. I almost want to say Al Horford, given the potential variance there could be in his performance. Is he at the slow-footed, three-point-missing lows we saw a lot this season? Or is he going through a strong spell like he was before the season stopped (he averaged 15.8 points, 9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and shot 48.1 percent from three over the last 6 games) and benefiting from a few months off to get in better physical condition? Horford has a chance to lift up the team whenever Embiid rests, which would be a huge improvement from previous playoff runs, or he could be a weak link.

That said, I’m going to opt for Tobias Harris here. He can be the clear-cut third-best player on the team if he’s at his best. As overpaid as he may be, Harris has been having a good season, which includes efficient three-point shooting since his early cold spell (39.1 percent since November 15). He must be aggressive, though. If Harris is assertive, maintains increased three-point volume, and quickens his trigger to fire from deep whenever he has an opening (I know this is easier said than done), it will make a big difference to the Sixers’ offense.

Steve Lipman: In my opinion, the only scenario in which Brett keeps his job in Philly is one where the Sixers at least win the Eastern Conference. Anything short of that would give ownership the excuse to move on they’ve been (rumored to be) looking for over a period of years now. It would not be without cause, and as much as I love Brett, if the Sixers falter early again in the playoffs, a change in leadership would be a good idea.

Tom West: If the Sixers don’t make it to the Finals, or at least put up a competitive fight in the Eastern Conference Finals (probably against the historically dominant Bucks), I think that’s all the justification ownership will need to move on from Brett Brown.

I’ve often felt that Brown receives too much criticism for the Sixers’ problems. He’s not perfect, but you also can’t blame a coach for not being able to magically overcome the issues of a poorly built roster. He’s been dealt a difficult hand many times, and there’s no guarantee a new coach will be an upgrade. However, there’s something to be said for simply having a new voice in the locker room and taking a new approach. Teams can become stale. Brown will need to do a lot to save a job that’s been in question for a while now.

Daniel Olinger: Knowing the tendencies of this organization, I personally believe Brown is guaranteed to keep his job should the Sixers pull some upsets and make the third round of the playoffs. More than anything else, they want to shed their reputation of being stuck in the second round, as a team that’s good but can’t take that next step. If the season ends in an embarrassing first round exit, then Brown will get canned without second thought.

But, should the team flame out in the second round again, I think they might just stick with the incumbent head coach. You have to ask yourself, who out there is better that they’re replacing him with? Big names like Tom Thibodeau, Jason Kidd and Ty Lue would seem like tire fires waiting to happen. Kenny Atkinson is likable, but too similar to Brown. Perhaps the Sixers’ brass holds on to Ime Udoka and replaces Brown in the same way the Raptors had Nick Nurse usurp Dwayne Casey. They could even take a swing at a lesser known assistant from around the league, such as Charles Lee, Wes Unseld Jr. or Adrian Griffin, to name a few. I think it probably is the right time for the Sixers to move on from Brown. I’m just not confident that they will.

Dave Early: Meh. They’re really good and Nick Nurse deserves so so much credit it’s disgusting. But they also lack star-power. Like one as good as a two-time Finals MVP. OG Anunoby making a Pascal Siakam like leap could vault them over the top. But I think Boston, the Bucks, and Sixers all have a talent edge over Toronto and that will win out in a playoff environment.

Daniel Olinger: I’m proud of myself for predicting back in my season preview that Toronto was going to remain one of the league’s better squads. Their offense dropped to a middling 14th in points per 100 possessions, but due to Nick Nurse’s wacky zones and a rotation of eight above average defenders, the Raptors have emerged as the league’s second best defense behind only Milwaukee. In a related note, Milwaukee is the only team allowing more three point attempts per game, as both team’s have prioritized at-rim defense. However, unlike the Bucks who force a lot of above the break threes, Toronto has allowed a record breaking 13.8% of its opponent shot attempts to be the deadly corner three. Make of that what you will.

I don’t think anyone in the East really stands that much of a chance against the Bucks, and on top of that Milwaukee’s tendency to force teams into pull-up jumpers does not project well for a Raptors team that does not have many good off dribble jump shooters, save for maybe Kyle Lowry. I also think the Raptors could run into trouble against the Celtics and their treasure chest of playmaking wings, who seem better equipped to make the difficult shots that playoff defenses force teams to take. But I do think they’re more of a contender than the Sixers as of now, as they’re stock full of more useful rotation pieces like Norman Powell (been on that island since 2016 baby), Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis, and have the ultimate Embiid post-up defender in Marc Gasol.

Stay tuned for part 2....