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LB Mailbag: Answering your Sixers questions ahead of camp

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Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

We asked for your questions and you delivered in a big way, friends. I tried to answer as many relevant questions as I could from the community and also via Twitter. Hopefully, we can do this again soon during camp.

Here. We. Go.

If the Sixers don’t trade Ben and he doesn’t report. Do they get to use a disable player exception/another hardship exception? Let’s say we get some exception/get a roster spot (trade Bassey or whatever). Let’s say we sign James Ennis to our exception spot instead of Ben. How far do you think that Sixers team goes?

— terd ferguson’s hat

With your username, it feels appropriate to first say RIP Norm Macdonald. What a uniquely funny and gifted human. He was on the SNL cast that I grew up with and will always be the person I associate most with Weekend Update. Also: Dirty Work is an underrated movie.

A lot to unpack here.

The hardship provision is more about injured players and typically is only applied for when a team has multiple injured players. Hopefully the Sixers do not need to apply for one and everyone on the roster stays healthy through camp. If Simmons is still holding out and a couple players do go down, it could be an option — but hopefully it’s not necessary.

As far as Charles Bassey goes, I think the team really likes him. They bought the pick from the Pelicans ahead of the draft and Daryl Morey admitted that he was eyeing frontcourt players. With Filip Petrusev spending another year overseas, I would be surprised if Bassey doesn’t eventually sign his rookie deal soon. (A team source indicated to me that the plan all along has been to sign Bassey to a standard NBA deal).

I will say that I enjoy the James Ennis love from a lot of you. Ennis is a good dude with a great story. He’s earned every opportunity he’s ever gotten. What I see as most likely for Ennis is staying out in California and maybe signing an Exhibit 10 deal with a team like the Lakers. I still see him as a player that can make winning plays for a winning team.

I heard Ben Simmons wants to be traded. Has anyone made any trade suggestions?

— Ben4three(roleplayers)

We’re slowly approaching the point where sharing your fake Simmons trades is like sharing your fantasy football rosters — everyone is kind of annoyed by it, but everyone is still going to do it.

I read a lot of internet trades and am shocked at how often Maxey and Shake are looked at equally as “throw-ins”. I know how most of us feel about those guys (Maxey-yay, Shake-meh), but what is their perceived value around the league in non-Sixer circles? Are we just drinking Maxey koolaid, much like we were drinking the Shake-aid last summer?

— Noahflax

I got a few Tyrese Maxey-Shake Milton related questions, so I’ll answer a couple.

From my perspective — and I think the perspective of most around the league — Maxey is the much more valuable prospect. He’s 20 years old, was a high recruit that went to a powerhouse school and proved last season that there’s no way he should’ve dropped to 21. When you look at their traits it seems clear that Maxey is the player with more upside — and he’s already contributing at a high level.

I still like Shake an awful lot. He had a weird year last season. He added muscle, which helped him get to his spots on the floor, but might have hurt his jumper. He insisted all season that he hadn’t tweaked his shot at all. Milton has shot the ball well at every level, so last season feels like more of an aberration to me. As far as his value around the league, I still wouldn’t consider him a “throw in.” He can help just about any NBA team in some way and is on a team-friendly deal.

Follow up question, who was more hyped, Shake coming into 2021 or Maxey coming into 2021-2022?

— Bwilkins13

This is a good one.

The Shake hype train was serious heading into last season — and Doc Rivers was the conductor. People were putting shekels down on Milton to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. And he got off to a great start. He just wasn’t consistent throughout the season.

I actually think the Maxey hype is bigger for a few reasons:

  1. Fans are already frothing at the mouth over Maxey’s potential — and for good reason. The kid just about forced Game 7 against the Hawks on his own in Game 6. His Summer League performance has also upped the hype.
  2. Doc loves him. Rivers simply does NOT play rookies and Maxey forced his way onto the court many times last season. I’d put my money on Doc conducting the Maxey hype train as well during camp.
  3. The expectations are bigger. We were looking at Shake as a Sixth Man for a contender. With the Simmons rumors swirling, we’re all considering how big of a role Maxey could have. Pending what the Sixers get in return, there’s a chance Maxey could be your best option as your starting one — a risky endeavor, but I’m not betting against Maxey.

It’s interesting that we’re linking Maxey and Milton together because it feels like they’re going to compete for minutes. With Georges Niang and Andre Drummond holding the backup four and five spots, respectively, there should be plenty of competition on the wing/at guard between Maxey, Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz. And I wouldn’t count out Isaiah Joe.

I’ve been saying since they drafted Maxey that I see Jrue Holiday-like potential. That’s not to say that Maxey and Jrue are the same player, just as far as ceiling goes.

Both came into the league from powerhouse programs at the age of 19. Neither player has elite size or athleticism, but both make up for it with their length and by outworking every other player on the floor.

Holiday is a fringe All-Star and a very good two-way guard. It’s only a matter of time before Maxey becomes a full-time NBA starter, and I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest he can reach a similar level to Holiday. Maxey’s improvement as a shooter and a defender in-season was mighty impressive. With the way he works, I anticipate that growth will continue.

I don’t want to get too carried away — I probably already have — but I think Maxey has the potential to be special.

What is most important thing Coach Rivers must do differently this year?

— Frank Malzone

What extremely predictable trend from the regular season will cause the Sixers to lose in the playoffs this year?

— JojoTheProcessEmbiid

I put these two together because they’re super related.

Rivers’ propensity to ride bad lineups and go bench-heavy hurt the Sixers in the postseason. Doc did a lot of good — got the most out of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, bucked his trend of not playing rookies to let Maxey thrive — but this was a sore spot.

If/when Simmons is traded, that could take care of one ill-fitting problem. The idea of Simmons-Andre Drummond lineups is terrifying. Depending on what the return is for Simmons, the Sixers’ spacing problems are likely to be solved. Having Drummond and Thybulle on the floor together likely isn’t ideal, but you should have enough shooting/playmaking otherwise to make it work — especially if Niang continues to be one of the more underrated shooters in the league and Maxey progresses.

I don’t foresee the team’s rookies — first-rounder Jaden Springer, second-rounder Bassey or two-way player Aaron Henry — having much of an impact. I would say Bassey has the best chance, but it’s hard to imagine Doc going to him over players like Drummond and Paul Reed as the backup five.

As far as just players on the roster that I could see making a leap, I wouldn’t sleep on Isaiah Joe. It’s an uphill battle for minutes, but Joe has a chance. We already know about his prowess as a movement shooter. What stood out to me last season was how advanced he is defensively. Rivers seems to like Joe — Doc and Joe’s college coach have a relationship — and gave him opportunities last season.

The Sixers have Thybulle as an elite defender and Furkan Korkmaz as their potential wing flamethrower. There is a chance that Joe ultimately has the best balance of 3-and-D of anyone off the bench. While I wouldn’t get too giddy about it, Joe did flash some ability as a playmaker during the Summer League before suffering a mild MCL sprain.

Again, Joe will have to scratch and claw for minutes, but he’s got a shot.

Aside from the obvious fear of not getting proper value in return, this is what scares me the most about a Simmons trade. Say what you want about Simmons, he is arguably the most versatile defender in the entire NBA.

As far as weighing that, it depends what you’re getting in return. If you somehow land Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal, you can start Thybulle, bring Seth Curry off the bench, problem solved. Many of the other scenarios thrown out there aren’t as obvious.

If you do a deal with the Kings and get Buddy Hield, starting Curry and Hield would be outstanding for spacing but disastrous defensively. Similarly, if you acquire someone like Malik Beasley from the Timberwolves — while not as bad as Hield — keeping Curry in the starting backcourt could be worrisome.

That’s why I’ve tended to lean toward a Spurs package that would include Dejounte Murray. He doesn’t help your spacing much offensively, but you also don’t fall off a cliff on the other end in the absence of Simmons.

Any way you slice it, the Sixers are losing an elite defensive player with elite passing ability. Those are things you’ll have to replace in some way.

Can we get a promotion going for folks to get a covid shot? Free entry to a preseason game for getting vaxxed?

— RedRump

I mean I don’t have the power to do this, but I would strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. The Sixers did offer future game tickets for people getting vaccinated at one point last season. It would be very cool of them to do so again.