What We Learned From 76ers 2019 Preseason Opener
PHILADELPHIA, PA (973espn.com) -- It was a long start to the week filled with controversy in the NBA because of comments made by Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey regarding issues that are currently going on in China.
Considering the Philadelphia 76ers first preseason opponent, Guangzhou Long-Lions comes from China; the Sixers were stuck right in the middle of it all, dealing with questions on Monday after practice, and even Tuesday before the game.
Brett Brown barley wanted to speak on the comments made by Morey, and neither did any of his players. At this point, they just wanted the show to go on as they tipped off their preseason against a non-NBA opponent on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Considering that basketball is back in Philly for the first time since May, everybody was excited to see the Sixers take the court once again. Fortunately, those who were in attendance got to watch a show filled with dominance by the Sixers -- because once the fourth quarter concluded, the Sixers wrapped up a 144-86 victory. It wasn't even close.
When it comes to preseason, though, the actual score or results don't matter (although you do want to win.) Preseason is more about seeing guys get back in action for the first time since last year. Also, it's about seeing the young guys who never played in the NBA before, make their debut, and for the players who are fighting for a spot in the rotations.
So what did we learn watching the Sixers take on the Long-Lions?
1. Ben Simmons can make a three-pointer.
At this point, everybody within the Sixers locker room is sick of this topic. As Ben Simmons has been working his long-range shot for quite some time now, everybody could hardly wait to see it in action.
After seeing so many sneak-peeks over the summer of Simmons taking long-range shots in a gym, Philly just wanted to see it happen in real-time. Sure enough, Simmons made it happen. With the clock winding down before halftime, Simmons had the ball and an opportunity to take on a wide-open shot.
The crowd begged for Simmons to pull the trigger, and eventually, he did. In less than a second, Simmons had the home crowd acting as if he had just hit a game-winning jumper in a playoff series. This won't be the end of Simmons' three-point shot saga, but at least it will hold Philly over for quite some time.
2. Matisse Thybulle could be the real deal
There was some controversy surrounding the Sixers 2019 first-round pick, Matisse Thybulle. The Washington guard wasn't the shooter that everybody wanted. Knowing the Sixers though, it wasn't all that surprising to see them prioritize a defensive player over a guy who is known for scoring at the collegiate level.
Not only has Thybulle been a terror on defense for his teammates and now his opponents -- but he's actually proving to be a solid long-range shooter as well. He drained two of his four attempted three-point shots and totaled for ten points in 16 minutes of playing time. On the court, Thybulle was a plus-33.
3. Josh Richardson will fit in well
Already, former Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson is a fan of the chemistry that has been built within the Sixers' locker room this offseason. Richardson felt it off the court, and now the chemistry is translating well onto the court as well.
Not only did Richardson gel with his Sixers teammates -- but he also made some stellar plays of his own. During his debut, he hit on six of his nine attempted shots for 16 points. Richardson showed he is more than willing to shoot from three, and helped contribute to Philly's impressive three-point total with three long-range shots drained.
4. Zhaire Smith is not in Brett Brown's favor at the moment
Brett Brown said before the game that most of the Sixers' starting lineup likely wouldn't see the court for the second half. He didn't stick by those words as most of their starters still saw a few minutes in the third quarter. However, at around seven minutes, Brown rotated out the starters and brought in a fresh lineup of guys who haven't seen the floor yet at all.
Unfortunately, none of those players happened to be the former first-round pick, Zhaire Smith. It wasn't until there were two minutes left in the third quarter when Smith checked into the game. Smith ended up playing roughly ten minutes. He drained one of his three attempted shots, totaling for four points. While his two baskets were forgettable, his airball from three-point land was not. Smith has a lot of work to do before game two.
5. Ben Simmons' free throws are still off
Okay, so we got the three-point shot we've all been waiting for. And Ben Simmons was undeniably borderline unstoppable on Tuesday. It's tough to criticize the guy's game when he nearly notched a triple-double in a preseason matchup. But even Simmons' performance deserves a bit of criticism.
Simmons' lack of shooting was an issue last year -- but so was his inconsistency at the foul line. The hope was that Simmons would come into the 2019 season with a few of those holes in his game patched up, but the same issues came about on Tuesday. As Simmons shot a lousy two for six from the stripe, it's more than obvious that the third-year veteran has some work to do in that department.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_