With 4.2 seconds left in a tied Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Marc Gasol inbounded the ball to Kawhi Leonard. Leonard caught the ball at the top key and was promptly met by Ben Simmons, who shadowed Leonard as he made a move to his right and headed toward the wing. When Leonard arrived at the wing, Joel Embiid greeted him and took over the defensive responsibility.
Embiid mirrored Leonard as he made a beeline towards the corner, keeping the star forward between himself and the basket. When Leonard realized he would be unable to turn and get closer to the rim, he hit the brakes and squared his shoulders to the basket. Embiid, realizing what was about to happen, came to a jump stop as well and made sure to position himself to not commit a foul. As Leonard rose to fire the last shot of regulation, Embiid rose with him and extended every inch of his 7-foot-2 frame to contest.
The ball hit the front of the rim and went straight up, every set of eyes in the arena now fixated on its trajectory. It hit the same side of the rim again, then the other side of the rim twice for good measure, before dropping through the net. The Philadelphia 76ers season was over.
Embiid’s hands went to his head, his expression resting somewhere between total disbelief and total deflation. The most important game of his career up to this point had ended in crushing defeat.
About a month later, the Raptors won the NBA title, and the Sixers went into the offseason with hope. They had pushed the eventual champions to the brink and came closer to defeating them than any other team. Their starting lineup post-Tobias Harris trade was the best in the league by net rating. If they could bring everyone back, perhaps an upgrade at backup center would be all that is needed to push them over the top.
This hope of a re-do swiftly vanished when JJ Redick accepted a two-year deal in New Orleans, and Jimmy Butler made it known that he would like to play in Miami. General manager Elton Brand had a Plan B, however, as he was able to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the HEAT, receiving Josh Richardson as consolation for the Butler departure. The Sixers were able to re-sign Tobias Harris to a five-year deal and used most of their remaining cap space to sign veteran Al Horford to a four-year contract.
A new starting lineup was set, and the team enters the 2019-20 season still projected to compete for a championship. This year, an even bigger microscope will be on the homegrown stars – Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Their improvement or lack thereof could determine the team’s fate.
FIVE GUYS THINK…
The 76ers had a productive offseason. Jimmy Butler fled Philadelphia for Miami, but he was replaced by Al Horford. And while many might look at the addition of Horford as redundant, it is unarguable that he’s a supremely skilled, versatile and super high-IQ player. Unfortunately for the 76ers, JJ Redick also left Philly, but they added Josh Richardson in the sign-and-trade that sent Butler to the HEAT. Speaking of Richardson, he projects to be the 76ers shortest starting player at 6-foot-6. With Richardson, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Horford and Joel Embiid, the 76ers project to be among the best rebounding teams in basketball. And they also feature a good deal of depth with Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith, James Ennis III, Kyle O’Quinn and rookie Matisse Thybulle. And with Kawhi Leonard heading to the Clippers, the Eastern Conference has become less competitive at its top – giving the 76ers a clear path to the Atlantic Division crown…and maybe more.
1st Place – Atlantic Division
– Drew Maresca
Seems like it was just yesterday that we were “Trusting The Process” and watching the Sixers win 15 games a season. Gone are those days, however, and now The Process has led to having a true NBA Finals contending team. Yeah, they may have lost Jimmy Butler, but they re-signed Tobias Harris and added some quality players. Josh Richardson came over in the Butler sign-and-trade. They were one of the biggest winners in free agency with Al Horford. Kyle O’Quinn and Trey Burke provide veteran depth. But if the Sixers are to really achieve their goal of making it to the NBA Finals, that’s all going to depend upon the improvement of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Process gifted the Sixers their two franchise building blocks; now it’s time for them to continue to grow and prove that they’re capable of leading the Sixers to the promised land. A conference finals appearance at least should be the goal in the City of Brotherly Love.
1st Place – Atlantic Division
– David Yapkowitz
There’s been a seismic shift in power in the Atlantic Division. No longer do the defending champion Raptors have their ace, nor do the Celtics have two All-Star pieces. The Nets obviously hit the jackpot with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but the latter is out for the foreseeable future. The Sixers have a chance to really make a jump this season. While they also lost a key veteran and All-Star, they’ve retooled. Josh Richardson and Al Horford are being added to the mix of Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid. It’s a change in direction with more length on the defensive end, while also bringing a chance to young upstarts like Zhaire Smith, Shake Milton and rookie Matisse Thybulle off the bench. How the rotations will shake out remains to be seen. The talent speaks for itself, though, and it should lead to Philadelphia’s first division title since the 2000-01 campaign.
1st Place – Atlantic Division
– Spencer Davies
The 76ers looked to be loaded and way more balanced than a season ago. Under general manager Elton Brand, the Sixers spent a ton of money this summer, but locked into a core that should not only be good enough to win the division, but if healthy, contend for the Eastern Conference crown. Now here is the pessimistic point of view: Are the 76ers mentally tough enough and mature enough to handle the next level? They say you have to learn how to win in the postseason of the NBA, how to string together a process to endure the unrelenting pressure of the big stage. The 76ers young stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have come up short two years in a row. Al Horford should help in this department, but the 76ers look like a team poised to win a ton of regular-season games, it’s the postseason that still haunts the franchise.
1st Place – Atlantic Division
– Steve Kyler
I cannot think of another team that is quite as unique at the Philadelphia 76ers. With the addition of Al Horford, this team is now absolutely massive. With starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid, the 76ers have the size and physicality to match up with any team and be a menace defensively. Brett Brown may have one of the tougher jobs of any head coach this season as he will have to figure out how to get these players to fit well with one another and will have to experiment with his lineups to optimize the talent he has available to him. The loss of Jimmy Butler stings a little bit, especially in crunch time situations, but that leaves room for Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris to stepup and take more responsibility in high-pressure situations. There are some reasons to be concerned about how this team will play together but I am excited to see how Coach Brown manages his team throughout the season.
1st Place – Atlantic Division
– Jesse Blancarte
FROM THE CAP GUY
The Sixers went under the salary cap to sign Al Horford. They also used their Room Exception on Mike Scott, leaving the franchise with just the minimum to offer if they want to add to the roster. Assuming Trey Burke makes the team, Philadelphia will have a full 15 and a payroll near but under the NBA’s $132.6 million luxury tax threshold.
The team needs to decide on Zhaire Smith’s rookie-scale option before November. Beyond this season, the 76ers are well over next year’s projected $116 million salary cap (likely a taxpayer). If the roster performs successfully this season, the team may be willing to foot that bill, but if the end result is unfavorable, Philadelphia could change course and look to move some players.
– Eric Pincus
TOP OF THE LIST
Best Offensive Player: Joel Embiid
Since he entered the league, Joel Embiid has been the highest-usage center in the NBA. The Sixers’ offense will once again be powered by the Cameroonian behemoth, and his efficiency -despite the large load he’s been asked to carry – makes him the team’s first and best offensive option.
The Sixers’ offense scored about seven more points per 100 possessions with Embiid on the court than with him off last season, per Cleaning The Glass. The 7-foot-2 center attracts attention from multiple defenders and acts as a safety valve if the Sixers can’t find another opening for a basket.
Embiid was third in the league in post ups last season, behind only LaMarcus Aldridge and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Sixers scored 1.05 points per possession on those post ups, which was the highest mark in the league among players with at least three post-ups per game, per NBA.com.
Joel Embiid’s ability to pass out of double teams and his propensity for turnovers have been his most glaring flaws offensively. His turnover percentage has decreased steadily since his rookie year, and him continuing that trend will be a key subplot for the Sixers’ offense.
Embiid makes up for his turnover issues with an uncanny ability to draw fouls. He led the league in both personal foul percentage and shooting foul percentage out of post ups last season, per NBA.com. His large frame and nimble feet make him nearly impossible to guard without fouling for the league’s less defensively-inclined centers.
If Embiid continues to work on his fluidity with his moves and his passing out of double teams, he could be impossible to guard for the rest of the league as well.
Best Defensive Player: Joel Embiid
Embiid’s impact may be even more pronounced defensively, where he represents the difference between the Sixers being elite or dreadful on that end. His impressive foot speed for his size allows him to switch onto smaller players when necessary, and his high defensive IQ has him reading the opponent and knowing where to help at a moment’s notice. These tools combined make him one of the league’s premier defenders, earning All-Defensive second team honors in each of the last two seasons.
Not only does Embiid limit his opponent’s efficiency, he also limits their second chances. His defensive rebounding rate rose to 28.6 percent last season, putting him in the 95th percentile for his position, per Cleaning The Glass.
The Sixers’ defense experienced a strange decline last season compared to the 2017-18 campaign. This can be attributed partially to a scheme change that took some adjustment and constant roster turnover. With a new lineup now full of defensive pedigree, Embiid’s impact could be even more devastating.
Best Playmaker: Ben Simmons
With Jimmy Butler suiting up in Miami, the playmaking duties for this Sixers team will rely more than ever on the capable hands of Ben Simmons. The 6-foot-10 point guard is a virtuoso passer, and his assist percentage has been near the top of the league in each of his first two seasons.
Simmons is most effective in transition, where he can use his elite speed to create fastbreak opportunities and find teammates who have either spotted up or filled the lane for wide open looks. One of Simmons’ patented moves is to grab a rebound, race the defense to the other end before stopping abruptly at the foul line. Here, he creates a pseudo-post up where his teammates cut and move around him in transition. The ensuing confusion usually leads to a wide open three or layup for the Sixers.
Simmons’ playmaking ability is, of course, limited in the half court, and many question how much value he can even provide in a set play when the defense does not have to respect him outside of 10 feet. While this is certainly an issue, Simmons still is adept at finding cutters out of the post and can be weaponized as a screener a la Draymond Green in Golden State.
Best Clutch Player: Al Horford
Over the last few seasons, Al Horford has been one of the more underrated clutch players in the NBA. While he doesn’t always take the clutch shots for his team – and therefore has a low volume on these attempts – his efficiency in the clutch has been consistently near the top of the league.
Just last season, Al Horford shot 64 percent from the field in clutch minutes, per NBA.com. He also shot 50 percent from three in clutch minutes, albeit on a very low number of attempts.
Like his role with Kyrie Irving, Al Horford could fill in as a second option for the Sixers late in games when defenses are focused on Embiid. It’s easy to picture a scenario where Horford is left open after setting a screen or simply left alone outside the three-point line. Horford has shown ability to knock down those looks when it matters.
The Unheralded Player: Tobias Harris
After joining the Sixers last season, Tobias Harris was primarily used as a floor spacer and occasional post-up threat in a stacked Sixers lineup. The main options on offense, particularly in the playoffs, were Jimmy Butler pick-and-rolls and JJ Redick-Joel Embiid dribble handoffs. Due to the lack of touches, Harris has seemingly gone under the radar as a potential offensive centerpiece this season.
Before the trade to Philadelphia, Harris was the focal point of the Clippers’ offense. He regularly ran the pick-and-roll and showed an ability to score in isolation. Now, with Redick and Butler off to different teams, Harris could once again flash his full skill set.
Harris possesses a smooth pull-up jumper and is able to get where he wants coming off a screen to create a basket. Expect Harris to take on a larger offensive role this season, and if he can improve his passing, he could be a primary option when the Sixers need a basket.
Best New Addition: Al Horford
By acquiring Al Horford this offseason, the Sixers accomplished two things. First, they found a floor-spacing power forward that doubles as a very capable defender to slot in next to Embiid. Second, they brought in someone who can also fill in as a backup center when Embiid is on the bench or taking the night off.
Last postseason, the Sixers’ center rotation was exposed behind Embiid. Against the Raptors, the Sixers plus-minus while Embiid was on the court compared to him off was astronomical. Now, Horford will provide strong center play while Embiid is off the court, and his ability to stretch the floor should fit in perfectly with Ben Simmons.
Horford also should be a perfect fit sharing the court with Embiid and could help this group reach a new level defensively. Last season, the Celtics had a defensive rating of 99.2 when Horford was lined up next to Aron Baynes as a power forward. This placed in the 99th percentile among all NBA lineups, per Cleaning The Glass.
Horford also brings intangibles and a valuable locker room presence. His quiet demeanor should be the perfect foil to Joel Embiid’s bravado. If his production stays consistent, the on-court fit will be ideal as well.
– Quinn Davis
WHO WE LIKE
1. Matisse Thybulle
The Sixers traded up to nab the forward from Washington in this year’s draft, and his defensive potential has many intrigued. Thybulle has an impressive seven-foot wingspan on a 6-foot-5 frame, which allowed him to be a pest in the passing lanes in college.
Thybulle set a school record at Washington with 101 steals in a single season and was subsequently named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts. In a video taken in the Sixers’ facilities of Matisse Thybulle meeting Brett Brown, the coach looked at his new player and said tersely: “You guard. You’re good people.” That about sums it up.
2. Mike Scott
Scott came to Philadelphia as a part of the Tobias Harris trade in February and has endeared himself to the Sixers faithful ever since. From a basketball standpoint, Scott is a valuable bench piece, as he is around a 40 percent three-point shooter who can adequately guard threes and fours. He notably hit a huge three from the corner in Game 4 of the Sixers’ playoff matchup against the Nets, giving the team a 3-1 lead and control of the series.
Scott has also never shied away from a scuffle, whether it be on the court or in the parking lot of an Eagles game. His fire and energy can potentially galvanize a contending team that may find themselves in a rut during the regular season drudgery.
3. Ime Udoka
After spending seven years as an assistant under Greg Popovich in San Antonio, the Sixers hired Udoka to be Brett Brown’s right-hand man and defensive coordinator. Udoka brings strong experience from a Spurs team that has been consistently solid defensively outside of a decline last season.
Last season, the Sixers installed a new defensive scheme under assistant coach Billy Lange. The scheme had mixed results and certainly played a role in their defensive downturn. With the new look roster, Udoka will have plenty of tools to use to build this defense back up to an elite outfit.
4. Josh Richardson
Coming over from Miami in the Butler sign-and-trade, Richardson will bring feisty perimeter defense, solid three-point shooting and even some playmaking potential to the Sixers’ starting lineup.
Last season, Richardson spent a lot of time handling the ball for a depleted HEAT team and gained valuable reps running dribble handoffs and pick-and-rolls. He will not be asked to do as much in Philadelphia, but with his full focus on the defensive end, and his ability to hit open threes, he could be a huge part of the team’s success.
The fifth-year guard is also still young and improving and is under contract for the next two seasons at only 10 million dollars per year.
– Quinn Davis
The Sixers will have one of, if not the biggest, starting five in the league next season. Josh Richardson will be the shortest among them, standing at 6-foot-6. With all of this size, the team certainly projects to be strong on the glass. They were already strong on this front last season, finishing fourth in the league in total rebounding percentage, per NBA.com.
If the whole equals or exceeds the sum of its parts, the Sixers also project to be an elite defensive team. As mentioned briefly above, both Horford and Richardson are strong defenders, and teams have typically defended very well with Horford playing power forward. With those two in fold, the lineup now boasts four elite defenders who should combine to make for a frightening unit.
– Quinn Davis
While the new starting five is rife with defensive potential, there is some reasonable concern with the lack of offensive shot creation. Jimmy Butler was of particular import in the 2019 playoffs, where he acted as the team’s point guard down the stretch against Toronto.
The Sixers will need internal improvement from Ben Simmons, as well as help from Richardson and Harris to create shots around the perimeter this season. The Sixers’ offense may stagnate when they play more adept defenses, and this issue could be a thorn in the team’s side in the 2020 postseason.
– Quinn Davis
THE BURNING QUESTION
Will Ben Simmons develop/use his jump shot?
Most discussions about the Sixers’ championship viability for this season and beyond hinge on whether their star point guard can turn himself into an average or even slightly below-average shooter. For two straight playoff runs, the fatal flaw on the otherwise inimitable Simmons has stuck out like a sore thumb, leaving fans and pundits to go as far as thinking he should be traded.
If Simmons was playing for a different team, maybe this wouldn’t be as dire of an issue. There are teams in the league that could surround him with four other shooters, and perhaps unleash his true potential as 6-foot-10 version of Jason Kidd. He will not have that liberty if he shares the court with Joel Embiid. The superstar center commands touches in the post and requires space to operate, space which Simmons cannot currently provide.
There are multiple schools of thought on Simmons’ shooting woes. Some think he doesn’t work hard enough at it, and others think he is shooting with the wrong hand. Some think the form is less of the concern and it is just an issue of finding confidence and a willingness to let it fly. Wherever you fall, it is certainly agreed upon that Simmons’ ceiling is significantly lowered without the development of his outside shooting.
The quandary of Simmons jump shot can you lead down a path to more unanswerable questions. If Simmons made a similar percentage of mid-range shots as say, Russell Westbrook did last season, would this be a good thing for the Sixers’ offense? Is simply taking the shots really going to be enough open things up,? And relatedly, is taking these shots despite the likely inefficiency a necessary evil to build the foundation for future years?
While it remains to be seen how much Simmons can improve in one offseason, hope for Sixers fans did arrive this summer in the form of minute-long, meticulously edited footage from pickup games featuring the guard taking and making stepbacks, fadeaways and even pull-up threes. Whether or not this footage translates from the LA Fitness gym to an NBA arena could define this Sixers season and beyond.
– Quinn Davis
Georgetown Prospect Omer Yurtseven is Ready for Center Stage
Omer Yurtseven spoke with Drew Maresca about playing for coach Patrick Ewing, training for the NBA during a pandemic and why he feels he’s the best center in the 2020 draft class.
Omer Yurtseven, the 7-foot tall, Georgetown center, posted an impressive junior season in 2019-20; he averaged 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. With legitimate NBA size and skills, it’s no mystery why he’s confident. “I don’t think anyone has my combination of tools and versatility,” Yurtseven recently told Basketball insiders. But he’s also a student of the game –well aware of the game’s history and where it’s headed.
“I wouldn’t put anyone ahead of me. I haven’t seen anyone with the tools that I have. I can shoot the ball, the three-ball, and that’s where the big man is headed,” Yurtseven said.
But he’s not satisfied with what he’s accomplished thus far. He wants more. And he understands that he’ll have to continue working to ensure his spot in the league.
“Some guys might be more athletic [than me], but there are a lot of athletic bigs in the league who don’t stick,” Yurtseven continued. “The skillset is just as important, if not more. So is the [willingness to put in] the work. I think I’m better or as good as any other players, and my rookie year, that’s my goal, to prove that.”
Yurtseven transferred to Georgetown from N.C. State in 2018 after a successful Sophomore season in which he shot over 50 percent on three-point attempts. He sat out the 2018-19 season voluntarily to play for Georgetown and coach Patrick Ewing. The opportunity to work with the Hall of Famer was too good to pass up.
“That’s what I was looking for coming in [working with Ewing]. I needed someone to see the game from my perspective,” Yurtseven said. “I was looking for that feedback and I demanded to be coached. I wanted to learn from him. The thing he stayed on me the most about was the pace of the game and how quick my moves would have to be at the next level.
“The turnaround jumper was one of his major weapons,” Yurtseven continued. “He was ahead of his time, but he wanted to see me do the same thing and give 100 percent effort every time.”
Yurtseven jumper is a major weapon in his arsenal, so a pairing with Ewing was an obvious fit. His numbers remained strong during his junior year season with Georgetown, but with one glaring drop off – three-point percentage. Ewing demanded that Yurtseven operate from the low post, a role that the prospect didn’t love, but accepted. Could a new role be to blame for a down shooting year? Yurtseven would never blame anyone other than himself, especially not Ewing. But it’s clear that he felt like he could have done even more if given the opportunity.
“The biggest thing is, I played how I played because that was the role demanded of me. All I had to do was be the inside presence, the defense collapser, and we had to stick to the strategy that coach thought was best for the team.
“I would love to have caught the ball at the top a little more,” Yurtseven continued. “But I was happy to be the post guy. I knew I had to get into my moves quick, so that’s what I did. I sacrificed what I think is my best skills for the team, and I was fine with it.”
It’s evident that Yurtseven is a team-first guy but his three-point shooting took a significant hit. As mentioned above, Yurtseven shot 50 percent on 1.3 three-point attempts as a sophomore in 2017-18, but only 21.4 percent on only half an attempt from long range per game in 2019-20. However, it’s not in his nature to look back – only ahead.
“That’s been my main focus,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “In April, I was shooting 30 or 40 percent two steps behind the college three. That percentage has added up 5 or 10 percent each month. Doing it isn’t easy, but it pays off and that’s why we do it. Now I’m at 75 or 80 percent (in practice sessions) and I’m really confident in my ability.
“And that’s the most important skill set for big men right now,” Yurtseven said. “You’ve got to be a perimeter shooter, as well as a perimeter defender, because big men are evolving away from the rim.”
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yurtseven – and all of the 2020 class – received longer than normal between the end of the 2019-20 NCAA season and the 2020 NBA Draft. And while mock drafts have slowly whittled down the number of prospects, Yurtseven is working tirelessly to improve his stock in any way possible. impressive game.
“No one knew this offseason would be so long. It’s been 6, 8 months already,” Yurtseven continued. “But the team around me has been a blessing – coordinating workouts and making sure I’m taking steps to improve, from nutrition to training lateral quickness to shooting.
“It’s speed and agility, studying the game and having the knowledge about how to position yourself,” Yurtseven continued. “It’s timing and positioning and footwork. It’s all pieces of the puzzle. But the league is another level than college. That’s why I’ve been preparing, increasing lateral quickness, strengthening my glutes, making sure my quads and hips are firing well and that my lateral push-off is explosive as I want.”
“And seeing it translate on the court in two-on-twos and three-on-threes. Switching on guards and providing I can do it to myself. It’s been really fun and fulfilling.”
Yurtseven could have opted to play professionally in Europe – he had numerous professional offers as an 18-year-old prior to coming to joining N.C. State. But Yurtseven is driven by more than money and fame. He is family-oriented and understands the long game. His parents wanted him to receive a college degree before pursuing basketball – a decision that Yurtseven is happy to have made.
“The education was the main reason [I chose to play in the NCAA]. My family’s dream was that I get a college degree.
“When I was 18, [Turkish teams] offered me a huge contract. I’ve never seen so many zeros in my life,” Yurtseven continued.
“Now it’s time to chase my dream. And my team, my circle, it’s our goal to find a franchise that allows me to grow into a player for 10-plus years – and I’ll never stop working at it.”
Where Yurtseven ultimately plays is anyone’s guess – but he’s already spoken with 17 NBA teams.
Whatever franchise selects the center will add a hard-working and versatile big man that looks well-suited for the modern game – or he may not be selected at all. Yurtseven is currently ranked outside the top 50 according to some mocks – but if he gets an opportunity, he knows how he’d like to play.
“My aim is to get a double-double, year one,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “And, of course, guarding 1 through 5 is another big thing that coaches are looking for. Look at the Bucks, they were ranked first in offense (in 2019-20). Most of their points come from spot-ups. Defenses collapse on Giannis and Middleton – and Brook Lopez stays alone in the corner. I think that’ll be where I get my shots, too.”
Only three rookies in the past 10 years have averaged a double-double in their first season in the league – Blake Griffin, Karl-Anthony Towns, Deandre Ayton. That’s an elite club in which Yurtseven is seeking membership. Can he surprise the basketball world? Only time will tell.
There isn’t much data on him against elite big men. But there is one relevant contest worth examining: a Nov. 22 matchup against Duke and Vernon Carey, who is projected to be drafted No. 26 overall by Basketball Insiders.
Carey filled the stat sheet with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but so did Yurtseven (21 points, five rebounds and four blocks). That night, his entire repertoire was on full display – decisive drop steps, smooth turnaround jump shots over both shoulders, baby hooks, midrange jumpers and hard-nosed defense.
“He was the only true big man that I played against,” Yurtseven recalled. “He was quick and Duke did a good job putting the ball in his hands as soon as he stepped in the paint. I had to exert a lot of energy keeping him off his spot, but I adjusted quickly.
“I figured he would be very strong, but he ultimately didn’t feel as strong as I expected. My maturity and strength helped me a lot.”
Yurtseven’s skill and build render him tailor-made for the NBA. But for most, sticking at the professional peak is about more than skill and body. IQ, on and off of the floor, play a major role, too.
“A lot of guys [in this draft class] haven’t played many games,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “Having a college degree and that experience is a huge tool.
“Playing overseas as a pro is another layer of experience that I have compared to these guys. My IQ has improved. Those one-and-done guys are gonna be thrown into the fire, but I’ll be more ready.
“I saw a study,” Yurtseven explained. “Guys that come in 21-and-under stay in the league two or three years on average. Guys that come in and are 21-or-older stay seven or eight years on average. That just shows how much time it takes to mature your game.”
Comparatively, only four players were 22 or older as on draft night in 2019 – Yurtsevein is 22.
At the end of the day, it will be about how he performs on the court, and he’s comfortable with that.
“If I get drafted, I’ll be the first guy coming out of Turkey with a college degree,” Yurtseven said proudly.
“I’m ready for the next step. I appreciate everyone wishing me luck and supporting me from afar. I can’t wait to show my game’s evolution and reap the benefits of all of the work I’ve put in.”
NBA Daily: Tyronn Lue is the Right Coach for the Clippers
Is Lue the right coach for the Los Angeles Clippers? David Yapkowitz thinks so.
When Doc Rivers was first hired by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013, the expectation was that he would be the one to guide the franchise into respectability. A laughingstock of the NBA for pretty much their entire existence, marred by bad coaching, bad management and bad ownership, Rivers was supposed to help change all of that.
For the most part, he did.
Rivers arrived from the Boston Celtics with the 2008 championship, and he helped the Celtics regain their standing as one of the NBA’s elite teams. The Clippers were a perennial playoff contender under him and were even in the conversation for being a possible championship contender. The Lob City Clippers led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin certainly were talked about as being a title contender, and this season’s group led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were definitely in the mix as well.
Not only did Rivers steady the team on the court though, but he was also a very steadying presence off the court. He guided the franchise through the Donald Sterling controversy and he was a positive voice for the team as they navigated the bubble and the ongoing charge for social reform in the country.
But when things go wrong with a team, the coach is usually the one who ends up taking the fall. While Rivers did bring the Clippers to a level of respectability the franchise has never known, his record was not without blemishes. Most notably was his team’s inability to close out playoff series’ after holding three games to one on advantages two separate occasions.
In 2015, the Clippers had a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets only to squander that lead and lose Game 7 on the road. In Game 6, their shots stopped falling and neither Paul nor Griffin could do anything to halt the Rockets onslaught.
This season, in an incredibly similar fashion, the Clippers choked away a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets and ended up getting blown out the second half of Game 7. Just like before, the offense stalled multiple games and neither Leonard nor George could make a difference.
There were also questions about Rivers’ rotations and his seeming inability to adjust to his opponents. In the end, something had to change, and whether it’s right or wrong, the coach usually ends up taking the fall.
Enter Tyronn Lue. Lue, like Rivers, is also a former NBA player and has a great deal of respect around the league. He came up under Rivers, getting his first coaching experience as an assistant in Boston, and then following Rivers to the Clippers.
He ended up joining David Blatt’s staff in Cleveland in 2014, and when Blatt was fired in the middle of the 2015-16 season, Lue was promoted to head coach. In the playoffs that year, Lue guided the Cavaliers to victory in their first 10 playoff games. They reached the Finals where they famously came back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors to win the franchise’s first championship.
The Cavaliers reached the Finals each full year of Lue’s tenure as head coach, but he was let go at the start of the 2018-19 season when the team started 0-6 after the departure of LeBron James.
In the 2019 offseason, Lue emerged as the leading candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job, before he ultimately rejected the team’s offer. After rejoining Rivers in LA with the Clippers for a year, he once again emerged as a leading candidate for multiple head coaching positions this offseason before agreeing to terms with the Clippers.
Following the Clippers series loss to the Nuggets, many players openly talked about the team’s lack of chemistry and how that may have played a factor in the team’s postseason demise. Adding two-star players in Leonard and George was always going to be a challenge from a chemistry standpoint, and the Clippers might have secured the perfect man to step up to that challenge.
During his time in Cleveland, Lue was praised for his ability to manage a locker room that included James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. In Game 7 against the Warriors, Lue reportedly challenged James at halftime and ended up lighting a fire that propelled the Cavaliers to the championship.
Lue’s ability to deal with star egos isn’t just limited to his coaching tenure. During his playing days, Lue was a trusted teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers during a time when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant weren’t seeing eye to eye. He also played with Michael Jordan during Jordan’s Washington Wizard days.
Now, he’ll be tasked with breaking through and leading the Clippers to a place where no Clipper team has ever been before. He’ll be expected to finish what Rivers was unable to accomplish and guide the Clippers to an NBA championship.
For one, he’ll have to change the Clippers offensive attack. This past season, the Clippers relied too much on an isolation heavy offense centered around Leonard and George. That style of play failed in the playoffs when after failing to adjust, the Clippers kept taking tough shot after tough shot while the Nuggets continued to run their offense and get good shots.
With the Cavaliers, Lue showed his ability to adjust his offense and work to his player’s strengths. In the 2018 Playoffs, Lue employed a series of off-ball screens involving Love and Kyle Korver with James reading the defense and making the correct read to whoever was in the best position to score.
When playing with James, the offense sometimes tends to stagnate with the other four players standing around and waiting for James to make his move. Lue was able to get the other players to maintain focus and keep them engaged when James had the ball in his hands. Look for him to try and do something similar for when either Leonard or George has the ball in their hands.
He’s already got a player on the roster in Landry Shamet who can play that Korver role as the designated shooter on the floor running through off-ball screens and getting open. Both Leonard and George have become efficient enough playmakers to be able to find open shooters and cutters. That has to be Lue’s first task to tweak the offense to find ways to keep the rest of the team engaged and active when their star players are holding the ball.
The defensive end is going to be something he’ll need to adjust as well. The Clippers have some of the absolute best individual defensive players in the league. Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, George was a finalist for the award in 2019 and Patrick Beverley is a perennial All-Defensive Team selection.
When the team was locked in defensively this season, there wasn’t a team in the league that could score on them. The problem for them was they seemingly couldn’t stay engaged on the defensive end consistently enough. The other issue was Rivers’ inability to adjust his defense to his opponent. Against the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic had a field day whenever Montrez Harrell was guarding him.
Lue’s primary task will be to get this team to maintain their defensive intensity throughout the season, as well as recognize what matchups are and aren’t working. Both Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green were more effective frontcourt defenders in the postseason than Harrell was. Look for Lue to play to his team’s strengths, as he always has, and to trot out a heavy dose of man-to-man defense.
Overall, Lue was the best hire available given the candidates. He’s got a strong rapport among star players. He’s made it to the finals multiple times and won a championship as a head coach. And he already has experience working with Leonard and George.
Given the potential free agent status of both Leonard and George in the near future, the Clippers have a relatively small window of championship contention. Lue was in a similar situation in Cleveland when James’ pending free agency in the summer of 2018 was also a factor. That time around, Lue delivered. He’ll be ready for this new challenge.
NBA Daily: The Lakers’ Third Scorer Is By Committee
The Los Angeles Lakers have a whole unit of third scoring options – and that’s why they’re one win from an NBA Championship.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers once the NBA bubble began was who was going to pick up the mantle of being the third scoring option.
Even before the 2019-20 season began, it was obvious that LeBron James and Anthony Davis would be the primary offensive weapons, but every elite team with championship aspirations needs another player or two they can rely on to contribute on the offensive end consistently.
The obvious choice was Kyle Kuzma. In his third year in the NBA, Kuzma was the lone member of the Lakers’ young core that hadn’t been shipped elsewhere. His name had come up in trade rumors as possibly being included in the package to New Orleans for Davis, but the Lakers were able to hang on to him. He put up 17.4 points per game over his first two seasons and had some questioning whether or not he had All-Star potential.
For the most part this season, he settled into that role for much of this season. With Davis in the fold and coming off the bench, his shot attempts dropped from 15.5 to 11.0, but he still managed to be the team’s third scorer with 12.8 points per game.
But here in the bubble, and especially in the playoffs, the Lakers’ role players have each taken turns in playing the supporting role to James and Davis. Everyone from Kuzma to Alex Caruso, to Dwight Howard, to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to Markieff Morris and even Rajon Rondo have had games where they’ve given the team that additional scoring boost.
Earlier in the bubble, James himself said they need Kuzma to be the team’s third-best player to win, but Kuzma himself believes that it’s always been by committee.
“We don’t have a third scorer, that’s not how our offense is built. Our offense is really AD and Bron, and everyone else plays team basketball,” Kuzma said on a postgame media call after Game 4 of the Finals. “We’ve had a long season, hopefully by now, you’ve seen how we play. Everyone steps up at different times, that’s what a team does.”
On this particular night, when the Miami HEAT got a pregame boost with the return of Bam Adebayo and wealth of confidence from their Game 3 win, it was Caldwell-Pope who stepped up and assumed the mantle of that third scoring option.
He finished Game 4 with 15 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range. He also dished out five assists and grabbed three rebounds. Perhaps his most crucial moments of the game came late in the fourth quarter with the Lakers desperately clinging to a slim lead and the Heat not going away.
He hit a big three-pointer in front of the Miami bench with 2:58 to go in the game, and then followed that up with a drive the rim and finish on the very next possession to give the Lakers some breathing room.
Caldwell-Pope has been one of the most consistent Lakers this postseason and he’s been one of their most consistent three-point threats at 38.5 percent on 5.3 attempts. He was actually struggling a bit with his outside shot before this game, but he always stayed ready.
“My teammates lean on me to pick up the energy on the defensive end and also make shots on the offensive end…I stayed within a rhythm, within myself and just played,” Caldwell-Pope said after the game. “You’re not going to knock down every shot you shoot, but just staying with that flow…Try to stay in the rhythm, that’s what I do. I try not to worry about it if I’m not getting shots. I know they are eventually going to come.”
Also giving the Lakers a big offensive boost in Game 4 was Caruso who had a couple of easy baskets at the rim and knocked down a three-pointer. He’s become one the Lakers best off the ball threats as well, making strong cuts to the rim or drifting to the open spot on the three-point line.
He’s had his share of games this postseason when it’s been his turn to step up as the Lakers additional scoring threat. During Game 4 against the Houston Rockets in the second round, Caruso dropped 16 points off the bench to help prevent the Rockets from tying the series up. In the closeout Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, he had 11 points and finished the game in crunch time.
For him, it’s about staying ready and knowing that the ball is eventually going to come to whoever is open. When that happens, it’s up to the role players to take that pressure off James and Davis.
“Our third star or best player is whoever has the open shot. We know what AD and LeBron are going to bring to the table every night. They’re going to get their attention, they’re going to get their shots,” Caruso said after the game.
“It’s just about being ready to shoot. We have two of the best passers in the game, if not the best, so we know when we are open, we are going to get the ball. We have to be ready to do our job as soon as the ball gets to us.”
And if the Lakers are to close out the series and win the 2020 NBA championship, head coach Frank Vogel knows that it’s going to take a collective effort from the rest of the team, the way they’ve been stepping up all postseason.
“We need everybody to participate and contribute, and we’re a team-first team,” Vogel said after the game. “Obviously we have our two big horses, but everybody’s got to contribute that’s out there.”