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October 09, 2020

Sixers mailbag: Considering a Buddy Hield trade, Al Horford's role, Elton Brand's future, and Fall Guys

The Sixers finally hired a head coach, but that didn't stop you from having a ton of questions about fake trades, Al Horford, and what the future of the organization looks like for this week's mailbag.

As the offseason wears on — is it wearing on when they technically can't make any moves yet? — there will be a few names who emerge as favorite trade candidates with the fanbase, and it appears Buddy Hield is the new No. 1. Congrats to the Sacramento Kings shooting guard on this terrific honor.

If you have additional questions for consideration in either a future mailbag or standalone post, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or shoot me an email at your earliest convenience. 

Buddy Hield's name is going to come up a lot this offseason and for good reason. But I would agree people have been a little overzealous talking about him like he would be the Sixers' version of Klay Thompson or something.

Let's start with the positives. Though he fell out of favor with Kings coach Luke Walton last season, there is almost zero doubt Hield's shooting would translate to any team he plays for. Hield knocked down 39.4 percent of his threes on almost 10 attempts per game, a number that rises to 41.3 percent when you focus strictly on catch-and-shoot threes. On the Sixers, Hield wouldn't need to do much, if any self-creation, and Doc Rivers has a history of making the most out of guys who can shoot on the move like Hield can. 

For the amount of money he's going to be making — and Hield's $94 million extension doesn't kick in until next season — you would just hope Hield could offer something more than shooting prowess. I would agree that he's not very good defensively despite having the size to be at least average, and he's not offering you much creation for himself or others.

Perhaps you think it doesn't matter because the Sixers have bad money locked onto their books for the next few years regardless and would rather have questionable money that fits next to their stars, and I get that. It's still not good practice to lock yourself into big money for a limited player.

For me, it's going to depend on cost. If you could get the Kings to agree to a one-for-one swap with say, Al Horford, I take that deal without hesitating. But I don't think Sacramento is doing that deal, and they'd most likely ask for some more valuable assets (like the OKC pick this year or Matisse Thybulle) to get it done. No thanks at that point. 

I would argue there's at least equal, if not more downside to holding onto him for any period of time that pushes into next season.

As it stands, the Sixers have a case to make. You sell opposing teams on the idea that Horford's struggles are about a combination of poor fit and poor coaching on Brett Brown's part. The physical decline that seemed to hold him back all season? That's more about Horford being used in the same way Joel Embiid was schematically, and you point to the underlying numbers for Simmons/Horford led units without Embiid to show that he can still be a helpful player in the right role.

If you hold onto him, I think you have to be prepared for Horford's decline to be permanent and for his value to drop even further, either as a trade chip or as a contributor to the Sixers. Unless the trade market is absolutely disastrous this offseason, that's not a risk I'm compelled to take, especially because keeping him would mean at least another half-season of wonky lineups that annoy your star player(s).

This seems pretty unlikely to me. Rivers obviously has a decent amount of security moving forward, but Brand clearly seems to have emerged from the collaborative days with the best reputation internally and externally. He basically did the coaching search by himself and ended up getting one of the most respected leaders in the league to come to Philly. Something would have to go sideways to an almost unforeseeable degree for Brand to get the boot by next season.

This is going to depend on how the rest of the roster moves shake out, I think. Historically, Rivers wants to have a player who can be an extension of himself running the show and getting the team into their stuff. Simmons is the only guy on the roster right now who thinks and plays the game at a level worthy of that level of trust. With all due respect to Shake Milton, he's been at his best when his role is simplified and he can focus on attacking as a shooter/scorer rather than a lead playmaker.

If they don't bring in someone like Chris Paul via trade, I think there's a good chance we see Simmons as the nominal one, though I take Rivers at his word that he's not worried so much about positional labels. That doesn't mean he'll be stuck in that role and that role only, but I can't see Simmons being a full-time forward next year.

It's not a misplaced concern. As I've said and written several times over the last couple of weeks, Rivers represents stability in some form or fashion. He's a guy with plenty to say and tweak, but he has said himself that he's not walking into the organization looking to totally turn things over. His system and overarching philosophy do not require a major upheaval, and that could be a major reason the Sixers hired him in the first place.

I don't want to put a numeric probability on it because they either will or they won't, and the front office shenanigans still aren't over yet. The less they change at the top, the more convinced I would be that they think a new voice at head coach is all they need to get this thing right. We'll see though. If nothing else, the Sixers have been bold under Brand and have kept their biggest moves under wraps.

It does not compare at all, if you're asking me. That Celtics team featured three no-doubt Hall of Famers who were on the backside of their physical primes. The questions heading into the season all centered around whether they would be willing to sacrifice touches in order to win, a suggestion that would end up looking antiquated by the end of the year. If not for Kevin Garnett being hurt the next season, there's a good chance they go back-to-back, too.

Here's the most meaningful difference beyond the presence of a legit third star — the three main guys were all at a point in their careers where they were ready to give up individual glory to climb the mountaintop. They had experienced the taste of failure separately, which allowed them to properly put into perspective what they needed to do to win a title. 

Simmons and Embiid don't have that yet, and may never have that together for reasons that aren't necessarily their fault. They've only ever lost together, so they could dismiss failure as a product of poor fit or commitment to win from their peer. They say all the right things about wanting to win together, and that's a good start. But it will take a true partnership to win, and they don't have that right now.

If I have said it once, I've said it 1000 times, but the Sixers need more players who can dribble and shoot. Look at how much of a difference Alec Burks made at times in the bubble and it's not hard to see how a legit guard would take this team to a new level. The less you have to ask Embiid to create his own offense and the less you have to rely on Simmons as your primary perimeter creator, the better off you're going to be.

Unfortunately, I think CP3 is probably the only legit needle mover on the market who they even have a chance to get back in a trade (unless you're willing to send one of Embiid or Simmons out, in which case all bets are off). I would focus less on positions than I would on how acquired players would bridge the gaps on offense. A shot creator with off-the-dribble equity might have more value to the Sixers than a shooter, depending on how good each is at their respective jobs.

It's just more likely you're going to get a Hield-like guy than a multi-level creator/scorer.

I think it's more likely you see Simmons used like Griffin than Embiid used like Jordan, though I think one-to-one comps aren't worth much here. If either was as good of a finisher as Griffin and Jordan were at their peaks, there would be a lot less concerns about how this all works.

The other problem is they don't have a guard who is even in the ballpark with Clippers-era Chris Paul, or Celtics-era Rajon Rondo for that matter. So even if they were elite finishers, there's no guarantee you'd be able to get the most out of them by deploying them that way.

I'll weigh in more on draft stuff in the coming weeks. Bane is a guy who should be in the mix, I think, but he deserves a closer look than just a mailbag answer. 

As I've made clear in the past, I would not trade Embiid or Simmons unless I absolutely had to do so. They may reach that point rather quickly if things don't improve this year, mind you, but if a trade request never comes and they continue to win a lot of games together, I keep betting on them.

But if you're asking me to consider an Embiid-centric proposal, there's no "picks or Bam Adebayo" wiggle room here. Either Adebayo is in the deal as a centerpiece or you hang up the phone entirely. Embiid is a top-10 talent in the league, and while he doesn't always live up to that billing, you have to set the bar high if you even consider trading him. 

Adebayo has been Miami's best player for stretches of these playoffs, and I think there's a case to be made you could have an even better playoff-centric defense with him and Simmons as your centerpieces than you could with Embiid and Simmons. I think that's less true in the regular season, where Embiid's size and rim protection provide better value, but the Sixers also aren't trying to be the regular-season champions.

I don't think Miami is offering that package, though. You probably get Bam, one of the shooters, maybe another piece and/or a salary matcher. It's Pat Riley we're talking about here. And I have little to no interest in Nunn, who is not all that good and an even worse person (google his history for yourself).

Still speculation at this point, but I would guess his voice carries more weight than anyone on that list sans Brand. 

Brand has plausible deniability as the lead decisionmaker given how he was hired and how things operated over the last two years. Was he ready to take the job when he did? Probably not. That can be true without us assuming Brand is a total rube or that he's unable to grow into the job. There were a lot of cooks in their failing kitchen.

There are a few things we know about Brand thanks to his playing career — he's a smart guy, a hard worker, and an affable human being. Broadly speaking, when people believe you are all three of those things, they will give you benefit of the doubt in most situations. In my experience, he is a good-natured man, aware of criticism without it defining who he is or changing how he treats people.

I've never spoken with someone who had actually met Brand and had an outright negative view of him. Media members who covered him as a player, former teammates, front office people, agents, they all vouch for him. Strictly speaking, he didn't need to take a front-office job to have a cushy life in perpetuity, and that reinforces the idea in a lot of minds that he's going to work hard to get this thing right. I'm sure Rivers sees a lot of the same in Brand.

Of course, none of this means he is or will be a good GM. 

(For those of you who don't want to read about video games/Fall Guys, I got a lot of questions on non-basketball topics this week, and that section of the mailbag begins now.)

I'll say 9/10, with the one point being taken off after hearing about the crunch situation CD Projekt Red employees are going through. The games industry is unforgiving in that way but that doesn't make it any more acceptable. That said, cyberpunk is probably my favorite general setting/theme and everything we have seen about the game looks great, so I am sure I'll sink a lot of time into it.

It has never worked for me in the dozen-ish times I have attempted to use it, so I have to say no. Big Yeetus on Door Dash or Dizzy Heights? Now we're talking.

I am much worse at Fall Mountain than the other finale variants, but my only victories have come on the left side. I try to just run where the current is flowing, but given my overall success rate on those Finals, maybe I should rethink my strategy.

I struggled with Hex for quite a while after release, and to me the key to success is as simple as just running your own race and not getting greedy. A lot of people try to get all up in your grill and steal your tiles but selective aggression is the name of the game. I've found I'm much better off when I try to hunt islands on each level and set myself up for a clean drop to the next floor whenever possible. You do not have to be greedy to win — giving up a few tiles on the highest floor for better positioning on the floor below is often the best move, IMO. 

I think this is absolutely the correct order. The grabbing mechanics kinda stink in this game, so Royal Fumble is default last. Fall Mountain you can run a perfect race and still kinda get screwed by starting position, but I do like it in theory. The other two are the most mechanics based where I feel like I have the most control over the outcome, and I would lean Hex as the superior game. 

Maybe I just need to get good at Fall Mountain though, IDK.

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