Keith Smith on Sixers: “Everything they’ve Done, they’ve Upgraded”
One of the biggest disconnects between Sixers fans this offseason is did the Sixers actually have a good offseason?
Some would say, they didn't land that "star" that Brett Brown said they were hunting for, making the offseason a failure.
"We are star hunting", Brown famously said after the season ended.
Paul George, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, were the three stars available this offseason, the Sixers either weren't in play, or missed on all three.
My view of the 'star hunting" comment is that the team is going to try and land a big-name free-agent. It could be tomorrow, at the trade-deadline, at the draft, next offseason, but at some, when the Warriors are in their decline, they know they need to be ready to strike. Some team has to be ready to step in when the Warriors run is over, and the Sixers are setting themselves up to be in that position.
They no longer are interested in handing out multi-year deals to secondary free-agents, the type of players who help you get stuck in the middle. No more three-year deals to guys like Jerryd Bayless, those days are over.
As veteran NBA writer Sean Deveney, of the Sporting News, said last week on The Sports Bash, teams are kind of buying their time and maybe haven't been as aggressive, with the Warriors at the top pf the food chain.
Instead, teams like the Sixers, are more focused on developing their own talent, adding cap-space, to be in play for a top-level free-agent, while handing out smart, one-year deals, and developing their own players through the draft
What Brown also said is we are "star developing", which is something they continue to do with the core of their team, Joel Embiid, Dario Daric and Ben Simmons all under 25-years of age.
The team swapped out a pair of veteran shooters in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, for more athletic wing players, equipped to help the Sixers against a deep and athletic team like Boston, which gave them issues in the playoffs last season.
Sure, Belinelli and Ilyasova were a big part of the teams success, but come playoff time, their one-dimensional games were exposed and the Sixers had no answer for the Celtics athleticism.
They should now.
Rookie Zhaire Smith and veteran wing player Wilson Chandler give the Sixers more athletic, perimeter defense, to help Robert Covington in that department. The Celtics went after J.J. Redick, Belinelli and Ilyasova, and the Sixers were forced to sit them.
In the Miami series, Belinelli averaged 30 minutes per game, in the Boston series he was on the floor for just 23.6 minutes a night. As for Ilyasova, against Miami he was on the floor for 26.2 minutes per game, verse Boston, he saw just 19.6 minutes per game.
Then there is 6-11 big man, Mike Muscala, who replaces Ilyasova and Nemanja Bjelica, adding some extra shooting as a combo big. Jonah Bolden, a 2017 second-round pick, is 6-10 rim protecting, shot blocker and a big-man who can step out and shoot the 3-point shot.
Keith Smith of RealGM.com joined The Sports Bash and said he thinks with he addition of those peices, the Sixers did a very good job of upgrading the roster, saying they are a better team today then the one who finished the season in Boston.
And then there is Markelle Fultz.
While the Sixers have a similar roster to the one that was eliminated in five games by Boston last year. How many 52 win teams in league history can add the No. 1 overall pick to their rotation?
I can't think of any.
The problem is there is no guarantee that Fultz will give the Sixers the production you would expect from the No. 1 overall pick. In limited time last season, the rookie average 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists in just 14 games.
Fultz has spent much of this offseason working with renowned NBA trainer Drew Hanlen, and Smith says he has heard some good things regarding Fultz progress while he was in Las Vegas covering the Summer League.
Smith says he sees Fultz sliding into a sixth-man role, giving the Sixers a chance to ride him on the days he has it going, and pull back from him and allow one of the starters to finish out the game.