There is only one question to answer as it involves the Philadelphia 76ers and the bevy of free agent movement that electrified the NBA on Sunday: are the Sixers better than they were last year?
I can’t say that they are.
On the surface, the Sixers became one of the best defensive teams in the league by adding Al Horford and Josh Richardson. The Sixers starting lineup of Ben Simmons at the one, Richardson the two, Tobias Harris the three, Horford the four and Joel Embiid the center, the Sixers have the perimeter length and rim protectors that will hold the opposition in the nineties, nightly.
But who scores when you need a bucket? Yes, there is still Embiid. But Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick were the players you counted on to give you a perimeter bucket, and now both are gone. Richardson is a nice player. But he’s not a fabulous three-point shooter (36 percent last year). Harris has to be better from downtown than he was last year, but now he’s a three, matched up against more athletic defenders than he was at the four position.
The Butler situation is the most mysterious. It is clear to me now that the Sixers weren’t willing to make him a five-year max player. Maybe he wasn’t the best teammate that we were conned into thinking he was. Maybe the Sixers didn’t think he was that good. Maybe the disappearing acts we saw Butler give in the regular season resonated with Elton Brand and especially Brett Brown. Maybe Butler and Brown DID butt heads.
On paper, it looks nice. People look at Horford as a four who can stretch and also spell Embiid at the five. What, is Horford going to play 48 minutes. Let’s not forget that Al Horford is 33 years old and is going to need a break too. Mike Scott is a key signed as a four man off the bench. But the Sixers now definitely need a backup point guard and perhaps a more reliable perimeter sub, with all due respect to Shake Milton, Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle.
Defense is nice. Making shots when you need them is better.
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