Seltzer's Notebook | Embiid's Passing Prowess, Simmons-McConnell Pairing Producing

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Embiid Has Productive Passing Trip

If you’re among the group of people who was impressed with the passing prowess Joel Embiid displayed during the 76ers’ two-game Texas road trip, Brett Brown appears to be right there with you.

Of the career-high tying 5 assists Embiid handed out in the 115-107 win over the Rockets, this one-handed, cross-court rocket might have been his prettiest, and most pivotal.

Dating back to the Sixers’ first match-up with the Rockets last Wednesday at The Center, Embiid has pumped out 12 assists over his past three appearances. Monday, there were also these two feeds to Ben Simmons, which came on back-to-back possessions. 

Heading into the Sixers’ successful re-match with the Rockets, Brown considered the Mavericks game to be Embiid’s best-yet (he had 4 assists), in respect to recognizing passing outlets from the block.

As the 7-footer continues to get reacclimated to NBA game speed, Brown expects his passing to become that much more effective.

“In real time, he’s getting in shape in front of our eyes on an NBA court,” Brown said Monday. “The combination of growing his fitness, and getting the team spaced around him, where he knows his outlets and he can just quarterback the gym, is most on my mind. All that goes hand in hand, playing out of the post.”

Simmons, McConnell Form Intriguing Pair

Ben Simmons and T.J. McConnell together? At this stage of the season, Brett Brown thinks absolutely. And based on data from the past two games, it would be hard to argue with him.

In each of the Sixers’ match-ups with the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, Simmons and McConnell played 17 minutes as a pair. They combined to produce a net rating of 27.5 (116.1 offrtg / 88.7 defrtg), while playing at a pace of 103.3 possessions per game.

There’s a lot to like about those numbers, and then some.

“I think the thing that intrigues me the most is there is a notion in the basketball fraternity that they can’t co-exist, because they aren’t known as shooters. I think that’s so wrong - they move, they play,” Brown said about the Simmons-McConnell pairing prior to tip-off in Houston. “I get that when it’s a really slow game, that doesn’t favor that pairing. But, in general, their skills in relation to play-making, ball movement, player movement, defensive presence, ability to share, desire to share, that’s all attractive. To bring those two on a court with those types of skills, there’s a place for those two.”

Simmons believes he and McConnell complement each other well, citing their mutual knack for pushing the ball, seeing the court, passing, hustling, and cutting. During Monday’s pre-game warm-ups, they worked on some things with assistant coach Billy Lange.

“Over time, I think it just gets better,” Simmons said of his partnership with McConnell. “Since summer league a year ago, we’ve had that chemistry, and it’s kind of clicked. He just makes it easier for me when I’m out there."

An Affectionate Appreciation for McConnell

During Mike D’Antoni’s stint as the Sixers’ associate head coach for part of the 2015-2016 season, he and T.J. McConnell developed a strong rapport.

Here are the tongue-in-cheek, endearing remarks D’Antoni gave about McConnell Monday.

“I really don’t like the guy,” joked D’Antoni, the 2017 NBA Coach of the Year. “He is a pain the butt, because you know what, he doesn’t pass the eye test. He is definitely a really good NBA player. The guy is good, he’s really good..”

McConnell finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks against Houston Monday.