July 26, 2022
James Harden has agreed to his new Sixers deal, core guys are working out together this summer, and the vibes are about where they always are in the offseason. The Sixers may not have had the splashiest summer this year, but they made important, team-strengthening moves that put them in a position to compete for something meaningful next season.
That in mind, let's get to another summer mailbag.
What are your thoughts on Melton’s impact to the team?— Daryl Morey Burner (@MoreyBurner) July 25, 2022
If we assume that his jumper holds up after making the transition to a new location — and frankly, I've learned to never assume that with Sixers players — Melton does a little bit of everything they need. He's a tenacious, disruptive defender who can defend all types of guards and some smaller wings, using his length, athleticism, and instincts to make up for what he lacks in height. Surrounded by other ballhandlers, Melton's tendency to take on a little bit too much responsibility off-the-bounce will likely be minimized, freeing him up to be a more direct attacker and standstill shooting threat. Nearly every Grizzlies lineup that featured Melton with another ballhandler beat the brakes off of teams last year, which bodes well for his ability to play with James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, or both guys at the same time.
It's that last possibility that really excites me, and part of what separates these Sixers from past versions. They have a lot more looks to throw at teams now that don't necessitate taking a huge hit on either end of the floor. If they want to downsize with PJ Tucker at center and a wall of switchable defenders, they have the ability to do that. If they want to put a trio like Melton-Thybulle-Reed on the floor and just try to end every possession by jumping passing lanes, they can do that. If they decide to keep it traditional, Melton still unlocks some strong combinations for Philly, offering two-way competency that boosts lineups with and without Joel Embiid on the floor.
With two years of plus-shooting under his belt, Melton just needs to keep on the path he has been traveling for the last couple of years. I don't know if he'll be a regular closing option, but I think he's going to play a lot of high-leverage minutes this year at the very least. Having a productive player who still has room to grow on a team-friendly contract is a big deal.
Do you think Maxey increasing the variations to his layup package will help make him a legitimate 20 point scorer consistently?— Justin DiVirgilio (@_JDiVirgilio) July 25, 2022
Talk about a best case statistical 3rd year leap for Maxey— L (@LWilliams215) July 25, 2022
These questions are semi-related, so I'm going to throw them in together.I don't think Maxey is all that far away from being a routine 20-point scorer even with zero offseason improvement. Once Harden joined the lineup after the All-Star break, Maxey averaged 18.7 points per game before kicking that number up yet again in the playoffs. It's fair to say that his shooting success during that period is unsustainable unless you think Maxey is going to be one of the greatest shooters of all time — he hit 48 percent of his post-ASB threes, which is still hard to wrap your mind around given where he was a year prior. But his quality of looks is going to be good on average alongside Harden and Embiid, and Maxey will likely be a good or very good shooter at minimum. Combine that with some easy transition opportunities created by his speed and his improving ability to get to the line, and you're most of the way there.
The biggest hurdle for Maxey to clear as a scorer at this point, at least in my mind, is sharpening the handle. It's not that Maxey is bad off-the-bounce, though he does rely a ton on his ability to beat opponents in a speed battle. He has made it easier to win that way by dragging defenders out to defend him at the three-point line, and he is excellent at setting up his man for a blow-by when they commit to a closeout. But he does have room for growth when it comes to actually breaking guys down off-the-dribble. A lot of the craft there right now is tied to outside shooting — the footwork to pull off sidestep and stepback threes can hopefully be translated into a deeper arsenal of crossover, hesitation, and spin moves. He has flashed moves of all kinds at different speeds, and the trick will be chaining them together regularly.
And yes, of course, the finishing package will make a difference. He's a small guard playing in a land of giants, so the onus will be on him to figure out how to work around any disadvantages he has at his height. At this point, I think it's fair to say you trust that he'll do as much as it takes to get the absolute most out of what he has.
Maxey's most important evolution won't come in the scoring department anyway. If he remains what he is now — a lightning quick, score-first guard — he's going to be valuable though perhaps hard to make a central component on a contender, due to whatever he lacks as a playmaker and defender. Continued progress with his floor game is the most important thing you'd hope to see. Maxey has had some dynamite performances as the lead guy on undermanned teams the last two years, and those moments have frequently been about his own dominant scoring.
There have been some fans hoping to compare him to Damian Lillard in ceiling outcomes this offseason, but Lillard was a far more accomplished playmaker for others throughout his career (admittedly, he was 22 and a few years older than Maxey was in their respective rookie seasons). Hitting that sort of long-term outcome will hinge on Maxey progressing with his reads, his passing mechanics, and staying on the same upward path as a scoring threat. Even then, Lillard was a more instinctive pull-up threat and a higher-volume shooter from the get-go.
I think somewhere in the range of 20 points per game and 4-5 assists per night is within reach for him this year. The raw numbers just aren't the end-all, be-all for me. If he comes out this season and looks better equipped to make others better as the lead ballhandler on bench units, that would excite me more than anything else, save for another massive scoring leap.
Should sixers fans be worried about Embiid health? Has he fully recovered from his orbital fracture and finger injuries?— Bill (@BillW6251) July 25, 2022
Let's say Doc gets fired mid-season. Who's the most likely candidate to replace him? Would it be someone on the staff currently or an outside hire?— Mark Brownlee🐋 (@mmmmbrownlee) July 25, 2022
In the unlikely event any changes were made, the only outside name I'd even suggest as a possibility is Mike D'Antoni, not because I think they're itching to make that move but because he's the one name who would disrupt things the least because of his familiarity with Harden and Morey. Don't count on it though. Doc's going to lead this group.
Who plays the most minutes as a Sixer next season - Shake, Furk, Isaiah Joe?— Franzke & LA (@FranzkeLA) July 25, 2022
Think the answer basically has to be Milton. I think Rivers likes him the most of the trio, and while he's not without his issues, he's been the steadiest producer whenever he has been healthy enough to get a run of games under his belt. But this is a decent thought excercise because Joe has the only real "upside" case while being most likely to get cut, Korkmaz has consistently earned minutes even when it seemed like he was due for a spot on the bench, and Milton could easily be parked on the bench with the rotation as it is.
I'll take the guy that has some multi-faceted skills on offense and a track record under the coach. Always a good place to start.
If the Sixers don't make a trade before opening night, who gets the final roster spot: Isaiah Joe or Trevelin Queen?— Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) July 25, 2022
It's easier for me to say "the financial difference between them is not significant enough" than it will be for the Sixers to operate under the hard cap this year. Queen has $300k as a partial guarantee this season with a non-guaranteed year next season, though he does make $150k less than Joe's full guarantee for the season (which would trigger if Joe is on the roster as of 10/23). I suspect this one will warrant some training camp competition, but I'll lean Joe for the time being.
What moves do you see the Sixers making next if they do anything ?— Ave (@SebastianAvenue) July 25, 2022
Aside from that, it's all going to depend on how the trade winds blow. Morey and Co. will continue to explore all avenues to upgrade the team, though there isn't much buzz on incomings/outgoings at the moment. Unless somebody gets very excited about trying to pick up Matisse Thybulle, this group is largely what you'll see on opening night, I think.
How do you see Thybulle’s role with Tucker starting and Melton and House as plus defenders who can shoot on the bench with him?— David Costabile (@davecostabile) July 25, 2022
That said, you could make the opposite argument — now that the Sixers have a tougher, more defensive-minded group around their core guys, Thybulle can help amplify or at least play off of those strengths. Having him and Melton on the floor at the same time would put two of the most disruptive passing lane players in the league on the floor together. That could lead to a turnover-forcing style that gets Philadelphia off and running in transition, making up for any offensive issues they might have. The Sixers can now play switch-heavy lineups with Embiid on the bench and thrive doing so, and that's something worth exploring, even if it's only as an occasional curveball to keep in their back pocket for later.
We saw last season that Rivers was not shy about benching Thybulle if he felt it was what the team needed to space the floor better and improve their offense. I don't expect that to change, and the Sixers are better equipped to simply hand other guys minutes if he's out of the rotation for a night.
Does Ben Simmons play this year?— 🐐 Masked Avenger 🐐 (@STEVEJCLARK85) July 25, 2022
Are you excited for the new God of War— zmose (@zmoseCOD) July 25, 2022
Broadly speaking, you can convince me to play most of the first-party Sony games that are used to sell the consoles. They're not all 10/10 games, but they're super polished, have good-to-great gameplay, tell interesting stories, and have reasonably high replay value. I've tried to avoid a lot of the coverage of Ragnarok so I can go in with fresh eyes when it drops, but it's definitely high up the list of anticipated releases for me.
jaylen Brown being dangled again in trade rumors and irritated last season when it happened, he’s a FA at the end of the 23-24 season. Harris and potentially harden come off the cap that offseason. Thoughts on a far future move for brown and a embiid, maxey and brown trio?— my sports teams 🤝letting me down (@h8mysportsteams) July 25, 2022
On a roster with somebody like Harden, who can handle the primary playmaking/ballhandling responsibilities, I think Brown is a dynamite fit as a high-volume, above-average shooter, a dynamic slasher, and an above-the-rim player who (when he's dialed in) can take on some of the toughest perimeter assignments a team can throw at him. If you allow him to focus on those things, Brown is a player who adds a ton of value to any team.
But at the highest levels, you can't add up two decent ballhandlers/playmakers and call that equal to having one "real" guy out front. There would need to be some healthy progress from one or both guys for me to feel like that's a group ready to contend.
If the Sixers *had* to explore building an arena in one Philadelphia suburb, which are you picking?— Mike Deegan (@ItsMikeDeegan) July 25, 2022
Kyle...serious question...Celtics get Durant for Brown and multiple picks going fwd...what do you do as 76ers .do you have a plan for 3 years out then with potential keep harden 1 year trade Embiid build 4 years out? Because what do you think vegas line would be?we have zero shot— Fred abner (@arner_frank) July 25, 2022
Champions are not crowned in the offseason, or else the Clippers and Nets would have titles by now. Injuries, egos, and (evidently) vaccine mandates are enough to throw off the calculus. A rival acquiring Durant does not mean you have to begin stripping things down, panicking, or thinking that hard about the next era of basketball. It's the job of the front office to consider the short and long term, but I highly doubt the Sixers would look at the future and just throw in the towel because of a single trade, even a trade that puts an all-time great on the Celtics. You go out there and compete, and see where the chips fall.
if you were a max player, what branded product would you sell (excluding sneakers)— David Sherman (@philsandthrills) July 25, 2022
In the non-gaming division, I would love to have a line of knives after seeing the difference a good chef's knife makes for food prep.
If you had to pick one other Sixers media member to have a social media brouhaha with, who would it be and why?— Will Negron (@HomeoftheThrill) July 25, 2022
On a serious note, though, I don't have ill will toward anyone regularly covering the team. I don't especially love the TV people who only show up for big games and junk up press conferences with HOW BIG IS THIS GAME type questions, but everybody has different jobs to do, and I can get mine done even if I have to roll my eyes a few more times than normal when the Lakers are in town.
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleNeubeck
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports