6 observations from Sixers-Raptors

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6 observations from Sixers-Raptors

BOX SCORE

Believe it or not, the Toronto Raptors wrested first place in the Atlantic Division away from the Sixers on Wednesday night with the 108-98 victory (see Instant Replay).

At 5-8 and riding a four-game losing streak, the Sixers are a half-game off the pace in the division.

Here are a few things that caught our eye in the epic, first-place showdown:

1. Michael Carter-Williams returns
After missing four straight games, rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams returned to the lineup for the Sixers. Before the game, coach Brett Brown said Carter-Williams would have no restrictions and he wasn’t kidding. The rookie logged 34 minutes.

2. Banging in the post
Toronto big men Jonas Valanciunas and Tyler Hansbrough were a bundle of energy (and elbows) in the low post. Though neither player made much of a dent into the stat sheet, they mixed it up with Sixers big men Daniel Orton, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes. Fortunately the battle in the post didn’t go beyond clean, hard basketball. A few times the players got all tangled up and fell into a heap on the floor. But that was it … just some big guys pushing each other around.

3. Defend the house
Certainly the mission of any team in the NBA is to force the opposing offense to take shots from the yard, which is the area outside of the paint and inside of the three-point line. If a team is going to beat you, the reasoning goes, let them do it with long two-pointers.

The Sixers did a good job of forcing the Raptors into taking shots from the yard in the first quarter. But after chucking up eight of them in the first, the Raptors took just nine more from the yard for the rest of the game.

That hardly compares to the efficiency of the Houston Rockets, though. In last week’s overtime victory, the Rockets took just five shots from the yard in the entire game. Somehow they figured out how to lose.

4. No Thad
The Sixers played without veteran Thad Young, who was not with the team on Wednesday night because of “personal reasons.” Young would have been valuable for the Sixers in pick-and-roll defense and in running the fast break. Instead, Hawes started the game at power forward with Orton at center.

5. Hawes’ career night
On Jan. 1, 2010, Spencer Hawes shot 12 for 20 with four three-pointers in a one-point loss to the Lakers for a career-high 30 points.

Since then the 30-point game had not been threatened by Hawes.

That is until Wednesday night.

Hawes shot 10 for 13 with three three-pointers and 10 rebounds for 28 points, just missing the career high. Meanwhile, Hawes notched his eighth double-double of the season, second-most in the NBA.

6. Homecomings, of sorts
Cardinal Dougherty and Villanova product, Kyle Lowry, had 13 points and 10 assists in his former sometime home court. Lowry entered the game averaging 12 points and six assists per game. His steady hand at point guard helped keep the Raptors’ turnover tally to a paltry nine.

Additionally, Raptors assistant coach Tom Sterner was close to his hometown of York and his old stomping grounds of Lancaster, where he attended Millersville U. and coached at Lancaster Catholic and Franklin & Marshall College. Sterner was a scout for the Sixers two years ago.

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up is point guard.

Sixers point guards for 2016-17
T.J. McConnell (non-guaranteed, $874,636)

Kendall Marshall (non-guaranteed, $2,048,257)

Current PG situation
The Sixers' biggest hole is at the point guard spot. Brett Brown has deemed this position the most important on the court, yet it has been the most changing. 

Last season, the Sixers did not establish a consistent starting point guard until they re-acquired Ish Smith in December. Smith wasn't brought in as the long-term point guard of the future, though. He is an unrestricted free agent again this summer and should receive interest from other teams after a solid season stepping into the starting role. 

There are several young point guards on the market, but the Sixers would benefit the most from bringing in someone with veteran experience to be a leader on the court. While incoming rookie Ben Simmons can play point-forward, the team plans to start him off at the four spot and let him learn the NBA first before assigning him ball-handling duties. With that in mind, a good free-agent fit would be able to play off the ball when Simmons does run the floor. 

Of the current players, McConnell has developed into a backup option after emerging as the sleeper of last season's team. The Sixers would be getting a bargain with his contract value (see below). The sparingly-utilized Marshall has a non-guaranteed deal at just over $2 million for next season and the team could get more return spending that money elsewhere. 

Reach free agent
Mike Conley (unrestricted)

Even in spite of his injuries, Conley is the best point guard available in free agency. He averaged 15.3 points, 6.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 turnovers for the Grizzlies last season. Conley has a high basketball IQ and is playoff-tested. He will garner big money on the market, and the Sixers are not necessarily looking to break the bank this summer to fill the role. Conley could stay with the Grizzlies, who put together a Justin Timberlake-led video to express their interest in keeping him. He will turn 29 in October. 

Possible fits
Matthew Dellavedova (restricted, $1,434,095 qualifying offer)
Could there be another Australian on the Sixers next season? Brown, who coached there, is a fan of Dellavedova's game. Dellavedova, 25, averaged 7.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds for the championship-winning Cavaliers. Dellavedova could have double value to the Sixers: he could run the floor and give Simmons a sense of familiarity being from Australia. 

Jeremy Lin (unrestricted)
Lin was a backup for the Hornets last season and could earn a paycheck this summer as a starter. He would like to find a long-term team, which may not fit into the Sixers' plans for the future. Lin, though, does have six years of experience and averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds mostly off the bench for the Hornets. 

Greivis Vasquez (unrestricted)
Vasquez's sixth season was cut short after only 23 games because of foot surgery last December. Coming off of injury, could he be available at a discount? When healthy, he is a high-energy ball handler. Vasquez averaged 5.7 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game last season. 

Ben Simmons favorite to win Rookie of Year, Joel Embiid not far behind

Ben Simmons favorite to win Rookie of Year, Joel Embiid not far behind

Last week, the Sixers used the No. 1 overall pick to take Ben Simmons out of LSU. 

This week, Simmons is the favorite to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 2017, according to Bovada

Simmons, 6-10, 242 pounds, beat out Buddy Hield (11/2), Brandon Ingram (13/2), Kris Dunn (15/2) and Jamal Murray and Denzel Valentine (both 12/1) among the top six. 

Right after them? Joel Embiid. Embiid was the Sixers' third overall pick in 2014, but foot injuries haven't allowed him to play in either of his first two NBA seasons. Now 22, Embiid's odds to become Rookie of the Year are 14/1. 

The last Sixer to win Rookie of the Year was Michael Carter-Williams in 2013-14. He was the last since Allen Iverson in 1996-97. 

Here are this year's full Rookie of the Year odds from Bovada:  

Ben Simmons (PHI)

13/4

Buddy Hield (NO)

11/2

Brandon Ingram (LAL)  

13/2

Kris Dunn (MIN)    

15/2

Jamal Murray (DEN) 

12/1

Denzel Valentine (CHI) 

12/1

Joel Embiid (PHI) 

14/1

Wade Baldwin (MEM)

16/1

Marquese Chriss (PHO) 

16/1

Thon Maker (MIL)     

16/1

Taurean Prince (ATL)      

16/1

Dragan Bender (PHO)    

20/1

Jaylen Brown (BOS)

20/1

Brice Johnson (LAC)   

20/1

Caris LeVert (BKN)   

20/1

Malachi Richardson 

20/1

Jakob Poeltl (TOR)    

25/1

Domantas Sabonis (OKC) 

28/1

 

Cousin of Sixers' Ben Simmons killed in hit-and-run accident Saturday

Cousin of Sixers' Ben Simmons killed in hit-and-run accident Saturday

The cousin of Sixers No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was killed in a hit-and-run accident early Saturday morning.

Zachary Simmons, 21, was struck by a black SUV around 3:30 a.m., CBS New York initially reported. Ben Simmons confirmed the death of his cousin on Twitter.

Zachary Simmons' mother, Monique Steel, said she was told by police that the driver was going at least 70 miles an hour. She also told CBS2 in New York that her son was out Friday for a friend's birthday and was celebrating the night before with his first cousin, Ben, following the NBA draft.

Investigators are analyzing pieces of the SUV and checking surveillance video in attempt to find the driver.

Ben Simmons, a native of Australia, has roots in New York where his father Dave was born.