Whether you decide to take the initiative or not Watch the Sixers During pre-season, they are an interesting team to follow during the warm-up portion of the schedule. Below the hunk and current NBA’s biggest commercial goal, the Sixers will have to make things work without Ben Simmons, and their first chance to work on that process is Monday’s opening in Toronto.
Based on conversations with those around the team and feedback from training camp over the past week, here are some key things to watch before the season begins in late October.
Therese Maxi has matured as a primary goalkeeper
Everyone loves the Philadelphia guard for the second year, both inside and outside the organization. What do you not like? He’s a cute kid, an exciting player to watch, and someone we’ve already seen grow into his role during our chaotic rookie season. But he has been asked to do something different this season – run the team as a starting goalkeeper without losing what made him here.
Throughout pre-season, Doc Rivers has called out Rajon Rondo’s name as he describes the job Maxey has in front of him. While some fans have received it as Rivers tries to turn Maxi into something he isn’t, it has more to do with the difficulty of having the young rangers leading groups of bullet-starved veterans. Being a spark plug was good enough to put Maxey on the floor last season. This year, especially without Ben Simmons, Maxi needs to be able to read and manipulate defenses, create open appearances for his teammates, and keep everyone on Earth happy even when he’s a man low on the totem pole.
more: Therese Maxi runs with the beginners on the first day of training | Can Maxi handle the initiator role for the Sixers?
“Game 7 was a great example; we talked a lot about it, he and I. He was somehow not prepared for the other players in those games. [to say]”Give me the ball,” Rivers said on a media day [Rajon] Rondo all the time because Rondo had Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, who were hot on their mind every single time. And I said, “No, it’s going to be a really important word for you.” The same will happen to Therese, too.”
However, the task of being a starting goalkeeper changes based on the player and the situation. Up until this point in his career, Maxey’s toolbox had been more focused on scoring, and the Sixers wanted him to use his scoring ability and off-game dynamism as a weapon that would help him become an over-playmaker, not turn him into an old-school bouncer who’s only looking to score for events.
“Teris’ greatest skills are his speed on the ground, the ability to finish on the edge, so for us, it’s about being able to use him in situations to go downhill and play plays,” Tobias Harris said during practice last week. “He’s a young player, but he keeps developing in this game, so I think during this training camp we will see more and more of him doing different things there that he feels comfortable with in a half field with different players. He did a great job today, coming in and taking over the team and he was able to put us on. In the right places. The position of the base guard is crucial, and for him, it will help him develop his leadership skills as well.”
It’s all about balance. And with Maxi at a young enough age that you’d expect him to feature more in pre-season games than his peers at the top of the list, we should get a good idea of how he handles the job over the four games he’s played in the coming weeks.
Another divergence around Embiid
While we’re on the topic of Maxey, part of his job this season will be figuring out how to help Embiid when he’s Not Using his handle to blow up by people. There were several instances last season where Maxey was the outlet for Embiid’s strong side in plays that didn’t sync, resulting in Embiid blasting the Apprentice when he wasn’t where the big guy thought he should be. This speaks to Rivers’ point about finding Maxi for his voice – he’ll have to take responsibility if he clears where he’s supposed to be, but he’ll also have to know when to stand up to the center and demand accountability from the franchise player he’s been tasked with helping.
And this is just one example of the team’s divergence process around Embiid, which Rivers has noted on several occasions is a constant focus of this group, and is a big part of their insult that is always worth working on.
Without Ben Simmons, the Sixers would have to craft shots and assist chances in other ways, providing a lot of this for Maxi as he makes a quantum leap as a bystander, much of this has to come through Embiid’s bread-and-butter plays on the block. When you hear the word “spacing,” it often sounds like standing around the perimeter and getting ready to shoot, but it’s more complicated than that. It’s also about positioning in the dunker’s spot, cutting from the weak side, dumping at the right moments, and constantly reaching out to make the most of an offensive setup that has faded from prominence in the modern NBA.
Yes, the dunker’s spot will still be central to this offense regardless of Simmons’ absence, so the chops may play a big part in improving the offense without major changes elsewhere. Matisse Thybulle could end up playing a pivotal role here – he’s been an active off-ball breaker for Australia at the Olympics this summer, and has the sporting power to finish at the edge with a steamy head. Having a group of suspended players should help Embiid (and by extension, the entire offense) take instinctive readings rather than mechanical ones, and his passing skill has slowly improved over time, with Embiid hitting passes across the courts more reliably last season than he did. before.
Get ready for shooting shooters
The need to force players to shoot basketball has been a surprisingly big problem for the local basketball team in recent years, but the Sixers are in rare territory as a good shooting team who don’t get much of a triple. Embiid had the best three-point shooting season ever last year and fired the worst shot in a Harris-Green-Curry trilogy of 39.4 percent from depth for the year, but the Sixers finished last in the league in three-point attempts, crammed between the defiantly spaced Pelicans and bullying ball. The Knicks are 26th in the league.
It’s an issue the Sixers talked to individual players about last season — in everyone’s minds in that organization, Seth Curry couldn’t put up with enough three players if he tried. The coaching staff told Curry on more than one occasion last season that he had the go-ahead to be much more aggressive to let him run from deep, a message that finally arrived ahead of Philadelphia’s short playoff. Curry earned more than seven per game in the second round against Atlanta, and 6.75 per game in the playoffs overall, a step up from his regular season average of 4.9.
Rivers also acknowledged the season changes last year that they don’t want to see again this year. Harris—who came out of the gate in All-Star form and had his best year shooting in Philadelphia—has seen his three-point size drop dramatically over time. Before the All-Star break, Harris averaged about 4.1 attempts per game, a number that dropped to 2.6 per game in the 31 games after the break. Watching Harris pull off a decent exterior has become a common occurrence over the years, and it’s something the team wants to correct.
“Tobias has fired quite a few pull-ups in the last year,” Rivers said during camp. “We liked it. I thought in the first half of the season, that’s part of the [what we] Talk about it in the second half, he didn’t get as much from where he was pushing, running the ball, someone throwing it and he’s making it. He didn’t take much in the second half. I don’t know if this is the health, and I don’t know why it happened, but it should have happened.”
Harris, who told reporters he worked his way up to the ball during interviews during training camp, must have been an even greater driving force than he did last season when he flirted with the club 50-40-90 and just missed. With an all-star look. The skill level is there, but as we saw when Rivers made him play with more rhythm early in the season, putting Harris in the right frame of mind is just as important as having the tools to produce.
Slotting Maxey (or even Shake Milton) in Simmons’ place will essentially increase shooting by default, but Sixers will have to prepare for a reality where they have less clean looks (especially clean looks at threes) without Simmons absorbing attention in the transition, or even Use flaccid defenses to their advantage in evasive deliveries. With the exception of Green, who is a fast and confident shooter nearly all of the time, Sixers need shooters to behave like shooters.
What does the second unit look like?
In the training camp, the Sixers had two main groups fighting: “White” (last year’s starters with Maxey at Simmons) and “Blue” (Milton-Korkmaz-Thybulle with new additions George Niang and Andre Drummond). Whether it was a motivational tactic or a statement of truth, Rivers spent most of the training camp claiming that the “Blue” group outperformed the supposed starters, caring about the way the new guys fit in with their fixed bench pieces. And there was work out of practice to get everyone on the same page — members of that second unit showed up before rehearsals to get some extra reps together, and work out some kinks before the real games started.
“When I first came here, we played pick-up together,” Drummond said last week. “And I was throwing a lot of back passes and I ended up making a turn [Shake Milton] He was like, “Hey, I didn’t really know you could pass the ball that well.” There were a few plays where I threw the ball and it fell into his hand and just went out of bounds. So I think now after three to four days [of camp] And weeks of playing with each other, we found a nice rhythm and it was great to play with.”
For now, the Sixers’ initial 10-player rotation appears to be somewhat set, though with the Warriors expected to miss parts of the pre-season, perhaps a young player or two has a chance to beat the fight. Will we see Isaiah Joe light up the parts of the game industry we saw in the Summer League? Could Paul Reed get into the mix by improving his three-point effectiveness and defensive readings at the back end? Don’t expect too much from teen Jaden Springer, who has been on the sidelines of things during camp, but we’ll probably see him tear up some players for the ball in the cameos before the season starts.
Last season, Rivers chose to keep Embiid and Simmons’ minutes closely intertwined for most of the season, which resulted in some minutes off the bench and ugly units as Harris had to try to carry the bench. It’s unclear how things will shake up, though the smart money is on the same order, with Rivers trusting his backups to at least be in the water while the Novices are likely trying to carry the team to the top and wins. Below the impact piece, their ability to do so will be called into question even as four novice players return.
It’s worth noting that Rivers didn’t stick to a single all-purpose group of starters as he did last season, and for good reason. Even though the head coach has indicated that they would love to have a daily set for a day to go into battle (and for Mackey to grab that job and never look back), they realize it might not be that simple.
“I hope that doesn’t happen,” Rivers said of the possibility of the starting group constantly shifting. But most likely yes. We definitely have to make sure we have a defender who starts [group]. If that’s Matisse, if it’s Danny [Green] you can do that. We can also have a hit on that set, bringing George Tobias to all three. There are options, we don’t know if any of them work yet, that we should see. So because there is no [Simmons]That’s the thing we have to do this year.”
With veterans expected to play very little during the four pre-season games, don’t expect to learn much about lineups just yet. But watch which groups work and which don’t, because they may eventually become important as Philadelphia tries to find settings that work before opening night in New Orleans on October 20.
more: How the Sixers plan to go without Simmons to start the season
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