By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
That first official day of training camp feeling 😁 pic.twitter.com/Atw29VpR0M
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) September 27, 2016
It may seem hard to believe, but we’re less than a week away from the first Sixers preseason game up in Massachusetts. In the meantime, the boys in red, white, and blue have been getting to know each other a little more intimately on the court during training camp at Stockton University.
Over the course of the week, the biggest takeaway for me has been the fact that the Sixers decision-makers are (rightfully) focusing on making sure Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are placed in the best position to succeed. The rest of the roster will just have to fall into place and sort itself out naturally.
Embiid has been working as the center in what has typically been viewed as the “starting group” during scrimmages. Coach Brown also reiterated the “crown jewel” comment from back at the media luncheon.
#Sixers Brown on expectations for Embiid: 'We want to grow him to fully understand he's the crown jewel of our defense.'
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) September 28, 2016
While Embiid is going to be on minutes restrictions and unavailable for back-to-backs, if he’s penciled in as the starter most nights, it means Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are going to be in a heated battle for the leftover burn at the 5 position.
Meanwhile, one guy who is going to receive all the minutes he can handle is first overall pick Ben Simmons. Over the last few days, the Sixers have been using him at practically every position aside from center.
Simmons on playing PG: "Challenge is prob. guarding the PG position. They’re a lot quicker. But I also have a lot more length and strength."
— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoCSN) September 28, 2016
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 28, 2016
Although his lack of outside shooting likely makes him best suited to the power forward position at this stage of his career, Simmons’ elite quickness for a man this size could certainly create some interesting matchups as he slides down in position. Playing him as the true point (not just nominally bringing the ball up with an off guard like Bayless on the court) could unlock a Sixers lineup with 5 guys 6’9″ or taller; something that may not work practically, but would certainly be incredibly fun to watch.
Of course, the flip side of all this is that a number of players are playing out of position. The Sixers have already mentioned Jerami Grant will be playing exclusively at the 3, even though he’s been much more effective as a small-ball power forward in the past. Likewise, it seems like Robert Covington won’t be seeing any time at the 4, where he was also at his best last season. He’s been logging his minutes in scrimmages at small forward and even some shooting guard.
Finally, the third rookie lottery pick, Dario Saric, has been getting a lot of time at small forward, despite indications that he should naturally be a power forward, or maybe even a small-ball center. For Saric to have any shot to work as a three, he’s going to have to keep working on that outside shot which has improved quite a bit the last couple years. Early indications from camp show that he may be up to the challenge.
Dario swishes 20-footer at buzzer. Working on endgame situations. pic.twitter.com/4R6KAaRAH3
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) September 29, 2016
In the end, other things will sort themselves out and I largely agree with the Sixers’ strategy to focus on the success of their two blue-chip prospects in Simmons and Embiid. After all, we can talk about other things all we want, but when it comes down to it, here’s the heart of the Process.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) September 28, 2016