Sixers' bench still ‘a legitimate question' with playoffs looming


If there’s one thing the Philadelphia media can count on with Brett Brown, it’s that he’ll always give a thoughtful response.

Whatever question you ask, whether it’s something he’s answered a million times or a flat out bad question, Brown will give a detailed answer.

But after a reporter in Dallas on Monday asked Brown about the Sixers’ depth following a 122-102 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Center (see observations), the head coach was short and sweet.

“I think it’s a legitimate question.”

That’s it. No elaboration — just a nod to the reporter and on to the next question.

Brown didn’t say any more and he didn’t have to. With no Joel Embiid and no Jimmy Butler, this seemed like a good opportunity for some of the Sixers’ reserves to step up against the Luka Doncic-less Mavs.

Instead, the bench was outscored, 62-28, and fill-in starters Jonah Bolden and James Ennis combined to go 2 of 12 from the field for six points. 

The performance was particularly disappointing for Bolden, who shined in the team’s win in Minnesota. With the backup center role still a question mark for the playoffs, Bolden failed to seize another opportunity Monday and is still entrenched in a battle with veteran Boban Marjanovic for minutes.

It looks like Ennis will be the first wing off the bench come postseason. He’s been up and down since his arrival at the trade deadline and has recently been dealing with a bruised quad that caused him to miss two games. The Sixers need him to play strong perimeter defense and hit open threes — neither of which he was able to do Monday.

Even Mike Scott, who’s been a solid contributor and has basically taken over as the Sixers’ sixth man since coming over from the Clippers, struggled in Dallas. He went just 1 of 5 from the field and 0 of 4 from three. 

T.J. McConnell was the lone bright spot off the bench with 15 points in 17 minutes. The backup point guard is what he is. He can give you a spark for 10-15 minutes a game and be lethal in the midrange. He’ll also struggle to defend bigger and/or quicker guards.

At this point, there isn’t much Brown or the Sixers can do to remedy their situation. Jonathon Simmons couldn’t show enough to stay in the rotation. Amir Johnson isn’t the same player he was last season. Furkan Korkmaz is coming back from an injury and quite frankly hasn’t been that effective when healthy. Rookie Zhaire Smith has just missed too much time to be asked to have a role in the playoffs. Two-way rookie Shake Milton won’t be eligible for the playoffs and also had his issues against the Mavericks. 

If Brown decides to roll with a nine-man rotation in the playoffs, you’re looking at Scott, Ennis, McConnell and some combination of Bolden and Marjanovic as the reserves. Because of how elite the starting unit is, you won’t need much from those players. If they can give the Sixers 10 solid minutes a game each, they’ll be fine.

But can they do that? Even the usually meticulous Brown doesn’t have an answer.

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