December 12, 2017, 10:09 am
It’s been a long road for the Philadelphia 76ers over the last five seasons, having not made the playoffs since 2012. With the team floundering in the Eastern Conference for a number of years, and finally hitting the reset button in 2013, it was understood the Sixers would undergo a rebuild of sorts.
Philly took matters to extreme ends by openly and deliberately tanking for better draft positions, and trading for young talent by absorbing overpaid veterans. This dramatic strategy, eventually coined “the Process”, was a hot topic around the league, calling into question the ethics behind it.
Whatever the case, the Sixers were unwatchable on a nightly basis and ridiculed throughout the league for a time, but eventually became the franchise to sympathize with due to their consistent, self-inflicted schadenfreude.
The Sixers will find no such sympathy up north. As far as everyone is concerned in Minneapolis the Sixers got off easy. 13 years of losing will do that to an organization and a fan base.
As it stands now though, both teams have shown some early life on the season and are looking to break both of their streaks. Each team has a mixture of young and veteran talent, with key pieces added both through the draft and savvy trades.
The Wolves have built a fairly traditional squad built on power inside, with a standard lineup of two bigs, a standard point guard and a combination of wing players that play more off the dribble.
The Sixers however have built a team that is completely fresh. Ben Simmons is a 6’10” player that looks more like a traditional power forward, and he plays point guard for the Sixers.
Joel Embiid, perhaps the most exciting player in the game right now, is a modern center that shoots from deep, takes the ball off the dribble and also can post up.
Robert Covington and J.J. Redick are extreme floor spacers.
The team is incredibly difficult to matchup with on both sides of the ball because of the versatility each player can provide. As a young team though, there are many aspects of the game they are still developing, starting with defense.
At the moment the Sixers get away with mismatches and pure talent, but are vulnerable to typical rookie mistakes such as pick-and-roll defense.
As a team they also commit an incredible amount of turnovers. Joel Embiid is still inefficient with the ball in his hands, committing four turnovers per game. With the Sixers though, most turnovers as a result of potentially productive plays that just weren’t executed, and also because of the fast pace they play at.
Sitting at 13-13 on the season, the Sixers are nearly halfway to their total wins season from last year. The quick start to the season may have blown expectations out of proportions, but much like the Wolves the process is far from over. The complete turnaround just wasn’t going to happen in one season.
This doesn’t mean another losing season will be acceptable though either. A bar has been set and both teams have the talent to win on any given night. It will be up to their in-season development to dictate how far each team can go.
– Who guards Ben Simmons?
– Teague vs. Redick
There are a number of key matchups in this game when both teams are at full health, but with Embiid and Covington’s status in the air for this game, it may come all down to Simmons for the Sixers. Which begs the question, who is going to guard him?
Perhaps Jimmy Butler sees time on him, though he’s a big undersized for the matchup. Wiggins probably stacks up fairly with his physically, but is not the defender Butler is. Simmons brings the ball up the court every time and runs the offense as a point guard, and is listed as a point guard, but Teague has no shot versus Simmons.
It’s going to be up to Wiggins and he’s going to have to be engaged defensively every play, which is not always the case.
Then on the perimeter Teague will have to keep with Redick all game, fighting through screens and chasing him from line to line and prevent any easy looks from 3-point range. With key guys potentially out of the game, Redick’s shooting will become a focal point for the Sixers.
Obviously Embiid is the middle of it all for the Sixers but his uncertain status, and the Sixers’ willingness to take it slow with Embiid, may result in a DNP. As viewers we can only hope that Joel is able to suit up tonight.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Ben Simmons – PG
J.J. Redick – SG
Dario Saric – SF
Richaun Holmes – PF
Joel Embiid – C
Nemanja Bjelica (foot) – ACTIVE (but won’t play)
Robert Covington (back) – OUT
Joel Embiid (back) – ACTIVE
Markelle Fultz (shoulder) – OUT
T.J. McConnell (shoulder) – ACTIVE
Where to Watch:
9:30 ET/8:30 CT on Fox Sports North and ESPN