Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (5-7) return home from their three-game road trip to face a division opponent for the first time this season when the Toronto Raptors come to town on Wednesday.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Diving into the division
The Sixers are coming off a winless three-game road trip in which they lost by an average of 16.6 points. They’re also allowing a league-worst 109.9 points per game, and starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams is ailing with a bruised arch in his left foot.

Ready for the good news? The Sixers are still leading the miserable Atlantic Division.

The Atlantic is the only division in the entire NBA that doesn’t have at least one team with a .500 record. Coming into Wednesday, the Sixers are the only Atlantic team with a winning mark against other Eastern Conference opponents, at 4-3. Also, each of the five teams in the Atlantic have currently lost at least two games in a row.

While the Sixers have been reeling lately, this could be just the right time to open up division play against a Raptors team they have beaten in seven of the last nine meetings.

2. They’re free for a reason
Simply playing against other struggling teams won’t be enough for the Sixers. They will have to help themselves on the court and they can start at the free throw line.

While the Sixers are in the middle of the pack in both free throws attempted and free throw makes per game, they rank 23rd in percentage from the charity stripe at 71.1.

That number dropped during their recent road trip when they made 52 of 76 freebies (68.4 percent). A main contributor to that mark was guard Tony Wroten, who was 3 of 9 from the line in Monday’s loss to the Mavs. He is shooting just 55.3 percent on free throws this season.

“As hard as I try not to, it is in my head,” Wroten said after the loss to the Mavs. “I work so hard and they trust me to make free throws. But missing six free throws is unacceptable.”

The Sixers will need to improve their mark from the free throw line to make teams pay for fouling.

3. Watch the wings
The Sixers will have their hands full slowing down Toronto’s perimeter pair of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan.

While the Raptors rank 20th in the league in scoring at 96.9 points per game, Gay and DeRozan are prolific putting the ball in the net individually. Gay and DeRozan are averaging 20.6 and 20.5 points per game this season, respectively.

DeRozan has especially been on a tear in recent games. The 6-foot-7 guard scored 29 points in the Raptors’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday after tying his career high with 37 points against a defensive-minded Chicago Bulls team last Friday.

Gay had 30 points in that loss to the Blazers and appears to have found his rhythm after being traded to the Raptors at the deadline last season.

4. Injuries
Carter-Williams (foot) is day to day. He has missed the Sixers’ last four games.

Big men Nerlens Noel (knee), Kwame Brown (hamstring), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and guard Jason Richardson are out.

Toronto forward Quincy Acy (ankle) is day to day and listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.

5. This and that
• Evan Turner has averaged 8.2 points on 35 percent shooting in 11 career games against the Raptors.

• The Raptors are second in the league in offensive rebounding with 14.0 a game.

• The Sixers are averaging 4.4 fourth-quarter turnovers. They are averaging 17.3 giveaways a game, 24th in the NBA.

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.