Sixers mailbag: Playoffs, veteran free agents and Simmons or Fultz at PG

Sixers mailbag: Playoffs, veteran free agents and Simmons or Fultz at PG

The NBA draft is a wrap and free agency is less than a week away. What better time for a mailbag. 

There were so many questions about free agency that I couldn’t answer them all here, so stay tuned for a more in-depth look at possible targets on Tuesday. 

Thanks to those who submitted questions on Twitter with #CSNSixersMailbag. 

From the moment the Sixers acquired the No. 1 pick, a lot of talks have shifted to the postseason. So here’s my take on it, and it comes with one condition. A big condition. Yes, the Sixers could make the playoffs next season IF they stay healthy. 

The 10-5 month of January showed what the Sixers were capable of when their core was able to play, and that was without Ben Simmons. It remains unknown if they would have grabbed one of the bottom spots with a healthy Embiid (they finished 28-54). But considering the Heat started off 19 games below .500 and just missed out on the eighth seed at 41-41, it wasn’t out of the question for the Sixers at that time. 

Looking ahead to next season, the lower seeds could be up for grabs. The seventh-ranked Pacers’ (42-40) future is in question because of Paul George. The eighth-ranked Bulls (41-41) just traded away Jimmy Butler. The window of opportunity will be there for the Sixers.

Adding veteran leadership is one of the Sixers’ top priorities this offseason. 

Think about this: Markelle Fultz just turned 19 years old. Nineteen. He makes 26-year-old Robert Covington look like an NBA vet after just four seasons. 

The Sixers need to surround their young core with proven players to show them the ropes beyond what the coaches can do. Work habits, professionalism, in-game mentoring -- these traits are critical in a player’s development. 

One of the reasons why the Sixers signed Jerryd Bayless last summer was to provide leadership as Ben Simmons learned to play point guard in the NBA. Simmons did not play at all this past season, Bayless appeared in just three games. They built a connection during rehab and traveling with the team.

"That's like my big brother," Simmons said of Bayless at the end of the season. "He's looked out for me. He's been a real leader and tried to guide me in the right way."

Perhaps Ersan Ilyasova’s biggest contribution to the Sixers during his short stint was helping in the growth of Dario Saric. The Sixers could benefit from adding a veteran big to mentor their young frontcourt. 

The Sixers still have to sort this out, which I don’t expect happening until they see how everyone looks together in training camp. Even then, it could change during the season. But if opening night was tomorrow, I would not be surprised to see Markelle Fultz start at point guard with Ben Simmons at power forward. 

The Sixers said last season they wanted to utilize Simmons at the one. Last week president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wasn’t putting a position label on him. 

"I know Coach (Brett Brown) and I have, probably Coach more so than I, have used the terminology point guard for Ben," Colangelo said. "The way I like to characterize it, and I always fall back to this, is primary ball-handler."

Fultz can play off the ball -- that’s one of the reasons why he is such a good fit for the team -- but that doesn’t mean he has to start at the two guard. The Sixers could acquire a starting shooting guard in free agency (here comes my 750th J.J. Redick push) or even move Bayless over to the two.

The Sixers had 30 different starting lineups last season. That number is far from likely next season, but don’t be surprised to see players shift around. 

Ben Simmons responds to Kevin Durant's FEDS diss, just wants to hoop

Ben Simmons responds to Kevin Durant's FEDS diss, just wants to hoop

Kevin Durant isn't a fan of Joel Embiid's new "FEDS" nickname for the Sixers. 

At Javale McGee's charity softball game Saturday, Durant asked Warriors teammates Andre Iguodala and McGee, "How they got a nickname and ain't played no games together?"

It didn't take long, however, for Durant to clarify Sunday what he meant on Twitter.

Still, Ben Simmons is watching and he's ready to move on from nicknames too.

Simmons just wants to ball.

That much is evident by Simmons' Instagram post early Sunday morning.

After sitting out the 2016-17 season with a Jones' fracture in his right foot, Simmons, last year's No. 1 overall pick, is ready to hit the court this season.

Simmons will be apart a Sixers team with much intrigue. After the Sixers added Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick last Thursday, they set new team records in season ticket sales.

Everyone wants to see what Embiid, Simmons, Fultz and Dario Saric can do on the court. Hence the "FEDS" nickname: Fultz, Embiid, Dario, Simmons.

We know about Embiid's social media genius. Simmons' Twitter game isn't too shabby, either.

First, it was "crazy pills."

And now it's the Durant subtweet.

If there's anything we know, it's that …

The FEDS are watching.

Watch: A shirtless Ben Simmons puts Lonzo Ball on notice with delicious dunk

Watch: A shirtless Ben Simmons puts Lonzo Ball on notice with delicious dunk

Concerned about Ben Simmons' right foot?

Well, don't be.

While Simmons will not play in the Summer League, the 6-foot-10 point guard/forward/baller sure does look healthy and ready to go for 2017.

Early Sunday morning, a shirtless Simmons posted an Instagram video of a delicious one-handed self alley-oop after working out at the Sixers' practice facility in Camden.

A little fun after 🤷🏻‍♂️

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Let's circle back to Thursday night after the NBA draft and LaVar Ball.

After LaVar's highly ambitious — an awfully generous take —  prediction that his son, Lonzo Ball, drafted No. 2 by the Lakers, would lead L.A. to the playoffs this season, Simmons had a cryptic tweet presumably about LaVar.

That sparked Joel Embiid to tweet:

And now, with Simmons' Instagram post early Sunday morning, we have evidence the 2016 No. 1 overall pick is healthy enough to, indeed, throw down some rambunctious dunks.

Of course, we'll have to see it in a game first, but until then, let's think of June 25 as the day Ben Simmons unofficially put Lonzo Ball on notice.