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.
Do you think we will make the playoffs next year? East has weakened since the finals. Is that too lofty of a goal? #CSNSixersMailbag— Mike P (@DenUMchicken) June 25, 2017
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.
#CSNsixersmailbag who do you think starts at PG for the 76ers? being that they dont have a true defensive pg— jimmy buckets (@soxshayne) June 25, 2017
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.