Game Preview | Colangelo Wants Young Core Leading Playoff Push
Of all the different valuations that Bryan Colangelo worked through his head in advance of this past week’s trade deadline, one that seemed get heavy consideration was how much the 76ers’ young, blossoming blue-chippers could benefit from spearheading the team’s playoff push.
Could the Sixers have added a seasoned veteran to the mix, a short-term supplement capable of taking a little pressure off the leading members of the Sixers’ promising, yet still relatively green nucleus?
Based on information that came out of Colangelo’s day-after-deadline press conference Friday at the Sixers’ training complex, yes, this was discussed. Due diligence was done, but Colangelo was willing to pass.
So now, in the aftermath of the deadline, the Sixers’ roster is expected to essentially stay intact for the final 30 games of the season. Sure, there could always be a few modest tweaks made by signing another 10-day player, or mining the buyout market. Colangelo, though, seemed comfortable Friday that the Sixers will be proceeding forward as presently constituted.
Given how things played out later that night, could you blame him?
With Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and Ben Simmons serving as catalysts, the Sixers smashed the New Orleans Pelicans, 100-82. The trio - made up entirely of sub-25 year old lottery picks - combined to score all but two points in a dominant first quarter in which the Sixers established a commanding 32-14 advantage.
By the end of the evening, the Embiid-Saric-Simmons combo accounted for 58 points, 30 rebounds, and 12 assists.
In respect to Embiid and Simmons in particular, Colangelo spoke extensively Friday about what the 2017-2018 season has yielded for a pair of relative newcomers who opposing coaches and players routinely cite as two of the league’s top emerging stars.
“It’s clearly one of the great indicators of where we are as an organization, to see these two impacting our team performance the way they are,” said Colangelo, now in his second full season as Sixers President of Basketball Operations.
To quantify the weight of Embiid’s and Simmons’ contributions, look no further than their on-court net ratings. With Embiid on the floor, the Sixers have a net rating of 10.2. For Simmons, it’s 4.3. They’re having that positive of an impact with a 124 games between the two of them.
With Embiid needing less than 70 games to achieve All-Star status, and Simmons worthy of the honor himself (Colangelo expressed disappointment Friday that Simmons wasn’t picked to fill one of several All-Star spots vacated by injuries), the duo has come to represent the most prominent pillars of the Sixers’ increasingly bright future.
For this reason, Colangelo deemed it important not only for Embiid and Simmons to experience the intensity of a playoff race first-hand, but to be in invested, leading roles in the club’s quest for its first post-season appearance in six years. He believes they’ve already proven to be well-suited for the challenge.
“These two guys have displayed the ability they have, and the talents they have to make this franchise a contending team in the future,” said Colangelo.
This time in the years ahead, perhaps the lay of the land will be such that acquiring reinforcements at the trade deadline is the Sixers’ best course action. For now, at this stage of the team’s collective and individual development, Colangelo is satisfied with how how his group - eighth in the Eastern Conference but only 4.0 games out of third - has fared.
Should the Sixers still be among the top eight in the standings two months from now, Embiid and Simmons will likely have had a considerable influence in extending the team’s season. This, Colangelo ultimately concluded in recent days, is how the team’s youth will be best served, both in the short and long run.
“[Embiid’s] ability to play the way he has and elevate this team, and Ben’s ability to do the same, growing together as two key components of building this team, it’s exciting,” said Colangelo.
“We keep talking about how these two young men are impacting the program, and where the future lies because of it. It’s why we’re somewhat of a storyline throughout the league, and I think our success is only going to continue.”
From ally to foe, the status of the LA Clippers in the context of the Sixers will change swiftly. A night after helping the Sixers' post-season cause by defeating the Detroit Pistons, the Clippers will visit The Center Saturday. Their victory Friday at Little Ceasar's Arena wedged a game's worth of separation between the Sixers and Pistons for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The contest marked LA's first chance to face Blake Griffin since the franchise pulled the trigger on a blockbuster January 29th deal that sent the All-Star to Detroit. Griffin finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, but recently re-signed Clippers guard Lou Williams tallied 26 points off the bench.
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