We're almost ready for opening tip!
Before the Sixers square off against the Celtics, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters, Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give you their bold predictions for the 2019-20 season.
Tobias Harris will join the 50-40-90 club
Before Harris was traded from the Clippers to the Sixers, he was getting pretty close to the exclusive club (49.6 field-goal percentage, 43.4 three-point percentage, 87.7 free-throw percentage). Harris' numbers dipped after the trade, specifically from beyond the arc, but he finished last season shooting 48.7 percent from the field, 39.7 percent from three, and 86.6 percent from the free throw line. The Sixers are going to need more from Harris this season, especially from beyond the arc, and Harris knows it.
Ben Simmons will hit 10-plus threes
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Even Simmons has said he's not going to just come out and start shooting a bunch of threes this season, but I do think as the season goes on he'll get more comfortable to let ‘em fly. From everything we've heard about training camp, Simmons had no problem pulling the trigger in scrimmages. Is he going to be a consistent threat from beyond the arc? No, but I do think we're going to see a lot more from him in that department this season.
Joel Embiid will top his career high in games played
Yep, this is pretty bold.
Embiid played in a career-high 64 games last season. It may be crazy to suggest that number goes up, but here we are. The Sixers will do a better job managing him and Embiid himself understands how he needs to take care of his body.
Last season, it was just a matter of mismanagement. Embiid played in 54 of the Sixers' first 58 games. His days off will be better planned with more cooperation from the All-Star center. He also led all centers in minutes per game. That's where the load management plan can improve most. Have Embiid play closer to 30 minutes a night during the regular season and allow Al Horford and Kyle O'Quinn to soak up more minutes.
Matisse Thybulle will finish in the top five in steals per game
Noah told me this take was too bold. Danny Pommells, my co-host on the Sixers Talk podcast, told me it wasn't bold enough.
That makes me feel like it's just right.
Yes, he's a rookie. Yes, he'll be coming off the bench. But he's going to play a ton of minutes against a bunch of bad teams. How many five-steal performances will he rack up against the likes of the Hornets, Cavaliers and Knicks? With the way this kid piles up deflections, I feel good about it.
Simmons and Al Horford make career high threes
Simmons enters Wednesday night's opener vs. the Celtics sporting a 100 percent three-point shooting mark from this preseason.
"He's one of the best shooters to ever shoot the basketball," Tobias Harris said after Simmons' three against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions. "Let it fly. He's 100 percent from three, so I don't want to hear nothing."
Simmons won't maintain that perfect percentage, but he'll make his first regular-season NBA three at some point. While Brett Brown called the attention toward Simmons' preseason three "overblown," it's still going to be a big deal when he knocks one down during a game that counts.
Though it appears many of Horford's minutes will be staggered so that he's the lone center on the floor, the Sixers will be looking to him for outside shooting regardless of whether he's at the four or the five. With many teams likely to play zone against the Sixers and sag into the paint on defense, Horford will get plenty of open looks and surpass his career high of 97 made threes with Boston in the 2017-2018 season.
Simmons will make All-Defense First Team
"I'd rather win and see everybody on my team do well than an individual accolade, unless it's Defensive Player of the Year," Simmons said at media day.
He won't win that award this season, but Simmons will have an excellent defensive year.
The Sixers regressed defensively as a team in 2018-19, falling from third in defensive rating the year before to 11th. Though Simmons flashed raw speed, versatility and anticipation on that end of the floor, his effort during the regular season was uneven. There were numerous moments against inferior teams when he didn't close out on shooters or get back on defense with much enthusiasm.
On a team with the goals of being the best defensive unit in the NBA and earning the No. 1 seed in the East, we should see a more consistently engaged Simmons. And, with Embiid and/or Horford always behind him, Simmons should have greater freedom than last year to play aggressive perimeter defense.
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