Gameday Roundtable | Making the Most of Preseason Minutes
Tuesday at The Center, the 76ers are scheduled to start their two-week, five-game exhibition schedule. Ahead of the contest, our Roundtable crew of Sixers Radio Network announcer Tom McGinnis, Sixers.com's Brian Seltzer, and 97.5 FM The Fanatic's Devon Givens check in with thoughts on a few storylines they'll be monitoring.
Givens: Zeroing in on Zhaire
Grueling summer workouts, thousands of shots put up a day, weight training, diet adjustments, foot work, ball-handling drills... we could go on and on about what professional basketball players do in the offseason to improve their craft leading up to the start of a new season.
With media day in the rear view, training camp in the books, and the Blue x White scrimmage a success, the official start of a new season of 76ers basketball gets underway Tuesday at The Center in the form of exhibition competition. That means it’s time to lock in on what the young players could look like in their roles off the bench.
Yes, it’s early, but with expectations high for this season, and the squad rolling out a new look projected starting unit, there are minutes to be earned by some youngsters.
Notable from that group, of course, is 2018 first round pick Zhaire Smith. Smith, who appeared in six games at the end of the regular season, had a healthy summer after his rookie season saw him miss all of training camp and most of the year due to injury. Now, he's looking to be a contributor for a Sixers team that could use his defense, energy, young legs, and athletic gifts.
It’s important for a young player like Smith to be a full participant in camp and the preseason to get his feet underneath him and develop confidence for the games that count in the regular season. Brett Brown might need to call on Smith, for instance, when defensive ace Josh Richardson needs a breather. Games like Tuesday and the rest of the exhibition schedule could go a long way in setting up Smith’s overall run, while also showing how much the high-flying Smith has improved in all areas of his game.
Seltzer: More Matisse, of course!
What did you think we were going to write!
With superlative performances come recalibrated expectations. So what should we realistically anticipate seeing from Matisse Thybulle as a follow-up to Saturday's absurd showing in the Blue x White intrasquad scrimmage?
Whether or not the 22-year old rookie has another 16-deflection game in him remains to be seen (editor's note: that was the unofficial count for Thybulle's deflections that Brett Brown gave the other day). For context, Paul George led the NBA last year in deflections per game with 3.8, while the Oklahoma City Thunder averaged the league's highest team mark, at 15.5.
Either way, Tuesday will simply offer us the next chance to learn more about Thybulle. Even if his deflection total isn't quite as astronomical as it was over the weekend (Matisse is human, after all), can the 2019 no. 20 pick again prove to be a disruptive presence on defense? Will he be able to show more of his slash / shoot offensive repertoire, which caught Brown's attention in Wilmington?
For as much intrigue and curiosity as Saturday stoked about Thybulle, let's not lose track of a significant big picture theme. The Sixers' projected starting lineup is stacked. They did some things well in the Blue x White Scrimmage, but they, like Brown, recognize there's room for improvement.
Here's to the group taking another step forward in their exhibition opener.
McGinnis: Evaluations to begin in earnest
In recent seasons, the NBA exhibition campaign has been reduced to four or five games. Years ago, it was eight games. The flip side is that the regular season home opener is now just two weeks away.
For the 76ers, the players will be glad to get on the floor against another team. They’ve been in training camp for a week now and it’s time to face someone else. They had a nice dress rehearsal Saturday at 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, but again, that was an intrasquad scrimmage.
Tuesday in South Philadelphia, Brett Brown will get a lot of guys in the game. The roster still stands at 20 players. The depth and versatility of the group that general manager Elton Brand has put together is impressive. Fans will get to see most, if not all of the club, in action.
Second unit players like Mike Scott, Trey Burke, and Matisse Thybulle have been strong thus far in camp. They, along with the rest of the reserves, will have a chance to impress the coaching staff.
But for players like Burke and Raul Neto, who are battling for back-up point guard minutes, how they fare will be worth monitoring. Furkan Korkmaz is another guy in the mix for playing time as well.
So, for a season that has high expectations, Tuesday will provide the 76ers with an opportunity to put into play more of what they’ve been working on.