All of the attention has been on the Sixers’ starting five — and rightfully so.
But the bench is still going to be an important factor for the team to get where it wants to go.
Tobias Harris was clearly the headliner in the deal with the Clippers, but Elton Brand also managed to add two solid reserves in Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott.
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“To get a trifetca of a backup center, a starting four man and a backup four man in one fell swoop,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday, “you have to give Elton a lot of credit for that timely trade.”
Brown is still figuring out where all the new pieces — and a couple of the holdovers — will fit on his overhauled bench.
In the first two games since the deadline, Brown had used a 10-man rotation. After practice on Monday, Brown mentioned that he’d like to cut that number down to nine come playoff time. So who’s in and who’s out?
Brown mentioned only one player as a lock for a spot going forward.
[Scott] is well and truly in. He’s a 30-year-old adult that’s got a toughness to him that you hear me use the term a ‘modern-day player’ where he’s in a switch group with our guys, there’s a toughness, there’s an experience, he can make a shot …
Mike Scott is in and incredibly important. He just brings so much to the table. He’s really a fantastic addition.
Backup center Marjanovic is a player that also seems to have a secure spot. Brown did mention rookie Jonah Bolden, who had been serving as the team’s backup five before the deadline, as an option if teams go small on the Sixers. With that said, it seemed clear from Brown’s comment that Marjanovic will get the bulk of those minutes.
Same goes for T.J. McConnell. McConnell is McConnell. You know you’re getting that energy and he’s one of the leaders of this team, despite his physical limitations. In certain matchups and in a 12-15 minute role like he’s been playing, he can be very effective.
That basically leaves two spots for three players: James Ennis, Jonathon Simmons and Furkan Korkmaz. Korkmaz is mentioned only because Brown mentioned him. It’s hard to imagine the second-year wing getting meaningful minutes ahead of guys like Ennis and Simmons.
Ennis was solid in his first game but struggled a bit against the Lakers. With that said, Ennis seems to be the kind of player that is perfect for this bench. He’s a similar player to how Brown described Scott. He’s tough and does the dirty work, but he’s also a smart and skilled defender and can hit an open three.
Simmons is kind of the wild card. Perimeter defense is definitely Simmons’ modus operandi, but he’s struggled with his outside shot (31 percent from three for his career). He’s also been banged up this season. Speaking to the Philadelphia media for the first time Monday, Simmons admitted he feels “good not great.” If he’s healthy and hitting threes even at a slightly below average rate, he could be a valuable piece.
So as the starting lineup continues to dominate, the bench behind it is still a work in progress.
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