The 76ers begin scrimmages today for the resumption of the NBA season in Orlando. Today at 3:30 pm, the new-look 76ers will face the young Memphis Grizzlies. Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you watch today:

1. Expect Sloppy Play to Start

I am not a sports bettor, but if I were, I would tend to bet on low scoring and low efficiency early play. Watching the Orlando scrimmages so far, teams are struggling to make shots early and teams who rebound and control the paint tend to get out to early leads.

The Sixers have a size advantage over the Grizzlies, so if they attack the glass with purpose and get out and run they can jump to an early lead.

2. Ben Simmons Perimeter Threat? 

Ok, I won't bury the lede much longer, I know fans desperately want to see Ben Simmons launch threes today. So Brett Brown spoke on that yesterday in his media availability.

I feel like, his spirit, his mindset coming down here to willingly, find space and find threes, that that has been a paradigm shift that has been an attitudinal change."


Brown went on to say he has noticed "An internal decision that he has made. Because I've seen just a player that's cocky, playing when the game says you should shoot because nobody's on you, he does, and he doesn't blink, and his teammates love it and so does his head coach"

Ok, so what does this REALLY mean? Well, Simmons will space the floor from the corner almost exclusively in a role similar to what you've seen from James Ennis in the past. It's a bread and butter concept in the 76ers offense. But before fans start sweating over makes and misses, consider another part of the arsenal that this unlocks.

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3. Ben Simmons Baseline Go Guy?

Here's a quick tweet from Brett Brown's Coaches Clinic 10 months ago.

Simmons, when spacing from the corner will be firmly a "Go Guy" I have learned from people familiar with practices. That means fans should be looking for him, even when he is not getting the open looks, to crash down the baseline on shots. James Ennis carved out a nice niche for this team in his ability to crash from the corners and get put backs and second possessions for the team.

4. Shake Milton Point Guard

The new-look Sixers starting lineup will look more conventional as Shake Milton takes on Point Guard duties and Ben Simmons slides to the Power Forward slot. It's important to note that this only really matters situationally. Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Shake Milton, and even Tobias Harris are all capable of grabbing an offensive rebound and pushing the ball in transition. I spoke with Brett earlier in the week about how much autonomy Shake will have as PG and he pointed back to this.

I still believe, like there's an element of pace and space and freedom where people are just flowing, and it's probably a word I want you to hear, flow, When he has a rhythm be in a purposeful flow to what you're doing. I think that's basketball at its best."

But on dead ball possessions in which the team plays in a pure half-court set, Shake will initiate the offense quite a bit. In those situations, Brett Brown will dictate play calls primarily in After Time-Out (ATO) situations and in the final 6 minutes of the game. Shake Milton is a mature player despite this being just his second pro season. Milton will turn 24 in Orlando if the 76ers can make a run into September.

We will dive more into how this relates to points 2 and 3 above as we see live games but keys 2,3,4 are all part of an integrated strategy on the part of the 76ers.

5. Joel Embiid 

As always, when everything boils down, Embiid is the difference between a good NBA team and a potential NBA champion. Brett Brown and Embiid spoke yesterday specifically on Embiid's ability to read and react quickly when he is doubled in the post. "He's gonna be double-teamed more than he isn't." Said Brown Thursday evening. "It's a cat mouse [game]  You can book it, he spins baseline the whole GYM's coming. I don't care who we're playing."

The key is how quickly does Embiid anticipate, recognize, and process his options when that happens. Look for Joel to attack with purpose, reduce his number of dribbles, increase his ball security and decisively pass out when the double successfully cut off his options for a high-efficiency shot from the post. Limiting turnovers out of this look will be crucial for the 76ers as they get deep into the postseason.

"I feel like he (Embiid) has passed the heck out of it. He really has done a really good job of passing out of it (double teams. And so whether they come at him, whether he's going to be able to architect a quarterback mentality out of that post up, or whether he just can play volleyball and go dunk and score." - Brett Brown on Joel Embiid when doubled in the post.

Bringing it all together

So 5 keys that seem different but really are crucially integrated. We began with tempered expectations about the sloppy play, which relates very much to how quickly the team adjusts to the combination of Shake Milton ( Point 3) and Joel Embiid's passing out of double teams (point 5)

Ben Simmons can help Shake by dominating the glass on both ends, running in transition, and setting great screens to give Milton options as the lead guard in half-court. Ben Simmons can help Joel Embiid as a floor spacer who is camped in the opposite corner (right of the basket) as an outlet option for when the double comes.

So as you watch these three scrimmages, and the subsequent 8 games leading up to the playoffs. Look for how many times you are seeing these 5 keys play out.




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