The best and worst case scenarios for the 2020-2021 Sixers

Ben Simmons 2019-2020: 57 games, 16.4 PPG, 8 AST, 7.8 REB, 2.1 STL, 58% FG

Ben was rewarded for taking a huge step forward in his defensive game (including leading the NBA in steals per game) by making the NBA All-Defensive Team (1st) and the All-NBA team (3rd). His season ended in the bubble as he suffered a partially dislocated left kneecap. He routinely drew the opposing teams’ most difficult assignment on one end of the court, and was the facilitator of the offense on the other. He has been rumored as of late in potential deals for superstar James Harden, but as of now GM Daryl Morey is adamant Simmons is not on the move. Simmons enters the first year of his 5-year, $178 million deal this season at only age 24 and continues on his way to become one of the best two-way players in the league.

2020 Best Case: Some of the questions in the second half of the season about Ben’s engagement are chalked up to the injuries as a healthy Simmons puts himself in the thick of the Defensive Player of the Year race. Doc Rivers and Sam Cassell find enough ways to utilize Ben with Joel in a half-court offense that we can stop the constant bickering about their fit together, at least until a few weeks after a parade down Broad Street (with masks).

2020 Worst Case: Ben continues to be unlucky with injuries, and when healthy, sticks out as the sore thumb in a Sixers half-court offense that no longer has everyone out of position as an excuse. The injuries lead to more doubts about engagement, and Daryl Morey quickly decides that the answer to the Joel/Ben experiment is that Ben has to go in the offseason.

Seth Curry 2019-2020: 64 games, 12.4 PPG, 45.2% 3PT

Curry was one of the most accurate shooters in the NBA last season, better than 45% from three. However, despite his accuracy, he took only the fourth most attempts on the Mavericks per game, trailing Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Tim Hardaway Jr. He should see more opportunities for minutes, playmaking, and three-point attempts. As a career 44.3% 3pt shooter, he has to be one of a select few even Philadelphians shouldn’t need to worry about coming here and forgetting how to shoot.

2020 Best Case: Curry becomes known as not just an elite three-point shooter, but a great pick-and-roll player working in tandem with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Curry’s spacing and shooting are a cure-all for issues that have plagued the Sixers offense for years, and having defenders like Green, Simmons, and Embiid hides any defensive liability Curry may carry.

2020 Worst Case: Increased workload and expectations cause Curry to press and struggle, and a subsequent move to the bench does not go well and yet another promising move for a scorer somehow goes awry.

Danny Green 2019-2020: 68 games, 8 PPG, 1.3 STL, 36.7% 3PT, won an NBA Championship

Green brings a veteran presence and a winning presence that is much needed on this Sixers roster, alongside his fellow Laker teammate Dwight Howard. The Sixers struggled with a lack of wing defense last season, so Green is a huge addition in that regard. Green is a 40% career three-point shooter, so last season was sub-par by his standards. Still, he shot a career best 45.5% the season before in Toronto, so there’s no reason to think he can’t get back to the mean.

2020 Best Case: Green checks all the “three-and-D” boxes and “does all the little things” and every other cliché that you expect from a veteran with a championship pedigree. Green also helps guide promising young Sixer Matisse Thybulle to a similar role that Green has succeeded in for his career.

2020 Worst Case: Green checks out, having already won a few titles and quickly realizing he doesn’t have a chance for another here, and either is dealt to a contender at the deadline or simply spends the season planning on where he goes title hunting next.

Tobias Harris 2019-2020: 72 games, 19.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.2 AST, 36.7% 3PT

It seems trivial to even write about Harris’ season as nothing said here will change anyone’s perspective. Harris may be even more polarizing to Sixers fans than Ben Simmons. Harris clearly struggled with decision making and three-point shooting, but he definitely improved his aggressiveness, getting to and finishing at the rim, and his defense. He is also an ironman in terms of availability in both games and minutes on a team full of players who miss time routinely. Harris’ best seasons were his two in LA with Doc Rivers as his coach, so Sixers fans should try to find some sliver of hope Harris can return to the version the Sixers traded a large package of assets for.

2020 Best Case: Now getting back to the four and not playing any minutes alongside Al Horford, Harris is the Sixers’ second leading scorer at over 20 PPG while shooting close to 40% from three and gets to the free throw line closer to 5-6 times per game rather than the 3 attempts he averaged last year. It still likely doesn’t shut down the contract talk, but it does ween out some of the terrible takes it’s created. (Ty’s best case: Traded)

2020 Worst Case: With more scoring options present between Curry, Green, and Milton just to name a few, Harris doesn’t get as many chances as he’s used to and struggles to find a rhythm. Harris is moved to the bench where any margin of a chance the Sixers could move his contract disappears, and Harris becomes the most overpaid Sixth Man in history, and not a good one either.

Joel Embiid 2019-2020: 51 games, 23 PPG, 11.6 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.3 BLK, 8.5 FTA

When you look back at Embiid’s numbers knowing he spent so much time with Al Horford alongside him, it’s actually still pretty impressive how Embiid was mostly still his usual self. The biggest issue outside of the Horford fit was Embiid’s conditioning for sure, and the way the season played out due to COVID didn’t seem to benefit him much either. This season looks to be similar as not only is the offseason significantly reduced, but there are no real extended breaks built in this season to get Embiid some scheduled rest. It’s yet another beginning to a season with speculation about Embiid’s conditioning, all reports trending positive for now.

2020 Best Case: Embiid returns to his 2018-19 MVP-esque form now that there are playmakers and spacing around him, but does it in slightly less minutes. Having the best backup center of his young career in Dwight Howard allows the Sixers to not be an absolute mess when Embiid rests and requiring him to then expend more energy to make up for it. Dwight helps motivate Embiid to get back to dominating down low and Embiid mitigates turnovers out of double teams thanks to shooters like Seth Curry and Danny Green.

2020 Worst Case: Embiid’s conditioning is an issue once again, and he doesn’t improve his three-point shooting despite increasing his attempts as a result of not being willing to get up and down the court. He is not given the star treatment he received under Brett Brown and a disgruntled Embiid decides he wants a chance to win before his prime ends and forces his way to somewhere out west like Houston, Phoenix, Portland, or Golden State.

Shake Milton 2019-2020: 40 games, 9.4 PPG, 43% 3 PT

Shake Milton showed small flashes of being a great scoring combo guard last season when given an expanded role, but still seems like he’s trying to find his exact place when playing with the first unit. He doesn’t have enough point guard instincts or facilitating skills to be a pure point guard, but isn’t consistent enough as an iso-scorer to be a pure shooting guard. Still, Milton clearly has enough shooting and scoring to fill a lot of needs for the Sixers while on the best value contract the team has as well.

2020 Best Case: Milton finds his place in the league as a Sixth Man á la Lou Williams, becoming an elite bench scorer and carrying the second unit, which has always been a huge issue for the past iterations of Sixers teams. While not necessarily being a “starter”, Milton does end up in the top 5 on the Sixers in minutes played and is a top-five Sixth Man.

2020 Worst Case: Milton is forced into a backup point guard role and struggles, and as more tape on him becomes available, teams figure out how to slow down his scoring as well. Without being as highly touted a prospect as a Thybulle or a Maxey, Milton falls out of the rotation.

Dwight Howard 2019-2020: 69 games, 7.5 PPG, 7.3 REB, 1.1 BLK, won an NBA Championship

Much like Danny Green, Howard was brought in as a veteran presence and a player coming off winning a championship. Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, now joining two guys who have loomed in the conversation over the past few years in Embiid and Simmons. Howard also is hopefully closure to fans who are scarred by names like Amir Johnson, Greg Monroe, Richaun Holmes, and others. Howard looked good in his first preseason game as a Sixer and even at 35 should be able to anchor the Sixers second unit in both the regular season and the postseason.

2020 Best Case: Howard not only anchors a much-improved Sixers second unit, but is also a mentor and friend to Joel Embiid and helps get Embiid to be even more of a dominant post presence. 

2020 Worst Case: Howard’s history as somewhat of a locker room nuisance show up, possibly around either Joel’s conditioning, availability, or his attitude. Since the Sixers have little cap flexibility and Howard is on a vet minimum, they aren’t motivated to move him even with the drama and all season he is a locker room cancer.

Matisse Thybulle 2019-2020: 65 games, 4.7 PPG, 1.4 STL, 35.7% 3 PT

Matisse Thybulle was a defensive wrecking ball out of the gate last season, but the real story was the ebbs and flows of his shooting combined with him often looking lost in a half-court offense. Thybulle shot 44.4% from three at home and only 26.3% on the road, and also shot 37.3% before the All-Star break only to shoot 29% afterwards. Thybulle again looked lost in his limited play in Tuesday night’s preseason game, which has already led to fears regarding his sophomore campaign. With rookie Tyrese Maxey bursting onto the scene with an aggressive offensive mentality, Thybulle may already be in trouble of sliding down the depth chart.

2020 Best Case: Matisse benefits from a much more traditional half-court offense and the coaching staff combined with veteran wing Danny Green help Matisse hone his instincts, increase his already strong defensive potential, and become a consistent knockdown three-point shooter, creating a young valuable “three and D” for the next several years for the Sixers.

2020 Worst Case: Matisse’s defensive gambles miss more often than they hit, and the shot continues to look off, causing Matisse to fall behind Korkmaz and potentially even Justin Anderson as the Sixers focus more on winning now than developing their former first round pick.

Furkan Korkmaz 2019-2020: 72 games, 9.8 PPG, 40.2% 3PT

You can tell who really watches games and who doesn’t based on their opinion on Furkan Korkmaz…okay come on you expected that from me, right? I’m kidding, but all jokes aside I do think the slander of Korkmaz is much more tongue in cheek than fans let on. If you really dig into his 2019-2020 season, you’ll see he was much improved in his overall offensive playmaking, adding a very good floater to go with a strong first step, and also has one of the best pump fakes in the league. He is not elite on defense by any means, but he is far from a liability and people seem to constantly forget he is 6’7” and has solid length to help make up for some defensive deficiencies. The red flag for me is that the > 40% 3PT comes in significant extremes. Feels like Furk either goes 4/5 or 0/5. This is a make-or-break season for Korkmaz, as his rookie option was declined by the team, only to then come back and sign him to a two-year deal for only about $4 million total, which expires after this season.

2020 Best Case: Furkan takes his game to a previous Seth Curry-type level, coming off the bench and shooting closer to 45% from three and using that to also generate opportunities at the rim. He continues to use his length to be an average defender and becomes the primary back-up wing, allowing the Sixers to go find a true back-up PG or PF at the deadline instead of another wing. He signs a three-year deal in the offseason for about $14 million to stay in Philadelphia.

2020 Worst Case: Korkmaz’s defensive woes combined with early inconsistent shooting find him buried behind Green and Thybulle, and also diminishes any potential trade value at the deadline and he becomes a non-asset for the rest of the season and heads back to Turkey next offseason.

Tyrese Maxey 2020-2021 First-Round Pick – Kentucky – 14 PPG, 4.3 REB, 3.2 AST, 29.2% 3PT

What Maxey lacks in efficiency he makes up for with aggression. He displayed that in the second half of the Sixers first preseason game scoring eight points in 12 minutes and looking extremely confident for a rookie. The Sixers have lacked a rookie with a mentality like that for years now and is a welcome sight. The more confidence Maxey continues to display, the more likely he will be able to carve out a role on a deep Sixers roster.

2020 Best Case: Maxey and Shake Milton combine for a solid backup Sixers backcourt, as neither seems to be the ideal back-up PG, but have enough in their skill sets to maybe pull it off together. Maxey becomes a sort of bench offensive spark plug in the same mold Thybulle was on defense in his rookie season.

2020 Worst Case: Maxey struggles to hit shots consistently and also is a defensive liability against the plethora of slashing guards the Sixers have consistently struggled with, and with the pressure to win now on the team, Maxey is unable to find real minutes in his rookie season.

Mike Scott 2019-2020: 68 games, 6 PPG, 3.6 REB, 36.9% 3PT

Scott was an under-the-radar acquisition in 2018-2019 in the Tobias Harris deal, but was a key role player for that year’s squad, hitting a lot of threes and some very clutch shots. That season after joining the team he shot his highest career 3PT % at 41.2%. Last year Scott looked like a shell of himself on both ends of the court. Not known for being the best defender or biggest guy, Scott always still seemed to have a toughness about him and was able to hold his own and was a smart defender in the half court. Last season the shot wasn’t falling nearly as often, and he seemed less willing to body up defenders in the post.

2020 Best Case: Scott returns to his clutch three-point shooting and continues his role as bringing a toughness to this team, especially in protecting the young stars in Embiid and Simmons. He fulfills the backup PF role by either looking like his 18-19 version, or by being a good salary match in a deal to upgrade the position.

2020 Worst Case: Scott continues his downward trend, decimating any potential value he has even just as a salary dump, but the Sixers also don’t improve the position and Scott is playoff dead weight as he ends his Sixers tenure.

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