It’s been almost four long months since the COVID-19 outbreak put the entire world on pause, along with the NBA season. The idea of watching live basketball almost seems foreign since it’s been so long. Fans have endured an entire offseason’s worth of zero basketball; no games, not much news, not much to talk about. Thankfully, we are finally approaching the restart of the 2019-2020 NBA season as the Sixers are on pace to play their first scrimmage on TV against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzles on July 24th.
A lot of time passing with the suspension of the NBA season has brought on new storylines and situations. When the season was paused the Sixers were entering arguably the hardest part of their season: Joel Embiid was nursing a shoulder injury and Ben Simmons was sidelined indefinitely with a nerve related back injury.
Now the team is healthy (knocked wood as I typed that), and the Sixers look to take advantage of the time off. Can Mickey Mouse help give some of that Disney magic to the Sixers? Let’s break down some bold predictions I have going into the NBA restart:
Al Horford will be a productive and helpful player
I was never in love with the whole Al Horford signing. I was pretty sold on trying to get Malcolm Brogdon in Sixers’ red, white, and blue. So when news broke that Horford signed with the Sixers I wasn’t ecstatic. I really wasn’t ecstatic when I saw how long and large his new contract was.
I understood the logic behind it; the Sixers’ biggest hole in the last postseason was at the backup center spot. They were splitting minutes between Amir Johnson (who hasn’t been in the NBA since) and Greg Monroe, who is now playing overseas.
Horford was coming off a great individual year with the Celtics and the fit alongside Ben Simmons was great. The Sixers got a fringe All-Star to backup their franchise player and weakened the center spot on their division rival Boston Celtics. On paper it appeared to be a win by the Sixers’ front office.
But as we all know, it’s been far from that. The offense with Embiid and Horford on the floor together has been streaky at best. Horford can shoot threes, but it’s not what he’s best at. For the majority of the season — apart from a few early season games — Horford has been struggling. His numbers have dipped down and his defense has taken a pretty large step back. Not great considering this is the first year of a four year contract.
It always seemed like Horford wasn’t 100% for most of the season. While he is getting up there in age I found it hard to believe that he declined this much within just a year. What happened to the guy in the first few games that helped keep the Sixers in games while Embiid sat?
Horford recently admitted in media availability that he “wasn’t where he wanted to be” in terms of his health. It’s very possible he could’ve been nursing a nagging injury.
Regardless, the time off will definitely help Big Al. Horford has always been a professional on and off the court and it’s safe to assume he’s been taking great care of his body over the past few months. He’s had 3-4 months to get his body right for the NBA restart.
Do I think Horford will return to Hawks/Celtics form? It’s very unlikely. Do I think he can be a productive starter/sixth man for this team? Totally.
Horford averaged 20 points-per-game on 60% shooting from the floor in the three games before the season suspension. While he may be getting up there in age people may want to hold off on calling him washed.
Mike Scott won’t play in the postseason
Mike Scott Hive please don’t sting me for this.
I just don’t see Scott breaking the Sixers’ rotation for this upcoming post season. At least in my mind he shouldn’t.
Mike Scott was one of the first Sixers’ signed in the 2019 offseason using the mid-level exception. The move mostly received positive recognition from the Sixers’ fanbase as Scott turned into a fan favorite with his tough persona and approach to the game of basketball. It didn’t hurt that he shot the ball incredibly well from behind the arc.
However, similar to the Horford signing, Scott’s time in Philadelphia hasn’t gone according to plan. His three point shooting has taken a dip from last season from over 40% to just under 36% this season. While it isn’t an awful shooting percentage, it is below league average. Which is a bigger deal for Scott than other players as he’s primarily on the floor to space it.
This Sixers’ team is much deeper than last season’s. They have real rotation players in (likely) Al Horford, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III, Furkan Korkmaz, and Matisse Thybulle. Every player mentioned has a real argument to have playing time off the bench.
In recent news Brett Brown announced that Ben Simmons will be playing off the ball more as a power forward, further taking away available playing time at the position from Scott. Tobias Harris is also more of a matchup nightmare at the power forward spot which likely means he will be seeing a good amount of playing time at the position. All of this doesn’t even mention Al Horford; who will see at least 10 minutes at said position alongside Embiid.
This supports the prediction that Scott likely won’t be in the playoff rotation. There’s too much talent at the forward spots to justify otherwise.
Ben Simmons will finally shoot a basketball (on a regular basis)
The question of if Ben Simmons will shoot a jumpshot has been asked since he first came into the league. He rarely shot from the perimeter during his freshman year at LSU and has done the same at a NBA level. After practice summer sessions surfaced last summer it seemed like it was finally going to happen: Ben Simmons would start taking open jumpers.
Apart from a few open threes, we’ve rarely seen it. Simmons has finally made an NBA three pointer but it’s been uncommon at best. For the majority of the season we saw the same old story.
However, I think it’s finally time. I believe Ben Simmons will attempt open jumpshots in the NBA Bubble.
Maybe I’m a sucker for believing this will happen; but I believe there are many variables that will ultimately play into him adding a jumper to his offensive arsenal. We’ve seen Simmons working on his jumpshot via online video throughout quarantine. He’s been actively working on it while rehabbing his back injury:
Obviously shooting is different in drills than in a live game sifuation, but Ben Simmons has definitely been working on that jumper. Let’s hope it shows in games. pic.twitter.com/3p2E2y87Vv— Harrison Grimm BLM (@Harrison_Grimm) July 15, 2020
While Simmons hitting the majority of the jumpers in this video will be the main focus for some, the biggest point comes at the end of this video. While a trainer is complimenting Simmons’ shooting he suggests that he should shoot more in games. Simmons responded to the statement with “Orlando”.
This may be reading too much into this, but it’s the first time publicly that Simmons has said he is going to shoot. In the past we’ve seen him give vague statements when asked any questions in relation to his jumper. This may be different.
Orlando will be a much different environment than any NBA player has played a season in. The overall games will have a much different atmosphere than a regular NBA game; with no crowd. It will arguably hold some of the lowest pressure NBA games ever. Less eyes can equal less pressure.
Brett Brown says Ben Simmons has been shooting more 3s in practice (more than he might have in half a season) and his 3-point shot looks good. He added Simmons has been getting a lot of encouragement from teammates too.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) July 16, 2020
All signs point to Simmons shooting. Everything changes in regards to the Philadelphia 76ers if he does indeed attempt jumpers and make them at a respectable rate.
This last prediction may age like a carton of milk you bought a week ago, but I truly believe this is the biggest chance we’ve had at witnessing this since Simmons arrived in Philadelphia. If it does, watch out NBA.