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March 01, 2019

Mailbag: Should the Sixers bring back their black jerseys?

Sixers NBA

A date with the Golden State Warriors looms on Saturday night, and the Sixers are still not sharing much about Joel Embiid's availability. But the Sixers are in a good spot right now. At 6-2 since the Tobias Harris trade, they are quickly coming to an understanding on the floor, proving that they can get results even as they figure out their roles.

Questions continue to linger about their chances against the top of the East, and whether or not Brett Brown is the guy who can ultimately deliver the Sixers a championship. But let the record show that the Sixers, in spite of major trades and experiments and all sorts of quirks, are 40-22 with 19 games left to play. They have a cupcake schedule in the final weeks of the season and appear on pace to win 50+ games for the second consecutive year, a feat they haven't accomplished since the mid-'80s.

I just wanted to make that was noted before we get into some questions about the coach, their playoff chances, and some other less serious topics. This is a rare period of success for the franchise and it took a lot of work to get here across three separate regimes. Remember to appreciate this while it lasts.

On to the questions...

I'm going to expand this question a bit because I think this hypothetical is too specific. Do I think Brett Brown could get the axe after this season? Yes. But if I were a betting man, I would lean toward him getting at least one more season here before any big decisions are made.

Philadelphia's playoff fate could swing wildly based on how this final stretch of the season plays out. If they finish fourth (or in a worst-case scenario, fifth) it's looking increasingly likely that Philadelphia would have to play Boston in the first round. I think that matchup is a lot closer than the results have suggested, but you would be a fool to ignore the Celtics' success defending Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and if this team went down in the opening round to a rival, a lot of peoples butts would be on the line.

I don't think that's the likely scenario, though, and I think Philadelphia's soft closing schedule will push them to the third seed before the season is out. That would give them a tough but winnable series against the Brooklyn Nets in round one, and a likely matchup with the Toronto Raptors in round two. Is anyone up in arms internally if the Sixers lose a six or seven game series against the Raptors, who have been comfortably better than Philly this year?

The fans would have every right to be upset if this team underwhelms in the playoffs, but just losing in a specific round is not going to be enough to kill Brown's tenure here. If they go out in spectacular fashion and/or he loses the locker room? Different conversation.

End of the day, I think it's worth considering how easily the Sixers have absorbed another major piece at the deadline, and how Brown has seemingly gotten the best out of all his stars, who aren't necessarily natural fits together. It's a results business at the end of the day, so we'll wait and see what happens when the games really matter.

If he's willing to pay between $59-79, I'm sure he could find an entertainment product of his liking.

I don't think Philadelphia's structure is as rigid here as people might believe. Yes, the Sixers often favor the switch, but frankly, they really should in a lot of the lineups they're going to play with games on the line. Save for JJ Redick, the Sixers have players with the size and athleticism to bother opponents of all types.

When we get to the playoffs, there will be adjustments within games and series to better cope with things that bother them on defense. They do "ICE" pick-and-rolls at the elbows, which they've had more success at lately and when their off-ball players are committed to keeping the scheme in place. I absolutely have concerns about their ability to contain guards, but end of the day they're going to trust Embiid to lock down the paint and try their best to wall off the three-point line.

Not for nothing, but they're executing that strategy well. The Sixers allow the least points in the paint per game of any team in the league, and opponents shoot just 33.9 percent from three against the Sixers, the second-best mark in the league. If they go down because teams crush them from midrange, well, that's just something they have to live with.

I have no reason to believe Simmons wants to do anything but sign a max contract when the time comes. I'm not going to make any assumptions about his commitment to Philly because he has Rich Paul as his agent.

Can they? Absolutely. Will they? Your guess is as good as mine.

I think the weird thing about the Brett Brown era is that the opinions are so strong without having a lot of usable data to point to. The Process years are not super meaningful in terms of measuring his acumen as a coach, and as soon as the Sixers put talent on the floor, they have won and won at a high clip.

This is not a situation like the Bucks had in Milwaukee, where they were being actively held back by their head coach and benefitted from swapping out Jason Kidd for a good coach. I'm open to the possibility of Brown not being "the guy," so to speak, but I would need to be convinced that anyone replacing him would be an upgrade. A lot of the names floated in said conversations are complete nonsense — Mark Jackson, for example, is the only guy outside of LeBron James who was able to stop the Warriors.

Time will tell. Brown will get his second crack at the playoffs, as will Philadelphia's young stars. Let's see how that goes before declaring anything.

The bench tournament has been an absolute disaster so far. If I had to pick a winner, I'd roll with Mike Scott simply because he's the surest bet to stay in the rotation and he can help on both ends. He's not the sort of guy who is going to show fear of a big shot in a close game, and he can switch enough to keep the integrity of the defense intact.

(Honorable mention to T.J. McConnell, who will have a small but important role in pretty much any iteration of the playoff rotation. We've seen him kickstart things before.)

As for Redick's defense, the simple answer is that the Sixers just have to live with guards posting him up if that's what teams are going to do. Against the Celtics, for example, the candidate to do this would be Marcus Smart, and he is quite comfortably the worst offensive player on the floor for Boston in most lineups. Playoff games are about choosing the hill you want to die on — letting Smart dribble the air out of the ball and back guys down is one I'd be happy to die on if I was coaching the Sixers.

On top of that, one of the benefits of the Tobias Harris trade was making defense more difficult for the other team. There's nowhere for guards to hide as players did on Robert Covington last spring. Either you have to pick up a bigger forward or chase Redick around screens all night. Not a fun task either way.

I've shared a lot of thoughts on Butler recently, and I think it's important to note that the Sixers have been very, very good when he's on the floor. I think two things are true simultaneously — he is leaving an impact on the game pretty much every night, and the Sixers can still be better if he picks his spots to attack better.

Butler's role is going to change based on what lineup is on the floor. I still believe the playoff rotation is going to be structured around two pairings: Tobias Harris with Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler with Joel Embiid. In the starting five, Butler's role is going to change on a play-to-play basis. But in the bench lineups with Embiid, he's going to take more of a primary role, I assume, running the offense and playing a two-man game with Embiid.

These guys absolutely have the talent to make it work if they commit to doing so. Whether they're all happy in this configuration is another story. And that's not a criticism — everyone is driven by different motivations and deserves the right to pursue what makes them happy, provided they carry out their duties while they're under contract.

As Drew noted in a follow-up, this would be contingent on Harris re-signing with the Sixers. The Sixers can't let both players get away under any circumstances, and it would be a shocking development for the front office to let that happen.

I have my concerns with Butler, especially on the contract he's going to command, but I still believe the Sixers will be better off with him in the fold. Unless a scenario emerges where they can lure an even better free agent to Philadelphia, they're not going to get similar, consistent production from the role players who would be signed using the money earmarked for Butler. You pay a premium for top-end talent for the consistency, which is even more important when the playoffs roll around.

There are real concerns about Butler's health and production moving forward, but from a big-picture perspective, I think I would still rather bet on him playing at a high level for the next few years. If he does walk, I agree that it was not a big disaster — acquiring him at the price they did was worth the risk, and they now have star insurance in the event he goes elsewhere.

In the little that I've seen him play, I haven't seen enough to say Patton is a viable option for this team down the stretch. There are plenty of tools there to suggest he could be an interesting long-term piece, certainly. He looks comfortable shooting the ball, he's a great target as a rim runner, and when he gets into the right position he has the tools to be a good rim protector.

But that last bit is at the heart of the Patton problem right now. In the little I've seen, he's often not in the right position and doesn't read the floor that well on defense. Add on his defensive rebounding issues, which are largely tied to his lack of strength, and you have a recipe for disaster in a playoff setting.

Now, how much of that is about him being out of action for so long? Probably a decent amount. But in an emergency scenario, I imagine the Sixers would rather go small than ask Patton to play in games with stakes. It's just not his time yet.

If I had to guess, this would be my order 1-8:

  1. Milwaukee
  2. Toronto
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Indiana
  5. Boston
  6. Brooklyn
  7. Detroit
  8. Orlando

Miami has been frisky lately and could challenge for that eighth spot, but I'm reasonably confident about the rest. The difference in schedule toughness should be enough to push the Sixers past Indy for the three seed, and Boston is enough of a mess that I don't trust them to pass the Pacers.

And by the way, the Sixers' reward for getting to the three seed would be a second-round matchup against a team that has had their number for years. Top of the East is no joke.

This is one of my most unpopular takes on the Sixers, at least among younger fans — I think those black jerseys are horrendous and people only like them because of Allen Iverson/2001 NBA Finals nostalgia. And I say that as somebody who basically got into basketball through a combination of watching Jordan in the '90s and Iverson at the turn of the century as I was coming of age.

The franchise's name and theme are centered around the significance of Philadelphia in the history of America. With some rare exceptions, I'm somewhat of a purist when it comes to jerseys. They're a franchise that should be associated with red, white, and blue, not ugly ass satin jerseys with Word Art across the chest. 

Iverson is one of the only people on the planet who could make those jerseys look cool. Maybe that changes if they use material that doesn't look like it came from the jacket of a low-rent pimp, but I'm way, way out on those black jerseys.

If they're going to do anything on the jersey front, my vote would be to get rid of the red "Suxers" jerseys and replace them with an update of the jerseys they wore in '83.


You don't need stars down the sides, you don't need cursive, you simply need to lean into the history of the franchise and the iconic combination you're fortunate to call your own.

Anyway, time to step down from this soapbox.

I think Redick should be included in their summer plans, the question is whether or not he sees a role here that is to his liking in terms of financial commitment and role. There will defnitely be teams that can offer him more money in the summer, but he has a good thing going here and is smart enough to see the value in having stars around him to draw attention.

Does he see a chance to win a title here, and where does he value that vs. setting up his family or having a larger share of the team he plays for? He's the only guy who can answer these questions. But I think Philly certainly understands his importance to the team, even if he comes with limitations on the defensive end. 

You were saying, Derek?

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