Last week, I sent out a feeler for mailbag questions on Twitter — and you folks came through. I’d like to make this a semi-regular thing, so please feel free to reach out with any Sixers-related questions and I’ll do my best to answer in this space.
Without further ado, your questions answered (to the best of my ability).
Is there any way Doc runs a starting 5 of Maxey, Melton, Harden, Tobi and Jo? Doesn’t it have to be?— Michael Cohen (He/Him) (@cohen_HR_Law) January 5, 2023
Understandable that this question pops up a lot. Nobody expected P.J. Tucker to come in and start averaging double-digits — in fact, our Jackson Frank predicted offensive regression — but it’s been rough for the rugged forward. My guess would be that health is a huge factor here. Tucker has been dealing with several ailments (including a “dead” shooting hand) throughout the season and it’s seemingly sapped him the most offensively.
Meanwhile, De’Anthony Melton has been a godsend for the Sixers. Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, Melton has hit timely shots and made several clutch defensive plays. This team would be not be in the position it’s in if not for Mr. Do Something.
While Melton is an elite off-ball defender, his on-ball defense — while quite good — is not at the same level. Against a team like the Celtics, it’ll be extremely difficult to contend with wings like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Tucker is not the greatest on-ball stopper, but his versatility, physicality and short-term memory are enormous assets for the Sixers.
Something to keep in mind: Tuesday’s win over Detroit was just the seventh game the projected starting lineup has played together. We need to give this group (and Tucker’s hand injury) a little time.
The rotation also seems to be coming together a bit with Melton, Shake Milton, Georges Niang, and Matisse Thybulle nailing down spots off the bench. Montrezl Harrell appears to have taken over the primary backup center duties (for now). Let this (finally) healthy rotation play things out ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline and evaluate.
Will PJ Tucker turn it around?— Yaké Bueno (@The_Jaker_) January 9, 2023
Sort of related to the previous question. Yes, I do believe Tucker will turn things around. Do I expect him to be the same player he was in Miami last season? No. Do I expect him to shoot a more respectable rate at the rim and provide strong defense during the postseason? Yes.
You don’t sign Tucker to help you win games in January. You sign him to help get you over the second-round hump and beyond. We all saw how he tilted the series for the Heat last postseason by getting to every single loose ball and making the open shots that came his way. Play like that while surrounded by so much offensive firepower should be a winning recipe.
A sneaky aspect where I think Tucker has helped this team, as cliche as it is: leadership. Tucker is going to tell you how he feels and let his teammates know when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to. That mentality has trickled down throughout the roster. The vibes around this team have been pretty good, despite so many guys being in and out of the lineup.
Seems like bojan bogdanovic is available and would be a perfect fit. Is that someone we can realistically target? If not, who would be realistic targets before the deadline?— Old Friends (@oldfriendsnj) January 5, 2023
Bogdanovic would fit just about any team looking to contend. Wing shooters that can create a bit and defend at a respectable level can fit almost anywhere.
The issue for the Sixers is Bogdanovic’s cap hit ($19.5 million). It’s nearly impossible to match that salary while still having enough players on your roster. There’s a similar issue with previous Sixers target Eric Gordon.
I’ll say I think you’re on the right track in looking at wing players, but you might have to set your sights a little lower. Cam Reddish can apparently be had at a discounted price (though previous rumors of any Reddish-to-the-Sixers talk were shot down by a source — not sure if the low price tag changes things). There was a report that Villanova product Saddiq Bey could be on the market. Curious what the asking price from the Pistons would be ... also curious why they would trade him, but it’s out there from a reliable reporter.
But you never know. There wasn’t much smoke around Melton being on the market or the Sixers being suitors and that trade has worked out quite well. Daryl Morey also pulled off arguably the most complex trade in NBA history, so I rule nothing out.
I’d personally be monitoring the backup center market as well. An Andre Drummond reunion would make a ton of sense, but I’m not sure what the price would be or if that’s something Morey has much interest in. Drummond was excellent as a backup here and sure sounded like he wouldn’t mind being back in Philly.
Was hailiburton/hield legitimately on the table for Simmons last year? Harden has been better than I expected and I get win now mode, but I believe they’d be a better overall team since the offense runs through Embiid.— ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@gregor2283) January 5, 2023
I’ve written about this before. I was told by a source that talks with the Kings never got serious. Sacramento was dangling De’Aaron Fox, who the Sixers didn’t have interest in. It seems like a situation where the Kings and Pacers matched up extremely well. Domantas Sabonis has given Sacramento a consistent, All-Star level big. Tyrese Haliburton gave Indy a rising star. Ben Simmons, though still very talented, would’ve been quite the wildcard to bet on in a Haliburton trade.
Speaking frankly, the Sixers’ ceiling is higher with Harden as opposed to Haliburton and Buddy Hield — and I say that as a huge fan of both players.
what is the best and worst matchup for us out of cle/mil/nets/bos— christ (@ICopyEveryone) January 5, 2023
This is a hell of a question. I only slot Cleveland as the best matchup because of their youth. That’s a damn good basketball team that could present the Sixers issues with their massive frontcourt and dynamic backcourt.
I guess I go Milwaukee for toughest just because of the matchup problems they present. Brook Lopez can contend with Embiid as well as any big in the league and they have one of the best defensive guards in the NBA in Jrue Holiday to hang with Harden. On the other end, it’ll be so tough for the Sixers to match up with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
But man ... you could make similar arguments with Brooklyn having two Hall-of-Fame-caliber perimeter players and Boston having two elite scoring wings. The East is good. All five of these teams are impressive. We’ll have to see what happens as they all (hopefully) get healthier and match up more as the regular season winds down.
What Avenger would Furkan Korkmaz be?— Tom Dougherty (@todougherty) January 9, 2023
Not technically an Avenger, but I’m going Zemo. Very hard to predict what he’s going to do, but he’s always a lot of fun.