February 6, 2020, 9:03 pm
The Sixers have fallen well short of lofty expectations this season, and while it’s been mostly a result of the team’s stars taking time to mesh, Elton Brand tried to cut off the lack of depth excuse at the pass with the acquisition of Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III.
Philadelphia has leaned on Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, Mike Scott and James Ennis as primary contributors this season. Each has worthwhile attributes that make them part of a more successful whole, but plenty of negatives and question marks remain.
Thybulle is a wonderful defender but can’t be trusted on offense. Korkmaz delivers much-needed spacing but is mostly a catch-and-shoot guy who isn’t much of a defender. Scott’s useful as a stretch four, but only when his shot is falling. Ennis gave the Sixers huge minutes in the second round of last year’s playoffs, but has been neither here nor there for the regular season.
By acquiring Burks and Robinson, the Sixers add a natural scorer into that mix while juicing the second unit’s size and offensive capabilities.
Burks offers sparkplug scoring and capable secondary playmaking, all while offering more size than Raul Neto and the since-waived Trey Burke. That’s not insignificant for a Sixers team that relies so much on length and strength. Philadelphia desperately needed someone who can create their own shot in that thin second unit, and Burks fits the bill. That he generates 26% of his points at the free throw line won’t hurt either, though we’ll see how far that drops as his usage declines.
As one of the more bankable players on Golden State’s current terrible roster, Burks is averaging 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.8 3-pointers per game, shooting .406 from the field and .375 from behind the arc. That’s happening in 29.0 minutes per game, which Burks is unlikely to get unless one of Philly’s starters gets hurt.
In Robinson, the Sixers get a switchable guy who can defend multiple positions thanks to his 6’10” wingspan, not to mention someone who is hitting his threes at a clean .400 clip this season. He, like Burks, is getting his numbers inflated by being baseline competent on a terrible team, but the Sixers have enough mouths to feed on offense that someone who can reliably knock down corner jumpers makes for a solid fit.
As for what Philadelphia surrendered, the Sixers traded away second-round picks in 2020 (from Dallas), 2021 (from Denver) and 2022 (from Toronto). Things change quickly in the NBA but none of those figures to be all that high, and Philly retained second-rounders from the Hawks and Knicks here.
They did need to open up two roster spots, accomplished by trading Ennis – whose minutes were going to be consumed by Robinson anyway – and waiving the infrequently used Burke.
That’s an agreeable price to pay for two solid role players that provide clear and definitive upgrades at areas of weakness on a team with championship intentions.
If the Sixers intend to deliver on all their promise, the heavy lifting will need to come from the team’s most expensive players. Burks and Robinson help round out the edges but they are unlikely to be responsible for a turnaround that may or may not be coming. The Sixers’ bet was placed on their top-heavy, talented roster. Adding secondary contributors like this, especially at this light cost, is a great finishing touch – the rest of the group just hasn’t finished yet.