Keith Smith Weighs in on NBA’s Return, the Sixers, and More
Recently I had the chance to sit down with Keith Smith, an NBA writer for Yahoo Sports. In my time with him, we discussed his thoughts on the NBA’s return plan to Orlando, and how the Sixers will fare in this season’s restart.
Keith was the first person to propose the idea of the NBA resuming its season in Disney World. When I asked him what he thought of the league’s plan he said that the NBA “did as good as [they] can do” getting their season up in running again. He also spoke on the league’s protocol when players arrive in Orlando stating that the health and safety protocol is “in-depth as can be.”
He would also give his take on the eight seeding games before the playoffs begin. Saying that eight games is "enough games to be meaningful" and "gets teams ready for the playoffs."
After having close to four months off with the season being suspended, do you think any team has a chance to win the championship, or is there still a small group of title contenders?
“The Bucks and two LA teams have separated themselves” Smith would start with. He would then go to say that there are “still seven or eight teams” that could still potentially win a title this year.
We would then dive into the topic of Al Horford and his fit on the Sixers. When I asked Keith if he thought Horford could turn things around when play resumes he was very unsure. He would go on to say that things will be very “matchup dependent” when it comes to Horford and that “all the same problems still exist” regarding his fit on the team.
Smith would go on to say that Sixers’ coach Brett Brown will “need to adjust mid-game” when it comes to using Horford. “You don’t want Horford chasing wing players” he would state when discussing playing Horford at power forward.
As we know the Sixers doubled down on size this past offseason. When the game slows down in the playoffs do you think the Sixers will be able to use their size to shut down opposing teams defensively?
“[The Sixers] are going to look to play a lot of 85-80 games” Smith led off with. Following it up saying the team will “look to grind it out in the playoffs” and try to “punish teams with their size.” Smith was slightly optimistic saying that a “chance exists for sure” for the Sixers to benefit from the size of their lineup, but thinks there still could be problems. Smith would finish off this answer saying that “it is going to be tough if teams speed it up against them.”
Next, we dove into the depth of the Sixers’ bench. After bringing up guys like Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton, I asked Keith if he thought the Sixers’ bench was deep enough for the team to make a serious playoff run. He started by saying the Sixers’ bench is “better than they have done” in regards to recent years.
He then dove into the team’s trade deadline moves saying that he “loves the Robinson and Burks add” to bolster their second unit. Smith would finish up discussing the Sixers’ bench talking about rookie Matisse Thybulle, saying that he is “interested to see how they use [him].”
In terms of your favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2020 NBA finals, where would you rank the Sixers?
In order, Smith ranked the teams “Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Heat, Sixers.” Although he ranked the Sixers fifth on this list, he would go on to say that “it would not shock me if [the Sixers] made a run.”
If you had to pick one X-factor for the Sixers, who would it be?
“Horford, we didn’t see the Horford [the Sixers] hoped to get.” Smith would then say that a change in the use of Horford “can open offense” for the rest of the team. Mainly bringing up the idea of using Horford as a playmaker at the top of the offense. He would finish off by saying that “if [the Sixers] go far it’s because of Horford.”
I finished up my conversation with Keith asking him for his 2020 NBA finals prediction. His answer was “Bucks over Clippers” saying that he felt they were the “two deepest teams” heading into the return of play.
Kevin McCormick is the 76ers insider for 97.3 ESPN and 76ers editor for Sportstalkphilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinMcC973.