Sixers mailbag: Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard trade odds, Tyrese Maxey’s upside and PS5 games
It’s late July, and some of you are still struggling to find it in yourselves to think and talk about the Sixers, and I get that. The sting of their second-round defeat likely won’t fade for a while.
But that loss to Atlanta has set us up for quite an interesting offseason, as the Sixers continue to think about what to do with Ben Simmons and everything else that flows out of that decision. So for those of you who are capable of looking ahead, there’s plenty of meat left on the bone, and plenty of material for a mailbag.
But hey, it’s the offseason, we had room for lots of non-Sixers material, too. To the questions…
What are the Raptors getting out of this? I know Lowry could theoretically walk for free depending on the team, but I’m not sure why they’re helping a conference/division rival without some sort of incentive. Coming back the other way, I also would like to know what “draft capital” actually means coming Philadelphia’s way — there’s a big difference, for example, between getting No. 4 from Toronto this year compared to future firsts that are likely not as valuable.
Strictly evaluating the players, I like Lowry and Beasley well enough, and I do think there’s a path to getting a true star on the perimeter by picking up high-value picks and/or young players for Simmons and immediately re-routing them. But I think a Lowry-Harris-Embiid core is still short of real contention, given Lowry’s age and overall profile.
Lowry would make a meaningful difference on offense with his approach alone, increasing their pull-up shooting volume all by himself. It would change how teams have to defend actions involving their best players (in this outcome, Lowry and Embiid), opening up easier looks for Embiid in the middle of the floor or gaps for Lowry to attack if teams run scared of the big dude. He’s an excellent pick-and-roll player, a guy who shows no fear in late-clock or late-game situations, and someone you could trust to run the offense when things get tough.
It just felt much better when he was viewed as a potential additive piece rather than the guy taking over. You’d be banking a lot on winning in the next two years or so, which is a dicey proposition when you consider the potential Brooklyn juggernaut, the reigning champs in Milwaukee, and a number of other teams getting healthier in a less condensed season next year. You want to compete in the short term, but going for Lowry makes it so you might only compete in the short term, whereas a guy like Lillard keeps the window open longer.
And look, if they’re staring down a series with the Bucks at some point, you’re a Jrue Holiday assignment away from ending up in basically the same place they were in previously, relying on Embiid hero ball and role players to pick up the slack. Lowry isn’t an offensive force capable of powering through or consistently escaping from players like Holiday, and though few guys are, they’re the ones you want to get to pair with Embiid.
I would give them about a 20-25% chance in that scenario, which might sound low but is pretty significant if it gets to that stage. Essentially, I think they’re one of the only teams Lillard has a chance to be interested in if he’s trying to get out of Portland, and I think they’re also on the shortlist of teams who have something compelling to offer the Blazers in return.
There are a bunch of teams who would certainly want to get him, but their path to doing so would rely on Lillard being demanding in a way he has never been. The Lakers, for example, would love to bring Lillard to L.A. if they could swing it, and are rumored to be in the mix for basically every high-level ballhandler who isn’t nailed down. But their best package is far worse than most other competitors, so it would rely on Lillard being desperate to go there (and I don’t see that being the case).
Could the Warriors put together a compelling package and offer him a short-term chance to compete? For sure. Do I always assume Pat Riley and the Heat will get in the mix? Absolutely, and he would be a great fit with the core guys in place there. Philadelphia, at least from my view, is on the shortlist of teams that offer the most to him and the Blazers — even with Ben Simmons’ flaws, he’s one of the best guys they can probably hope for in such a scenario — so they’re in the club.
I do wonder what exactly Lillard thinks of Embiid and how he might mesh with him on offense, and frankly I think that about a lot of guys who might be theoretical partners for the big guy. He’s a very likable guy but he doesn’t exactly strive to be buddy-buddy with other stars around the league. Embiid keeps a close circle of people he loves and/or trusts around him, which is something Lillard might respect beyond the hoops stuff, but it also might mean he has less of a feel for him than any number of other guys he could try to pair up with. Impossible for me to say.
a) Is it a foregone conclusion that the Sixers will have to include Maxey in any trade of Simmons? b) Is Maxey as good as I think he is (I think he’ll soon be a star in the league)? Or is it that I’m so not used to a Sixers rookie bringing any useable skill to the team?
— Barry Rosen (@BAR0ke) July 22, 2021
I don’t think Maxey is going just get haphazardly thrown into any Simmons trade, no. The organization likes him a lot — they’ve seen the same flashes you have on top of the real work he puts in day after day — so they’re going to try to hold onto him unless it’s absolutely necessary to part with him.
To get a guy like Damian Lillard, though? You’re most likely moving him, and it’ll be completely reasonable to do so. He’s the sort of player who offers a lot of appeal to a team trading away a star — young, hard-working, productive now, and on a cheap contract for years to come. And for the Sixers, the acquisition of a star guard makes it a lot easier to swallow moving Maxey, whose developmental reps would drop considerably if somebody like Lillard was brought in.
I think expecting Maxey to be a star is a bit much given his pedestrian outside shooting numbers and his size. Making a living as a small guard is still really tough, even if it’s easier than in the past, and it’s a borderline requirement to be a legitimate three-level threat as a scorer to do so. Maxey isn’t there, and though he has an excellent runner/floater package and showed improvement at the rim, the outside shot is the difference between being a nice player and an impact player.
On the positive side, you circle back to the work ethic stuff. I’m certainly not sitting here telling you Maxey can’t shoot and will never shoot based on 115 total attempts in his rookie year. In a rookie year with an unprecedented offseason, Maxey still found his footing and solved problems with his game before the year ended. That’s the sort of kid you feel good betting on.
I don’t have a question but pls talk about the Dune trailer
— Bob Loblaw, PhD (@mumby_917) July 22, 2021
My first thought watching it was the star power of this movie hitting me all at once. I know the cast has been known for a while now, but seeing appearances and lines delivered by Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, and Timothee Chalamet (who I think is perfect for the role of Paul) really hit me all at once.
It’s one of the reasons I am slightly more optimistic about how the movie will do at the box office than I was previously (so much as anything does “well” there in this environment), and it looks pretty action-heavy. That should help it in comparison to BladeRunner 2049, a movie I love but didn’t end up having mass appeal. I hope it lands, because Denis Villeneuve is my favorite current director right now and I’d love to see more movies in the Dune series. It’s a rich source.
Everyone has given their “Who should the Sixers get for Ben” takes, but what if this version of Sixers Star Hunting (TM) ends like the last – with the team striking out? How does this group move forward if they’re forced into mostly running it back?
— John Infanti (@Johnny_2Hats) July 22, 2021
The way forward in this sort of scenario is pretty simple to me — you have to bank on continued internal improvement and make an attempt to swing a trade for another impact guy. What the framework looks like is hard to say, but it does sort of require you to bring back any reasonably good player on (perhaps) inflated contracts so you can match money if the moment comes. That guy last season was Kyle Lowry, who is obviously an option of some sort this summer, but you never know who it might be in the future.
I’ve written as much and still believe Ben Simmons needs to get out of here for his and the team’s sake, but if he’s still here, you have to go into next season with a plan to make sure this moment of humiliation actually leads to positive change. Is that feasible? Hell if I know! You ask me, I would have thought we’d see him step forward by now, even if the steps are small. But this is definitely a crossroads moment in his life and career, and you have to do everything you can to channel that energy and make sure it isn’t wasted.
On a strategic level, make sure tough convos are had with Doc Rivers and Co. Make sure you come into the regular season with 16 wins on your mind, not 82. Encourage experimentation, bring in a stretch big, incentivize mixing things up, and make sure you’re all working toward a common goal. The No. 1 seed and their regular-season success, as Philadelphia learned the hard way, didn’t mean much in the end. Everyone has to be comfortable being a little uncomfortable.
And really, above all else, make sure No. 21 is happy and healthy. Nothing else really matters if Embiid is compromised in any way, mentally or physically. After the shake-up last summer, I think the organization has been much more in tune with him, and I expect that to continue moving forward. Continue to tinker with players and parts around him, and support him in whatever way you can. He’s the guy who makes the whole thing go, and no one should forget it.
What PS5 game are you excited for most?
— Egan (@pinchmysquid) July 22, 2021
Deathloop is at the top of the list for me right now. Arkane is a great studio, the concept looks interesting, it has all the makings of a game I’ll enjoy a lot. Non-PS5 edition, a new Metroid game in the fall is also big-time for me, though I appear to be wearing clown makeup for expecting Nintendo to ever release a remastered Prime trilogy.
Beyond that, I would say I’m tentatively excited for the big-name exclusives (e.g. the God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn sequels) but I find myself drifting away from long, story-driven single-player games and more toward shorter and more replayable games. That’s doubly true with the new stories that seem to come out frequently about bad employee culture at the big studios, ranging from ridiculous crunch to sexual harassment to all sorts of other issues. More than likely, indie games I’m not thinking about at the moment will bring me the most joy and least guilt as a consumer — I’ll be more fired up to support another game like Hades from a studio like Supergiant than most of the AAA stuff on the horizon.
Will you be playing Pokemon Unite? If you have already, what are your thoughts on it so far?
— HijuePups (@ElPupiCollazo) July 22, 2021
I am not necessarily a MOBA guy, but I’ll probably give it a try at some point. Why not? It’s free.99, can’t beat that.
Do you see a situation where the Sixers don’t add another PG and let Maxey run the show given the vast improvement in his game last season?
— Tony Romo Burner (@TonyRomoBurners) July 22, 2021
I honestly think this would be pretty unfair to young Maxey, regardless of what you think of him as a player/prospect. In a “run it back” type scenario where Simmons is still on the roster, the Sixers are going to continue having to work around his unique set of strengths and weaknesses, leaving Maxey to succeed or fail based on the more specialized role he’d play next to the Australian.
It’s where the above shooting questions become a lot more important. Moving Simmons off the ball (or off the point, I suppose) doesn’t mean he’s suddenly going to be uninvolved in the offense, and Maxey would spend a lot of time in that setup just waiting for catch-and-shoot opportunities and blow-bys. Sure, pick-and-roll play involving those two would be interesting, but I don’t suspect that’d be a major part of their arsenal with Embiid’s touches still their bread-and-butter.
Even if you think Maxey is going to steadily improve as a shooter, anointing him with no real safety net is setting him up to fail. Asking a second-year guard to un-gunk this offense at the point is a huge ask. Maybe he proves capable of it, but I think it’d be better for him and the team to let him play a consistent and still integral role as the sixth man first.
What’s your go-to goodbye move? Is an Irish exit ever okay?
— Yaké (@The_Jaker_) July 22, 2021
I think an Irish goodbye is understandable and even defensible situationally. Maybe somebody just had the booze hit them all at once, maybe they were swooning over some particularly attractive person they met at the bar, maybe they are just feeling overwhelmed for any number of real-life reasons. The only instance where it’s completely indefensible (IMO) is if they skip out on a tab that was either theirs or meant to be shared among friends/family/whatever.
Broadly speaking, I would say I’m not an Irish goodbye guy myself, and would at least give a head nod or gesture in a friend’s direction to let them know I’m dipping out. I won’t say I’ve never done it, but it’s not a frequent occurrence.
pancakes or waffles?
— Ryan Smith (@StormySmith576) July 22, 2021
If we’re talking a standard pancake vs. a standard waffle, I would most likely take the waffle, and chicken and waffles is my personal favorite brunch/breakfast item when I can get it. But you throw some blueberries, chocolate chips, or any number of other items in the pancake batter, and it’s off to the races.
As one example, I went to brunch about a month before lockdown last year at Talula’s Garden, and they had some sort of berry lemon pancake with additional fixings, and that really hit the spot. Still a Waffle House loyalist when I’m in the south, though.
Any word on if/when Embiid is having surgery?
— Mike Nichols ? (@michealnichols) July 22, 2021
This has been a pretty common question, and I promise I’ll give you guys information if/when I know anything about it.
Top 3 Best Bets to take over play-by-play for the Sixers?
Percentage chance that Alaa is retained?
— ChuckAF (@ChuckAFAF) July 22, 2021
I think the most likely person to replace Zumoff is an out-of-towner who no one is thinking of at the moment. Being the immediate replacement for a beloved, longtime announcer is an unenviable task, and given NBC’s state of limbo right now regarding the future of their regional sports networks, I don’t know that they’re necessarily going to pay top dollar to bring a true, long-term replacement to fill his shoes.
It would be a great story if, for example, the great Tom McGinnis made the transition from the radio broadcast to TV, but those are two wildly different jobs, with McGinnis excelling in the frenetic, descriptive world of radio. Rather than betting he’d be able to adjust (and he’s a pro, I’m sure he would be fine), my assumption is they’ll pick somebody “safe” and relatively young (read: cheap) while they try to figure out what their long-term plans are.
Alaa has carved out his lane here, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick, especially if they do go to a younger play-by-play announcer who needs a bit of veteran presence by their side.
How’s Louie doing?
— Warren Croxton (@WarrenCroxton) July 22, 2021
Has not gotten as many walks lately with the heatwave that (I hope) is breaking for at least a few days, but he still stops to say hi to everybody he sees when we leave the apartment. He’s a character.