Sixers Notes: Brown figuring out 'Bomb Squad'

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Sixers Notes: Brown figuring out 'Bomb Squad'

NEWARK, Del. -- Just two months into the job, Sixers coach Brett Brown hasn’t had much difficulty putting together a starting five. Three games into the exhibition season, Brown has settled on Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Thad Young, James Anderson and Michael Carter-Williams as his first five.

That was the easy part.

“I might tinker with it during the preseason, but I don’t need to,” Brown said. “I feel the need to play more of the bench guys and the young guys to see what we have there. I’ll persevere with that starting group and give them as much court time as I can.”

The trick will be for the coach to figure out the rest of his rotation. Tony Wroten, the 6-foot-6 guard, is the first man off the bench. But after that, Brown hasn’t quite figured out which players work well together.

And he’s not really in a hurry to find out.

Prior to Friday night’s exhibition game against the Boston Celtics at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center (see Instant Replay), Brown said one of the objectives for the game was sizing up the second unit.

“If you look at that group it’s kind of like The Bomb Squad,” Brown said. “They come in with reckless abandon, they don’t know what they don’t know and it gets even a little more trickier with Royce (White). We haven’t seen him and it’s all guesswork for me when I see those young guys come in with the second group.”

Brown went with Wroten, Darius Morris and White as his first players off the bench and used 12 players during the opening half. Getting time for the bench players hasn’t been difficult for Brown. Finding the right mix will be a challenge.

“It hasn’t been hard,” Brown said. As long as I know my first wave of subs and you manage it, then you go with gut feel and you try to end games with guys you think can win games.”

It wasn’t always that way. Brown says when he was coaching in Australia that he used to script out his substitutions before the game. Over time he learned he didn’t need to micromanage the game so much. Instead, because Brown likes to run an up-tempo offense, he bases his sub routines on whether or not his players are tired.

“I’m so focused on fatigue. They aren’t running like we want to run or guard how we want to guard for whatever reason,” Brown said. “I don’t like subbing for mistakes at this stage of the season because I want to help them and I want them to learn, but I do sub for fatigue reasons.”

In other words, Brown lets the game play out naturally before sticking his thumbprint on it.

White gets active
Like everyone else, Brown wanted to see how much ballyhooed rookie White handled his first action with the Sixers.

After a run of two-minutes, 42 seconds in the first quarter, White made his presence felt.

Literally.

White picked up four fouls in less than three minutes. In the third quarter, White was on the floor for less than three minutes before picking up his fifth foul.

He was busy.

In a little more than eight minutes, White had a dunk, a layup, a foul shot, three rebounds, a steal and a pair of turnovers.

“That’s the deepest I’ve ever gotten in a short amount of time,” White said. “I had four in two minutes. That’s unheard of. That’s unprecedented.”

But it was preseason and Brown allowed White to get some minutes. More than anything, White needed to run.

“That was great,” White said. “It was like a dream come true all over again. I played in one preseason game last year, but it’s been so long. It felt great.”

The 6-foot-9 rookie also saw some action at the five-spot on the floor. Before the game, Brown was asked where White’s natural position is.

“Four, maybe five. He’s strong enough to play five,” Brown said. “He reminds me of [Spurs forward] DeJuan Blair. He’s strong enough that he can play behind and not get manhandled, but clever enough where he could create problems for a natural five.”

'The Process' still reigns in Bryan Colangelo's first Sixers draft

'The Process' still reigns in Bryan Colangelo's first Sixers draft

If you didn’t know who was saying the words, if you simply closed your eyes and listened — absent any inflection or accent that might give away the speaker’s identity — the remarks would have sounded awfully consistent with other statements given in similar situations over the last few years. The words “patience” and “process” were employed, which is standard stuff considering the organization. And yet it was a bit jarring, because the man who uttered all those things this time around is decidedly different than the man who preceded him.

When the first round of the 2016 NBA draft was finished, Bryan Colangelo addressed the media assembly at PCOM. The Sixers took Ben Simmons with the first overall pick, as expected. But despite ceaseless reports and rumors, they did not unload Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor to move back into the lottery, nor did they jettison the 24th or 26th picks. Those decisions were somewhat less expected. What followed was a rather remarkable explanation given the organization’s open desire to advance the rebuild and regain relevance in the league (or some semblance of it).

“This is a work in progress that will continue throughout the summer,” Colangelo said. “We have free agency on the horizon. There were numerous trade scenarios that we looked at. We didn’t feel like any of those trade scenarios would put us in a position where we want to be moving forward. So we took a patient approach. We passed on a few opportunities where we could have reached. We decided that, whether it was retaining assets, particularly future assets, future picks, we still feel like this was the right process to follow.”

Draft night could have gone sideways for the Sixers, and fast. An initial report had the Sixers offering Noel, Robert Covington and the 24th and 26th picks to the Celtics for the third pick, ostensibly so they could annex Kris Dunn. A subsequent report had the Sixers offering the same package to the Timberwolves for the fifth pick, ostensibly so they could annex Kris Dunn. None of it came to fruition, and afterward Colangelo called the trade rumors false and insisted that those rumors didn’t come from the Sixers. You can believe that or dismiss it as post-draft propaganda and damage control. Who leaked what for which purposes matters less than the ultimate outcome — the fact the Sixers, under new management, chose to keep building rather than pressing the detonation plunger on their still on-going construction project.

Whether the Sixers stay committed to the slow-and-steady, asset-accumulation approach is still very much in doubt. As everyone knows, and as Colangelo admitted, they have a clogged frontcourt that needs to be addressed. That’s tricky stuff. But while we wait to see how Colangelo solves that problem, he should be commended for not simply taking a sledgehammer to the issue. That’s what the Noel/Covington/24/26 deal would have been: a big blow to a situation that requires a more delicate solution. The Sixers must move either Noel or Okafor in time, but as Colangelo rightly pointed out, they shouldn’t do it just for the sake of it. Better to keep everyone in house, awkward fit and all, and retain valuable assets until a more useful resolution presents itself.

Beyond that, the Sixers made two fascinating picks at the end of the first round, taking French wing Timothe Luwawu 24th and Turkish guard Furkan Korkmaz 26th. Both guys are the kinds of young, raw players with future potential that might have been favored by the previous administration (and both got rave reviews from the Trust the Process/Rights to Ricky Sanchez crowd). It’s uncertain whether their respective buyouts will permit them to play for the Sixers this coming season or whether one or both will be stamped with draft-and-stash status. Either way, they were smart picks with upside that make sense for a team that wants to add as much talent as possible while avoiding moves that would rush the roster back to the NBA’s dreaded mediocre middle.

As Colangelo said, the roster is far from set. The Sixers have lots of decisions still to make. It’s possible they scrap the patience and process approach in the coming weeks/months and overreach in an attempt to supercharge the rebuild. But for now, what they did on draft night gets full marks. They resisted the urge to do something for the sake of it and at the expense of the future. That’s encouraging.

What is Ben Simmons? No. 1 pick's position 'hard to measure'

What is Ben Simmons? No. 1 pick's position 'hard to measure'

The Sixers on Thursday selected Ben Simmons out of LSU with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

Now the question is: What is Simmons?

We know the basics. He's 6-foot-10, 242 pounds and an excellent rebounder. He also has the ball skills and court vision of a guard. So where does head coach Brett Brown plan on using his newest weapon? He said who Simmons defends will determine his position more than anything.

"I feel like he is going to be able to guard [the four]," Brown said. "He is going to be able to switch out on pick-and-rolls if we choose to do that. It's his history and his instinct to play that spot. Call it a point forward, we all have different names that we would use as an example."

The last time the Sixers had the first overall pick in 1996, they drafted Allen Iverson. Iverson started his career as a point guard out of Georgetown before moving to the off guard. Simmons will start his career as a point forward, but who knows what he'll develop into.

With Simmons' draft status will come some lofty expectations. Add that to what the Sixers' fan base has endured: a combined 47-199 record in the last three seasons preceded by 12 seasons of mediocrity or worse. That's a lot of pressure for a 19-year-old kid.

Brown recognizes that and doesn't want to put too much on Simmons' plate. At least not right away.

"We've known about this pick for a while," Brown said. "There were times that if you caught me I would think that I just want to treat him as a true point guard. Just give him the ball.

"You can go back and forth but I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA. I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Versatility is huge in today's NBA. Luckily for Simmons, his dad Dave, a professional player for Brown in Australia, developed him like a guard despite his size. He's on board with Brown's vision.

"I think I'll be a point forward," Simmons said. "Anywhere where I'm grabbing the ball, setting up plays or pushing the ball on the break. ... At a young age, my dad put the ball in my hands and told me to dribble, so at a young age I had that mentality of being a point guard while I was bigger than most kids."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo didn't want to get into labels when discussing Simmons. 

He's discussed with Brown how best to utilize Simmons, but said ultimately it doesn't matter what position he plays. Just that he's in the lineup.

"We talk all the time, debating how to best characterize him as a player," Colangelo said of Simmons. "The best way to characterize him is just as a basketball player. He's a facilitator, he's a distributor, he's a scorer, he's a rebounder."

Players with Simmons' skill set are rare but not completely new to the NBA. We've watched the Golden State Warriors use Draymond Green as a point forward. Green was utilized at the five on a occasion in head coach Steve Kerr's "death lineup."

A more favorable comparison may be to the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The "Greek Freak" is listed at 6-11 with a 7-3 wingspan. He's crazy athletic and handles the ball much better than a typical player of his stature.

Brown said that Simmons will be used similarly to both players, but it's difficult to define roles so early in the process.

"If you look at Antetokounmpo," Brown said, "he came in this gangly, long player and the second part of (last season) after the All-Star break [Bucks head coach Jason Kidd] played him as a point guard. And I don't know [what Simmons' position will ultimately be]. I just know that he is that versatile and that it's a good problem to figure out. "

Simmons is ready to assume whatever role he's asked to play, including point guard duties.

"You can really put me at any position on the court and it could work," Simmons said. "I think taking my time (will allow me to develop into a point guard). It's going to take time, but I'm willing to put that work in so I think anything's really possible."

"You're talking about a 6-10, versatile, skilled player that's going to affect the game in so many ways," Colangelo said. "It's hard to measure."

Source: Sixers sign undrafted Boise State forward James Webb III

Source: Sixers sign undrafted Boise State forward James Webb III

The Sixers acted quickly after the NBA draft Thursday to reportedly sign undrafted free agent forward James Webb III, who played at Boise State. It's a partially guaranteed two-year deal with the opportunity to compete for a roster spot, a source confirms.

The signing was first reported by The Vertical's Shams Charania

Webb declared for the draft after his sophomore season, and worked out with the Sixers in late May. 

Webb averaged 15.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals for the Broncos last season. The 22-year-old had previously played a year in junior college. The 6-foor-9, 202-pound forward ranked No. 72 among prospects by Draft Express. 

The Sixers are looking to fill out their Summer League roster with undrafted players after adding three first-round picks on Thursday with No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, No. 24 Timothe Luwawu and No. 26 Furkan Korkmaz. 

Summer League rosters consist mostly of first- and second-year players, including both drafted and undrafted players. The Sixers previously announced that 2014 No. 3 overall pick Joel Embiid will not play in Summer League despite being cleared for five-on-five workouts

The Sixers begin Summer League on July 9 in Las Vegas against No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram and the Los Angeles Lakers.