Mailbag: Could the Sixers fire Doc Rivers? Should they worry about signing Embiid’s supermax deal?

Mailbag: Could the Sixers fire Doc Rivers? Should they worry about signing Embiid’s supermax deal?



Hello and welcome Part 2 of the “Kyle Goes On Vacation” Sixers mailbag (you can read Part 1 here). Luckily, we received so many questions that we could actually stretch these out across multiple posts throughout the week as I am enjoying some unexpected downtime thanks to Philly’s big-time choke.

As always, additional questions can be posed in the comments, via email, on Twitter, or by passenger pigeon if you can find me. Hope you’re all having a better, more relaxing week this week. Let’s dive right in…

Insofar as there is always a chance of anything happening in the NBA, I think there is a chance. But it’s extremely unlikely, with Morey praising Rivers after the series and a positive overall outlook on the job he did in year one in charge.

The second-round series was a trainwreck for Rivers, as I wrote about extensively last week, but there was a ton of good throughout the season. He got buy in and a best-ever season from the franchise player, Tobias Harris returned to form, their defense improved to the 2nd best in the league with the scheme Rivers and Dan Burke agreed on, and they were simply a much better and more consistent team on a night-to-night basis. Those things matter a lot, even if they don’t matter the most.

And not for nothing, but a lot of Philadelphia’s failures in round two would have been avoidable or non-existent if they were not trying to play through and build around a max contract point guard afraid of shooting. Rivers’ rotations were structured around avoiding the most toxic combinations, and while he made terrible decisions all on his own (including before he ever arrived in Philly), I don’t think he should be on the hot seat.

I don’t think the Sixers have any choice except to sign their names on the dotted line and pay Embiid. It may very well backfire and it’s a decent-sized risk to hand out a supermax deal to a guy who can never seem to stay healthy. You almost certainly have to do it anyway — the risk of angering or outright losing Embiid is far more significant than simply paying him the most money you can over an extended period of time.

Here’s how you have to think about it — the odds of the Sixers procuring another MVP-level talent are exceedingly low for the foreseeable future. They are up against the cap with Embiid on a cheaper contract, will continue to be into or flirt with the luxury tax as long as they are trying to make real runs at a title, and have basically never drawn A-list free agents here in the team’s history. Either you try like hell to keep the one true star the franchise has, or you have no idea when the next one is coming.

I have moved past the point where I believe any player or contract is truly “untradeable” if it becomes necessary to move on. Should Embiid completely self-destruct and the Sixers’ plans for contention dissolve along with his well-being, you live with the consequences and perhaps come out on the other side with some high draft picks/lottery talent who can boost your upside. And if they reach a point where they simply can’t rely on him any longer, there will be some desperate franchise in a small market trying to sell tickets, jerseys, and/or make the playoffs.

Lock the big guy in and worry about the rest later.

I do think Maxey is a decent potential partner for this play if the Sixers ever decide to use Embiid or Simmons as the lob target for anything more than the odd gadget play. In fact, one of the critiques of Maxey coming out of Kentucky is that he looked for the lob pass too much compared to other reads, and he certainly connected with Dwight Howard on a fair few oops in 2021.

Part of the problem, I think, is that it’s a little tougher to do it for either of these guys when the other is still on the floor. If Simmons is hanging out in the dunker’s spot and his man can feasibly help on the lob to Embiid, things get quite messy rather quickly. Plus, I’m sure the Sixers don’t want Embiid being a high-wire guy given his propensity to take nasty spills when he goes up to dunk. You keep his feet on the ground, and you avoid those problems.

It was easy to dismiss Embiid’s health concerns when he was absolutely brutalizing Clint Capela for stretches during round two, but it’s a reasonable point. Maybe you could talk me into a healthier Embiid having more burst and more closing ability on defense, where he let go of the rope at times during Atlanta’s big comebacks. Close out one of the epic choke jobs, and the Game 7 win is never necessary in the first place.

That being said, the other factors that loomed large — Simmons’ mental meltdown, Harris’ clunkers, Rivers’ terrible series — wouldn’t have changed at all if Embiid was healthier. The Hawks still would have loaded up the paint, making life difficult for Embiid as an attacker, and they still would have been able to hunt weak defensive links like Seth Curry.

The series was decided by several tight games, so I get the instinct to go here.

It beats watching 90 Day Fiance.

MORE: NBA trade rumors: Timberwolves ‘badly’ want Ben Simmons, but what can they offer Sixers in return?

Anyone who took a moment to look through my HBO Max or Netflix “lists” would be overwhelmed by the amount of movies and shows I have set aside to watch and still not gotten around to. I have told myself about 15 times over the last year that I would commit to re-watching the Sopranos, but I feel weird about watching a show I’ve already seen when a lot of shows I am interested in (e.g. The Americans, Justified, The Shield) are sitting there unwatched.

Probably why I tend to watch more movies as a general rule. Since the start of the year, I’ve watched and enjoyed Unforgiven, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tenet, Judas and the Black Messiah, Catch Me If You Can, The Master, and Dunkirk, most of which were first time viewings. I’m still playing catch-up to an almost absurd degree, but one of these days I’m going to finally sit down and watch The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which I think has played a trailer for me every time I start Netflix for the last eight months.

It’s not technically an offseason thing because it releases in October, but I cannot wait for Dune. Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite directors, and having finally gotten around to reading Dune this past winter, I’m excited to see him put it on the screen.

Defending pick-and-rolls against high-level guards is borderline impossible, and it gets much harder when they have great lob targets to throw lobs to. Young makes it harder than most with his foul-drawing ability, exaggerating every piece of contact a defender might make trying to fight over a screen. When you can’t get into a guy’s body, he’s going to get downhill quickly, and that puts the big in a no-win situation.

A few fans suggested to me during the Atlanta series that teams should go under screens more, daring Trae Young to beat you as a pull-up shooter from deep (I believe his season average on those shots was in the neighborhood of 34%). I honestly don’t think that’s the craziest idea in the world, but I absolutely get why coaches would be hesitant to try it, and nowadays going under screens is a tactic saved mostly for players who are outright bad shooters.

There aren’t a lot of good answers against Young. Most players you would be happy to see forced into runners and floaters from midrange, but he’s good enough at them to compromise your coverage.

It’s a team problem to solve in a matchup like the one we just watched. When the guard creates dribble penetration and the big has to help, the closest defender has to be ready to help on the diving big, and then the guy one rotation away from the corner shooter has to be ready to help if the ball swings there, and so on.

Say what you will about Simmons and his issues, but I don’t think anyone would be so bold as to humiliate themselves in the playoffs over and over again just to get out of Philly. There are much easier ways to accomplish that goal, and they involve playing well and using a powerful agent to push you in the direction you want to go. A half decade of conning people is a lot of work and humiliation by comparison.

This is a great question, because there was definitely hesitance to let him go last season as part of trades that would have qualified as franchise-altering moves. How much has that changed now after seeing how dire the Simmons problem can be deeper in the playoffs? I’m honestly not sure yet, but their conviction in Maxey as a future piece is almost certainly stronger now than it was a few months ago.

I think it’s important to note how much the Sixers adore this kid for the work he puts in when the lights aren’t on. Every person you talk to with the organization raves about his work ethic, publicly and privately, and those are the sort of players you try to hang onto until you simply can’t any longer. The progress he made in a single year was astounding, especially when you consider the insane and unorthodox offseason he had leading into his rookie year. Maxey being able to fix weaknesses and take instruction is a major point in his favor, as evidenced by his defensive progress and the floaters he turned into layups and free throws by season’s end.

That being said, you don’t want to overreact to strong closes to the season or hold onto a “nice” piece if that player is the difference between getting a star back or not. The Miami Heat were reportedly unwilling to trade Tyler Herro in a deal to acquire James Harden this past season, and I bet you they’d kill to be able to revisit that choice now. I’m not saying the same fate awaits Maxey and the Sixers, but if he is the difference between getting or not getting Damian Lillard, for example, you thank him for his time and go get the superstar to run with Embiid.

MORE: Sixers mailbag: Ben Simmons trade scenarios, his current value, and a potential position change

Where exactly are these free throws being shot? To my memory, I don’t think I have ever missed both free throws in a pair in a competitive basketball game. But asking me to make at least 50 percent of my free throws with thousands of people who want me to fail screaming at me is not something I’ve personally ever had to deal with, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you with any level of confidence what I would do in that scenario. I am not foolish enough to compare writing under pressure in that same environment to playing the sport.

If we’re doing this in an empty gym? I’m making at least half and hopefully much better. I’m about as good an outside shooter as Tony Allen, but I can make freebies.

Green, Simmons, Howard, Korkmaz in that order. The logic behind the rankings: Green fits with basically any iteration of this Sixers team, Simmons is still reasonably likely to be here unless a great trade opportunity becomes available, Howard’s return probably hinges on whether or not Simmons returns, and I imagine Korkmaz can get more money and/or a bigger role elsewhere.

My friend, that is between you and the lord.


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