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September 30, 2016

Sixers Mailbag: What is the opening night starting lineup?

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Another week, another Sixers mailbag. Media day and training camp have wrapped up (in fact, the latter did so just a few minutes ago) and the team will now head back to work at the friendly confines of their spacious new practice facility in Camden on Sunday.

Once again, I’d like to really thank everybody who submitted questions. This feature is obviously only as good as the questions that come in, and again, there is a good chance I’m planning to tackle the subject at another time if yours doesn’t end up getting picked.

Sergio Rodriguez will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason after signing a one-year, $8 million contract. The term is two years shorter than the deal Jerryd Bayless inked in the offseason. From a playing style standpoint, this makes some sense. Bayless has more experience off the ball, which makes him a better fit with the Sixers young core, specifically Ben Simmons.

At least initially, my guess is that “El Chacho” runs the second unit, a role he’s certainly qualified to do. On the offensive end, he should develop chemistry with whichever bigs are playing with him in the pick-and-roll game.

In addition to his on-court play, the 2016 NBA Draft might play a major role in determining whether Rodriguez sticks around. The Sixers could potentially have two high picks in the draft (their own and the Lakers pick), and the lottery has the potential to be filled with quite a bit of point guard depth.

For now, I’ll say that Rodriguez should be here all year if only because Brett Brown wants some stability at a spot that has been a revolving door lately. If everything goes well and both parties are interested in continuing the relationship, it’s not like the Sixers don’t have the money to re-sign Rodriguez.

Honest answer? Games played and minutes per game. Joel Embiid needs to show the Sixers he can make it through an NBA season more than anything.

As far as on-court statistics, how about the team’s defensive rating when he plays versus the team’s defensive rating when he sits? We all know about Embiid’s offensive potential, with the combination of post moves, brute strength on the offensive boards, and shooting touch out to the three-point line. My guess is that like all rookies, there might be a feeling-out process for Embiid on the offensive end.

A few weeks ago, Brown mentioned that he wanted Embiid to be the “crown jewel” of the team’s defense. Can he help the Sixers get stops right away? If so, that would be a great sign.

I mentioned this a little bit in yesterday’s notes: Nik Stauskas, a player who possibly could be fighting for a roster spot, has played pretty well in the very, very little I have been able to watch. Did I mention I don’t get to watch all that much?

But Rodriguez has probably been the best player on the floor at the end of practices.

Brown has experimented with a bunch of different lineups in training camp, so it’s too early to tell from anything we saw at Stockton. With my guess, I feel pretty good about the 1-4 spots: Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, and Simmons.

The center position is anyone’s guess. Would they want to bring Embiid off the bench? Is Jahlil Okafor 100 percent? Is Nerlens Noel still on the team? For what it’s worth, Noel is the only one of the young bigs who isn’t under a minute restriction at practice.

I could see Dario Saric linking up with Toretto down the road. The “Fast” gang hasn’t taken Dubrovnik by storm yet, right?

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann