April 15, 2019, 12:11 pm
Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!
The first weekend of NBA Playoff basketball was stuffed with upsets, as the Magic, Nets, and Spurs all pulled off the unlikely. Although the Magic and Raptors game came down to the wire and ended with a D.J. Augustin game-winner, the most controversial game was the Nets and 76ers. I am the co-host of the Hoop-Ball Nets podcast, so I was watching this game and I have a great deal to say about how this upset happened and how the series can turn out.
The 76ers are a stoppable team that was exposed by the Celtics in the playoffs last season and they have easily fixable issues that they choose to ignore each offseason and trade deadline. Although getting Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris is nice and all, they are building the team in such a way that they are destined for failure. Giannis Antetokounmpo has all shooters around him with the Bucks which is why they are the best team in the NBA, but the 76ers are failing to notice that Ben Simmons needs the exact same thing. Whether it is trading Ben Simmons or letting Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris walk, something has to be done about this team as it is built the entirely wrong way. Teams can simply sag off on Simmons and double-team Joel Embiid, which means that each of the remaining three players are guarded by one player each and they are not fantastic shooters to begin with aside from JJ Redick. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris were both below the league average in 3-point percentage since joining the 76ers, so although they are All-Star caliber players, they might not be the right fit for this team.
Simmons creates an environment for the 76ers that makes them a defendable team and the Celtics proved that last season when they put Al Horford on him and Aron Baynes on Joel Embiid. It will be interesting to see if the 76ers prove fans wrong and find a way out of this hole that they have found themselves in.
They are ultimately not built for success and head coach Brett Brown is not showing why he should keep his job. If this series ends in favor of the Nets, expect firings for the 76ers and some changes to be made in the structure of the team if they plan to move forward. Personally, I believe a starting five such as Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Bojan Bogdanovic, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid would work perfectly fine, but they would also need bench pieces such as Monte Morris, Marco Belinelli, Joe Harris or Bryn Forbes that can shoot as well. Jimmy Butler is a fantastic player, but I do not believe he betters this team in a way that also benefits Simmons, so the organization has some choices to make. This team has a lot of work to do before it becomes a championship contender.
The Nets were able to take Simmons and Redick out of the game, Harris was invisible, Embiid was hurt and Butler carried the team. The Nets had a balanced attack full of shooters and toughness, while the 76ers could not stop fouling and could not buy a 3-pointer. There is a chance that the Nets run away with this series, but Phildelphia’s issues are fixable if Brett Brown wants his team to advance. Possibly, benching Boban Marjanovic and playing Jonah Bolden more could increase the floor spacing and help Ben Simmons get things going. No matter how he does it, Brown must find a way to get his stars going or he is out of a job and the 76ers are out of a playoff spot. Watch this series closely as it could change the landscape of the NBA as we know it.
Now here is an overview of the week ahead:
Weekly Schedule Breakdown
Monday, April 15th– Nets at 76ers at 8 PM ET (Gm 2), Clippers at Warriors at 10:30 PM ET (Gm 2)
Tuesday, April 16th– Magic at Raptors at 8 PM ET (Gm 2), Spurs at Nuggets at 9 PM ET (Gm 2), Thunder at Blazers (Gm 2) at 10:30 PM ET
Wednesday, April 17th– Pacers at Celtics at 7 PM ET (Gm 2), Pistons at Bucks at 8 PM ET (Gm 2), Jazz at Rockets at 9:30 PM ET (Gm 2)
Thursday, April 18th– 76ers at Nets at 8 PM ET (Gm 3), Nuggets at Spurs at 9 PM ET (Gm 3), Warriors at Clippers at 10:30 PM ET (Gm 3)
Friday, April 19th– Raptors at Magic at 7 PM ET (Gm 3), Celtics at Pacers at 8:30 PM ET (Gm 3), Blazers at Thunder at 9:30 PM ET (Gm 3)
Saturday, April 20th– 76ers at Nets at 3 PM ET (Gm 4); Nuggets at Spurs at 5:30 PM ET (Gm 4), Bucks at Pistons at 8 PM ET (Gm 3), Rockets at Jazz at 10:30 PM ET (Gm 3)
Sunday, April 21st– Celtics at Pacers at 1 PM ET (Gm 4), Warriors at Clippers at 3:30 PM ET (Gm 4), Raptors at Magic at 7 PM ET (Gm 4), Blazers at Thunder at 9:30 PM ET (Gm 4)
Marcus Smart (oblique) missed Game 1 against the Pacers with an oblique injury, which is not surprising as he is now slated to miss most of Round 2 as well if they make it to play the Bucks (probably). He is the Celtics’ best perimeter defender, so this is a tough blow for a team that was just beginning to figure things out as playoffs arrived.
Ed Davis (ankle) /Jared Dudley (calf) – Typically, these guys would go in the role player section. However, they were instrumental in the Game 1 win for the Nets and are worthy of their own mentions. Ed Davis and Jared Dudley are both questionable for Game 2 after suffering minor injuries in Game 1. Hopefully they can give it a go as they were a huge reason as to why the Nets pulled out the upset victory.
Joel Embiid (knee) is considered a game-time decision for Game 2 against the Nets. Embiid looked sluggish and hurt in Game 1, so it is no surprise that he ends up on this list. He could not hit a 3-pointer as his legs were not under him and if he gives it a go we could see much of the same in the next game.
Blake Griffin (knee) was ruled out for Game 1 and could return next game, though there are other reports that he’ll miss the whole first round. The Pistons were already at a massive disadvantage with him on the court, so without him it is no surprise that they got blown out. Hopefully, he can return to the court to make this a series against the Bucks.
Some day-to-day guys that are role players for their respective teams: James Ennis III, Jonah Bolden, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby, Michael Carter-Williams, Hamidou Diallo, and Tony Snell
Thanks Hoopballers for reading The Week Ahead!