Assessing the Sixers' rotation heading into first seeding game


Unless Brett Brown springs any late surprises, we know who the first six members of the Sixers’ rotation are when everybody is healthy.

Exactly when and how much Al Horford will play is still not fully clear given that Joel Embiid only played the first half of the team’s first scrimmage before experiencing right calf tightness — the two big men shared the floor for a little under four minutes at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second vs. the Grizzlies — but it seems safe to say the 34-year-old is the team’s sixth man. There wasn’t any strong evidence in the scrimmages to suggest that starting Shake Milton and beginning games with Ben Simmons off the ball is the wrong move. 

The plan is to play a 10-man rotation in the seeding games that will eventually drop to nine for the playoffs, Brown has said. With scrimmage play complete and the Sixers’ first seeding game set for Saturday against the Pacers, let’s assess the back end of that rotation. 

Matisse Thybulle 

Thybulle sometimes pays for his aggressiveness and has his share of ungainly moments offensively, but it would feel like a waste to leave such a unique defensive talent on the bench.

His best scrimmage was the Sixers’ final exhibition as the rookie had 14 points, four rebounds and three steals. 

Brown will likely have a shorter leash with young players like Thybulle, especially in an unfortunate situation where his gambles aren’t cashing, he’s committing unnecessary fouls and he’s missing open threes. It’s possible that happens and he has trouble adjusting to the postseason. At a minimum, though, Thybulle should be playing significant minutes to begin the playoffs. 

Glenn Robinson III

Robinson left the scrimmage against Oklahoma City with a left hip pointer and missed the Mavs scrimmage, but he helped himself over these last couple of weeks. 

"I think he’s been playing really well,” Brown said Sunday. “I’ve been happy with him all over the place. He had great practice sessions as well.”

He’s the most well-rounded of the bench wing contenders and looks and sounds more comfortable with the Sixers after a transition from the Warriors that wasn’t the smoothest

Judging by his skill set, how Brown used him in the first two scrimmages and his head coach’s praise, Robinson has a good chance of being in the playoff rotation. 

Alec Burks 

Burks offers the Sixers something they lack, and it seems Brown understands his game well at this point.  

“He’s effectively one of our backup point guards,” Brown said Tuesday. “And I think that what we are seeing is he’s just got an innate gift to score. He can create his shots all by himself. … I didn’t play Ben in the second half — he had to assume a lot of that point guard responsibility given that I didn’t really want to extend Shake’s minutes. I thought he did that well and we learned a bunch of things from the minutes that he played, I think, because of that.”

In the final scrimmage, Burks had 15 points (7 of 15 shooting, 0 for 4 from three-point range) and seven assists. Simmons will be a point guard in lineups without Milton, and Josh Richardson is another ball handling option, but Burks’ shot creation and pick-and-roll ability are obvious skills that could help the Sixers. While he probably hasn’t cemented anything yet, he can bolster his case over the seeding games. 

Furkan Korkmaz 

Over the scrimmages, Korkmaz shot 7 of 27 from the field and 3 of 15 from long range. None of the scrimmage stats mean a ton, but those aren’t positive numbers for a player whose best attribute is his shooting.

“I think that Furk probably struggled tonight a little bit,” Brown acknowledged after the Oklahoma City scrimmage. 

Korkmaz has worked on his defense and is determined not to be a weak spot. Still, that end of the floor has to be a concern and a factor that weighs against Korkmaz in this competition if he’s not hitting jumpers. 

We also won’t count out Mike Scott, a player who has made big playoff shots. For now, however, the veteran forward appears to be outside of the rotation. 

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