When the 2019-20 NBA season restarts in Orlando at the end of July, the Philadelphia 76ers will enter the fray facing a lot of lingering questions revolving around the health of the team and their rotation. How they answer them will go a long way toward shaping both their short- and long-term future. In other words, there will be a lot on the line for Philadelphia.
With eight seeding games to play before the postseason gets underway, the Sixers sit sixth in the East with a 39-26 record. They're 4 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics for the third spot and just two games behind the Miami Heat for fourth. The Sixers are tied with the Pacers record-wise, but Indiana currently holds the tiebreaker after winning two out of the three meetings between the teams during the regular season.
Here's a look at Philly's roster, schedule and a few key storylines for when the season resumes in Orlando on July 30.
- Joel Embiid
- Ben Simmons
- Tobias Harris
- Al Horford
- Josh Richardson
- Shake Milton
- Furkan Korkmaz
- Alec Burks
- Matisse Thybulle
- Kyle O'Quinn
- Raul Neto
- Norvel Pelle
- Mike Scott
- Glenn Robinson III
- Ryan Broekhoff
- Marial Shayok (two-way player)
Players sitting out: Zhaire Smith (left knee bone bruise)
All times Eastern
- Aug. 1 vs. Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 3 vs. San Antonio Spurs, 8 p.m.
- Aug. 5 vs. Washington Wizards, 4 p.m.
- Aug. 7 vs. Orlando Magic, 6:30 p.m.
- Aug. 9 vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 6:30 p.m.
- Aug. 11 vs. Phoenix Suns, 4:30 p.m.
- Aug. 12 vs. Toronto Raptors, 6:30 p.m.
- Aug. 14 vs Houston Rockets, TBD
Ben Simmons' health: The NBA postseason being pushed back from April to August could end up working in Philadelphia's favor in a major way. Had the playoffs begun in April as originally planned, one of the 76ers' stars might not have been close to full health, as Ben Simmons was sidelined indefinitely with a lower back impingement when the season was suspended in March. Due to the extra time for rehab and recovery afforded by the suspension of the season, Simmons will be ready to go for the Sixers' postseason push in Orlando, and on a conference call with media members on Thursday, Simmons said that he is feeling as good as he's ever felt all season.
"I'm feeling even better than I was when I started the season," Simmons said. "I've been working since I had the injury, working until now to prepare for whatever happens, wherever we go. I'm feeling great. I've been rehabbing this whole time, so I'm feeling ready. And I'm feeling very comfortable."
Simmons even went on a fishing trip upon arriving in Orlando, a sign that he is indeed "feeling great." Simmons at full health is great news for Philadelphia. At his best, Simmons is a nightly triple-double threat and one of the best defenders in the entire NBA, and the Sixers will need him to be at least close to that if they hope to advance deep into the postseason.
What will Philadelphia's rotation look like?: Brett Brown will have no shortage of options when it comes to his starting lineup in Orlando. Before the season was halted, the 76ers coach had moved forward Al Horford to the bench in an attempt to maximize the talent on the team. That plan did not work as injuries to Joel Embiid and Simmons forced Brown to reinsert Horford back into the starting unit. With the Sixers healthy again, will Brown reinsert Horford back to the bench? And if he does, who will he name as the fifth starter alongside Embiid, Simmons, Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson? Whatever decision Brown ultimately makes here will obviously impact the rest of the rotation.
If Brown wants to add additional floor-spacing to his first five he could go with Furkan Korkmaz. If he wants to solidify the perimeter defense he could opt to start Matisse Thybulle. Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, both acquired from the Golden State Warriors at the trade deadline, are also viable options for a starting spot. Same for Shake Milton, who had really started to establish himself before the season was suspended, and projects to be a solid fit next to Simmons as a player capable of playing both on and off the ball. Brown could also ultimately opt to alter his rotation based on the team's opponent. The postseason is where coaches really get to show their stuff. Brown will get an opportunity to do just that in Orlando, and ironing out his rotation will be one of his top tasks.
Brett Brown's job security: Heading into the '19-20 season it was widely believed that Brown's long-term future with the franchise depended on how the Sixers performed in the postseason. That could very well still be the case. If the Sixers are able to advance further than they have over the past couple of years -- even if they don't win the title -- then Brown's job will likely be safe for another season at least. However, if the team suffers another early exit in the first or second round, Philadelphia's front office could look to bring in a new voice. The Sixers' brass would likely install a new system under a new coach before making the decision to move on from either one of their young All-Stars in Embiid and Simmons, especially since Brown is the only coach that either has ever had since entering the league. This ultimately puts the pressure on the 76ers head coach to succeed in Orlando.