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.”

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

This week, I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses. If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don’t see it on here, don't worry, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

The Sixers should explore all possibilities: trade up, trade down, trade the pick, draft third. The draft is a little funky this year in that there is not a clear-cut choice between picks three through five, and perhaps beyond that. If the Sixers like either player, there is the possibility they could simply select that player No. 3.

I’ve said before, I could see Fox going third. The speedy point guard met with the Sixers at the draft combine and outlined how he would fit playing off the ball with Ben Simmons and finding opportunities with Joel Embiid. Is three a stretch for him? I don’t think so (more on why here).

Monk has not been projected as high as Fox, so the option of trading down for him is viable. If the Sixers draft for need, however, his skill set is a fit at three. Monk is their best option for a shooter, and they are lacking shooters. It's not uncommon for a prospect to jump in the draft order based on what the team at that selection is looking for. Of course, if the Sixers trade down, they could pick up another piece (future pick, etc.) in addition to Monk in the deal, which always is worth considering.

Ersan Ilyasova was a great veteran presence for the Sixers this season before they traded him to the Hawks at the deadline. He boosted their offense and, more importantly, helped in Dario Saric’s development.

The Sixers and Ilyasova had different plans for the future, though, and understandably so. Ilyasova, who turned 30 this month, was going to be looking for a longer-term contract this offseason than the Sixers were interested in offering. Ilyasova wanted commitment and security at this point in his career; the Sixers wanted flexibility with their options in the frontcourt.

Ilyasova has put together a résumé that will attract teams in free agency this summer.

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

De'Aaron Fox
Position: PG
School: Kentucky
Height: 6-3
Weight: 170 pounds
Wingspan: 6-6½

The case for Fox
With maybe the deepest point guard class in recent draft history, Fox has been flying up draft boards in the past month while still staying relatively under the radar when compared with Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball — the expected top two picks in some order. He is electric on offense, and the Wildcats' guard posted double-figure points in all but four games during his lone collegiate season.

Against UCLA in the Sweet 16, Fox scored a career-high 39 and added four dimes. But perhaps more impressively, he shut down Ball, holding his 6-foot-6 counterpart to just 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting and one trey. And it wasn't just a one-time thing — two nights later, Fox held North Carolina guard Joel Berry II to just 11 points.

Although the Sixers have repeatedly said Ben Simmons will be their starting point guard at the beginning of next season (assuming the young star has no other setbacks), they will need someone to defend against opponents' quicker guards. With T.J. McConnell as the only true ballhandler currently on the roster, Fox certainly would be able to help spell Simmons at the point as well.

When experts began putting together their mock draft boards at the end of the college basketball season, Fox was frequently listed as a back-end lottery selection. Now, many have him as a potential top-five pick, and it's hard to see Fox slipping much past the Kings at No. 5 as Sacramento is a rebuilding team still in search of a point guard of their own.

The case against Fox
The biggest knock on Fox is his size. On Kentucky's website, he is listed at 187 pounds. But at the NBA draft combine, he measured in 17 pounds lighter. For scouts already concerned with his thin frame, this did little to reassure them that Fox will be able to hang with bigger guards at the next level — but maybe he fits as a complement to the 6-foot-11 Simmons.

Another worry is his three-point shooting. For the season, Fox shot just 24.9 percent from beyond the arc, attempting just fewer than two three-pointers per game. As a team in 2016-17, the Sixers took the seventh-most triples but ranked 25th out of 30 NBA teams from distance at 34 percent. With the Sixers in desperate need of consistent outside shooting, Fox would need to significantly improve that area of his game at the next level to help Brett Brown's team take the next step.

And, of course, as with most young ballhandlers (Fox is just 19), he has rough spots when leading the offense. Yes, Fox helped Kentucky to its fair share of highlight-reel alley-oops, yet he still struggled to command the Wildcats' offense at times and would occasionally get lost in pick-and-roll defense. Although his 5.8 assists per 40 minutes are a sign that he can eventually grow into the point guard that the Sixers need him to be, they could also use Fox to be an immediate impact player for a team that is finally trying to put all the pieces together.

Analysis
If the Sixers do in fact miss out on Fultz and Ball, Fox would certainly be a good consolation prize. He is incredibly quick with the ball in his hands and has the potential to improve defensively. In fact, our Amy Fadool lauded him as one of the most improved players in all of college basketball last season — he shot almost 48 percent from the field in Kentucky's final 14 games of the season.

There is no one on the Sixers' roster, as it stands, with a skill set comparable to Fox's, but it's still fair to question how he will handle some of the bigger and stronger point guards in the Eastern Conference, such as Kyrie Irving and John Wall, on both ends of the floor. With plenty of young budding talent in the fold, though, if Fox can immediately step in as a plus defender and a steady reserve ballhandler, he could definitely help the Sixers' core of Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric become even more lethal offensively.

A couple of weeks ago, I definitely viewed Fox as a stretch at No. 3. The more I think about it, however, he would not be an unreasonable selection for the Sixers. Yes, they also would likely have the option of Kansas' Josh Jackson or Duke's Jayson Tatum, as well as Fox's former teammate, Malik Monk, when they go on the clock, but Fox could fill a critical need. 

If the Sixers were somehow able to get the Kings to trade up to No. 3, Fox would be a great pick at No. 5 overall. And if Fultz or Ball were somehow available at No. 3, the Sixers would be hard-pressed to pass on either. Still, with so many talented point guards in this year's class, Fox is very much a worthy first-round candidate.