PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- The NBA season is just about ready to resume.
The Sixers will play their first game of the restart on Saturday, August 1 against the Indiana Pacers in Orlando. While things during the regular season weren’t exactly going the Sixers’ way, there has been a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the team since the preparation began for the restart.
For one, guard/forward Ben Simmons is healthy. Center Joel Embiid also reported being in great condition upon entering the bubble. And, Sixers coach Brett Brown has been tinkering with the lineup, moving Simmons to the power forward spot and inserting Shake Milton into the point guard role in the starting five. That move intrigues CBSSports.com NBA writer James Herbert, who sees Milton as a good fit for what the team needs.
“I think they have real upside, especially on the defensive end. I think everything that has come out in the last few days of Shake Milton playing point guard and Al Horford coming off of the bench, that is I think what we should have expected based on how the last few weeks were going prior to the hiatus. We just didn’t happen to see Simmons health at the same time as Milton was playing so well,” said Herbert in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “Milton still has to prove he can keep up that level of play and do it under much more scrutiny than he was under before especially in a playoff scenario. But, I love the fit. He theoretically does exactly what they need. They needed more ball handling, they needed more outside shooting. They needed somebody that can sort of be a connector between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Their roster is extremely talented and it is extremely versatile defensively too.”
That defense was Top 10 in the league during the regular season, ranking just behind Toronto among the league’s defensive rating rankings. Even still, there remains the same questions about this team in the playoffs that there were last season. Who takes over on offense? Jimmy Butler is gone to Miami. J.J. Redick, their most consistent threat from outside, is in New Orleans. So, when it comes to tighter spaces and more clogged lanes in postseason play, how will the Sixers overcome that? Herbert isn’t sure, but he does say that having a healthy Simmons and Horford puts the team in a better spot than it would have been in a normal playoffs scenario. And maybe adding Milton unlocks a new version of the team that can have a more free flowing offense.
“I don’t know what their opponents are going to look like, I don’t know if they’re going to change things up. Going into this, I know Ben Simmons was dealing with a serious injury. What we were going to see from him, if he was even available for the playoffs was going to probably be a diminished version. Al Horford has been pretty open about the fact that he was dealing with a knee issue during the regular season. If you’re looking at an improved version of Horford, of Simmons, if Embiid is in as great condition as he says he is, maybe they do have some upside. Maybe just playing Milton and Simmons together will unlock something different.”
The offense exploded out of the gate in the team’s first scrimmage against Memphis. On Sunday, however, the team revealed that Joel Embiid was dealing with a calf issue. The seriousness of the injury and how it affects Embiid’s play will be something to watch when the restart tips off on Saturday night.