As anticipation continues to build for the upcoming 76ers’ season, the team’s major moves of the offseason have played out, and now its time to take a look at how the rotation might look once all is said and done.
The starting five are all but a lock at this point.
Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid.
But the Sixers also have a wealth of talent to choose from to come off of the bench. Dario Saric headlines a very impressive, young group. Former first-round picks Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot and Furkan Korkmaz are intriguing. Richaun Holmes made a name for himself last season. T.J. McConnell won over a lot of people with his gritty play. Nik Stauskas showed some growth last season. Veterans Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson are also in the mix.
There’s a lot of good, young basketball players to choose from there, and only so many minutes to go around. Here’s how I think things play out.
I don’t think Korkmaz is going to play in the rotation right away. He still needs to bulk himself up a bit, and I could see the Sixers bringing him along slowly, much like what they did with Luwawu-Cabbarot last season. Kormaz will play, and contribute, at some point this season, but there’s no reason to rush him out right away.
T.J. McConnell earned the right to run the point on the second unit after the season he had a year ago. McConnell has good control over Brett Brown’s offense, and his scrappy play is perfect for the bench. He was among the league leaders in assists and steals a year ago, and he may even occasionally get some spot starts as the year goes on.
Bayless and Stauskas are probably going to be competing to spot Redick off of the bench. The Sixers like Bayless a lot, and planned on him being their starting point guard a year ago, but the fact of the matter is he’s been injured quite a bit, and probably needs to have a strong preseason to get his hands on the minutes that would normally go to Stauskas. Stauskas or Bayless could become a trade candidate at some point. Neither seems to have a long-term future with the team, and at some point this year they’re going to be blocking Korkmaz from getting minutes.
Luwawu-Cabbarot probably is in the rotation as the small forward. He’s got the athleticism and size to play the position, and if he has a good preseason, I can’t see him not being a part of the bench crew to start the season.
Dario Saric is the team’s primary sixth-man, and is going to do the bulk of the scoring for the bench unit, but there are questions about how the team finds minutes for both Richaun Holmes and veteran Amir Johnson, who just signed a deal worth $11 million.
I think Holmes gets the first crack at the majority of minutes available behind Joel Embiid at center. Holmes saw himself rise quickly last season, not just for his play on the court, but for the level of professionalism and patience he had when the team had no minutes for available for him. He’s a playmaking guy that can bring a lot of things to the table.
As for Johnson, I think his playing time is going to be pretty sporadic. He’ll get his opportunities primarily when the team has to rest Embiid, or if they need an extra defensive presence in certain games, depending on how they play out.
The one name I haven’t mentioned at all until now is that of former third overall pick in the draft Jahlil Okafor. I don’t expect Okafor to factor into the rotation in any way, shape, or form this year. He’s fallen so far from grace, and his lack of energy on the defensive end is derailing his NBA career.