August 20, 2021
If you can believe it, we're only just over a month away from the Sixers' 2021 media day, which feels impossible given how fresh the memory of their playoff defeat to Atlanta is. And no matter how deep we get into the offseason, most questions still concern Ben Simmons' future with the team, as this week's edition of our mailbag shows once again.
Let's get to the questions.
In a hypothetical Simmons trade, would you rather receive Lillard, Beal or a DeAaron Fox package with other goodies?— Hard-Capped Chris Bernucca (@ChrisBernucca) August 19, 2021
But for the sake of argument, let's just say the deals are structured uniquely for each of these guys as follows:
(For the record, the reason I am including Maxey vs. Thybulle in these deals is based on the desire to retain some form of perimeter defense in these deals. Thybulle's ability to take top assignments becomes a lot more important if you deal your current top defender, even if I think there's a better ultimate upside case for Maxey.)
I still think Lillard is the guy and the deal to make. With Fox, you're still sort of waiting on him to have his star breakthrough season and would have to rely on him leaping forward as a shooter and performing at a high level in the playoffs in his first ever postseason appearance. Beal is a highly skilled perimeter player who would solve some of their issues on offense, but I think you would still have to find an organizer of the offense to play next to him if you were to go that route. Lillard solves most of your issues at once — he's a dynamic offensive talent, one of the league's best crunchtime players, and he is a lead-from-the-front guy on and off of the floor, which is an underrated reason to prioritize him over other trade candidates. Embiid has taken major steps forward as a leader, but having a guy like Lillard to take some of that responsibility from him would allow Embiid to focus more on basketball than being the guy who says all the right things in public and private.
All indications suggest the Sixers' No. 1 priority is Lillard. And if you're asking me, that's the right way to approach this.
is Ben Simmons starting the season with the Sixers a tenable situation?— Legs (@legsanity) August 19, 2021
As a thought exercise, we can entertain the scenario where Simmons either says he's refusing to report or is mentally checked out on the team. Either one is problematic from an on-court perspective, and you could argue it's even worse from a mental/team morale point of view. Players will be asked about it constantly, and what you don't want to have happen is for any opposing factions to form in the locker room. Maybe they're all checked out on him after the refused dunk attempt heard around the world, but I don't think that's the case, and letting the situation linger would open them up for petty squabbling they really don't need.
Ultimately, though, I'm not really comfortable saying how this would or wouldn't play out until we hear it from Simmons himself. Short of him telling me or some other reporter on the record that he's going to return with a toxic attitude, I don't think it's especially fair to try to predict or guess how he would handle the situation, because that tends to skew negative.
Why am I overly obsessed with Ben Simmons— Laboratory Ben (@DawwwwC) August 20, 2021
I think that's a topic to discuss with your therapist. Or your god of choice, family, friends, etc. I got nothing.
With the current roster what is their ceiling and floor?— depressed sixers fan (@tzillagame) August 19, 2021
The "pie in the sky" ceiling is that humiliation is what Simmons needed to snap to attention, he comes back looking like a different player, and they can compete for a conference title and perhaps a championship with everyone else either maintaining last year's play or stepping forward. The realistic ceiling is more like both sides working things out to stick together at least one more year, with Simmons resembling the player he has pretty much always been rather than the broken player he was in round two. Embiid stays relatively healthy throughout the season, Maxey makes a mini-leap, Simmons doesn't faceplant in the playoffs in quite as dramatic fashion as last year, and their defensive upside is enough to paper over the offensive issues that still exist for this group, giving them a puncher's chance to hang with Milwaukee and Brooklyn.
Even still, Morey himself admitted that the Sixers didn't have enough when he did his end-of-season presser and analyzed what went wrong. They did not exactly make massive, franchise-altering moves this summer, so unless one of those comes, the executive himself seems to have indicated they don't really have the horses to challenge the fully healthy Nets, the Bucks, and so forth. Prepare your expectations accordingly.
What skills does Paul Reed need to add or work on to be a regular rotation player in your opinion?— Chris Faddy (@fadmanc) August 19, 2021
Look, Reed's work at Summer League and in the G-League has been impressive so far, and the physical tools are undeniable. Playing hard and making use of those tools is enough to buy a young guy time to find himself in the NBA. But there's a big difference between, "Oh, it's nice to see that shot go down!" in Vegas compared to "He has to be able to make that!" That's doubly true on the defensive end, where any mental errors or unwise gambles are going to be punished swiftly by the coaching staff. Blocking a lot of shots does not necessarily mean you are a good team defender as a center, and being the defensive organizer on the back end is a responsibility many talented young bigs struggle with for years.
Reed's overall decision-making in Vegas was pretty good and improved with instruction, which leads you to believe he can be pushed in the right direction as a defender, where he swings wildly between both sides of the "Holy shit!" play spectrum. He's a very interesting young player, he just has work to do to become more than that.
Is Shake Milton still apart of the Sixers future?— .theo 波 (@______theo) August 19, 2021
Admittedly, Maxey's emergence makes it look less likely for Milton to impact the game in a point role, but that could end up being for the better. Letting Milton slide back into a more catch-and-shoot heavy role should be to his benefit, with a simplified role where he's stationary or attacking closeouts better suited for him.
What's worse. NBA summer league write up, or NFL preseason second half write up?— Evan Macy (@evan_macy) August 19, 2021
I would lean toward Summer League being "better" mostly because these days I am leaning far more on other people's knowledge watching deep roster battles play out in football, so it's harder for me to build a frame of reference for anything (contextualizing a guy's successes or failures is harder if you're not as familiar with the competition he's up against). If I were on the ground reporting on the Eagles day-to-day, maybe I'd feel differently, but I personally get more out of watching Summer League.
Any word on a new play-by-play guy— Joe (@jblo51) August 19, 2021
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