With Brett Brown essentially giving out the starting line-up yesterday as he was discussing defensive assignments, it’s time to look at the 76ers bench and some key battles that will take place in training camp and the preseason. As of now, we are looking at a starting line-up of Embiid, Simmons, Covington, Redick, and Fultz. Some fans will be upset about Covington starting over Dario, but I personally find this to be the ideal starting line-up. Dario may be his best as a 6th man for reasons I’ll discuss below. The 76ers have some good depth on the bench, so this preseason should be fun to watch.
Jerryd Bayless and T.J. McConnell are the 2 other point guards on the team besides Fultz. We all know Simmons will bring the ball up the court at times, but his defensive assignment will rarely be covering the opposing point guard. Looking at these two players, the first thought is T.J. has the defensive edge and Bayless has the offensive edge. Last season, T.J. did a great job of giving the opposing point guards fits on the defensive end. He was great in transition and ran the floor well as I previously detailed in an article you can read here. Bayless is a proven shooter, and his career 37% 3pt. shooting percentage is what attracted the 76ers to his services in the first place. Even more impressive is that he came off a season shooting 44% from three in Milwaukee before coming to Philly the following offseason.
With T.J. being a coach and fan favorite, I think he will still see a decent amount of minutes this season despite being an inferior basketball player skill wise to Bayless. Bayless also needs to remain healthy to get his share of minutes. I think playing time will be split on a game to game basis, with T.J. getting minutes when were holding a lead and Bayless getting minutes when we need bench scoring. Time will tell as the season unfolds, and if T.J. gets his offensive game together, he could make a push for second string outright.
I am going to group the shooting guards and small forwards together here as it will be tough to determine where Coach Brown will play them. The 76ers have Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson, Nik Stauskas, and Furkan Korkmaz. TLC seems to be poised to get minutes early on, and his play will determine if he keeps that role. He has good chemistry with Saric and McConnell, logging a decent amount of minutes with them last year. He had a shaky summer league, where I was hoping to see him take over games, meaning he will have to prove himself early on by hitting some deep balls, improving his finish around the rim, and continuing to improve on his defense. Stauskas and Anderson will battle for the other minutes, with the edge going to Anderson. Nik has proven to be too inconsistent and his lack of defensive skills only hurts him. Nik may be decent when he heats up behind the arc, but Anderson’s overall game will eventually beat out Nik’s inconsistency. Korkmaz will see some playing time, but as summer league showed, he will need time to get up to NBA speed. I expect to see him in the D-League (now the G-League) until he learns the flow and speed of the game unless injuries propel him onto the roster.
The easiest decision here is Dario Saric, who will clearly be the 6th man on the team and get his fair share of minutes. You could make an argument for him to start showing how important and good of a player he is to this team. He has great court vision, rebounds and passes well, and has made great strides in his shot. Behind Saric is where it gets tricky. With Amir Johnson recently signed, Jahlil Okafor, and Richaun Holmes, the 76ers find themselves with good depth behind Embiid. This is good for the 76ers as Embiid’s health history shows that depth could come in handy. The 76ers are still apparently shopping Okafor, so I expect him to get some solid back-up minutes early on to build his trade value. I wouldn’t mind keeping him on the bench this year to see if his weight loss and conditioning improved enough to be the player we thought he could be. Amir Johnson will likely see a good share of minutes as Colangelo wrote him a 10 million dollar check to come to Philly. This leaves Holmes as the odd guy out, barring an Okafor trade or injury. I am a big fan of Holmes, an active and gritty player who has earned a spot on the roster. He seems like a key reserve in the future, and the team trying to build Okafor’s trade value will greatly impact his playing time early on.
PG: T.J. McConnell / Jarryd Bayless
SG: Justin Anderson / TLC
SF: TLC / Dario
PF: Dario / Amir Johnson
C: Jahlil Okafor
I think Dario will split time between the 3 and 4 position and TLC between the 2 and 3 positions. This leaves our roster at 12 players dressed, the maximum the NBA allows. If Jahlil is traded, we will see Holmes suit up as well as any back-to-backs that Embiid will likely sit out for. Stauskas may suit up for some games as well, but his Philly days are looking numbered with Korkmaz in the mix. Training camp and the preseason will give us a better idea of the roster construction when the beginning of the season comes around, something everyone in Philadelphia is looking forward to.
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