You need a lot of talent to win a championship in any sport. But, many times, it is the little moves that put a team over the top. The Philadelphia 76ers might learn this lesson shortly.
The Phillies adding Matt Stairs as pinch-hitter proved key to their 2008 World Series run. If you are an old-timer, reserve outfielders Greg Gross and Del Unser provided clutch hits in 1980 playoffs on that Phils’ World Series run.
The 2017 Eagles Super Bowl team was helped dramatically by role players. Corey Clement, LaGarrette Blount – and even their backup quarterback played key roles.
Basketball is no different. The Cavaliers’ last couple of runs to the NBA finals were helped by Matthew Dellavedova. Having him be a strong role player off the bench helped the team succeed.
A slight roster adjustment might actually prove devastating to the Philadelphia 76ers.
On June 27, it was announced that Ryan Broekhoff was signing with the 76ers. The team had an open spot, where he would join them for the remainder of this season.
He is not going to Disney
This was not a complete shock.
Broekhoff, a 6-foot-6 shooter, had not flown down with the team to Orlando when the NBA ‘Bubble’ began. He explained in a Tweet it was due to his wife getting the COVID-19 virus.
“I am not with the 76ers right now in Orlando because my wife who is high risk tested positive for COVID,” Broekhoff wrote. “We have a young son and my focus needs to be with my family at this time. I appreciate the 76ers for their support.”Twitter @Rbroekhoff45
Until then, Broekhoff had said he was excited for the opportunity to play for the Sixers, even though coach Brett Brown had warned he could not guarantee him a lot of playing time.
“I think the opportunity, in the end, was too hard to pass up,” Broekhoff said during his virtual introductory press conference. “A chance to work with Coach Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers, and having an opportunity to go into what’s going to be a unique environment in Orlando, I feel like I’m on the cusp of finding somewhere steady in the NBA and hopefully that will be Philly.”SI.com
It did not work out, at least for now, for Broekhoff and the Sixers. A family’s health is obviously more important than some basketball games.
Damage to Sixers
However, the absence of Broekhoff could prove quite damaging to the Sixers down the road.
First, because they had signed Broekhoff, the Sixers did not look for other players to add as he gave them a full roster. Therefore, they couldn’t fill his roster spot. (FYI, to all the people asking for Jamal Crawford, because their only opening was on a two-way deal, the Sixers could only add a player with three years or less of NBA experience).
Losing Broekhoff and with swing player Zhaire Smith already out with a leg contusion, the Sixers will have one of the smallest rosters in Orlando at 15 players. It’s a tough break for a team that has struggled with depth. If there are a rash of injuries (or positive virus tests) that could cause some depth problems.
Broekhoff is not some kid. He is 29-years-old and a veteran of EuroLeague play as well as a couple of seasons in the NBA. He is quite familiar with playoff pressure.
The biggest loss for the Sixers is his three-point accuracy.
Broekhoff is a career 42.3% shooter in the NBA from beyond the arc. In his final season in Europe he shot 50.8% on threes. Back in college at Valparaiso, he made over 40-percent of his three-point tries.
Brett Brown has been quoted as saying shooting is the ‘Holy Grail’ for his team.
With deadly outide shooters from last year like Landry Shamet (traded) and JJ Redick (not resigned) gone from the roster, Sixers management curiously made no real attempt to find outside shooting in the off-season, except for a minimum salary offer to 39-year-old Kyle Korver.
Former first-round pick Furkan Korkmaz was brought back even though the Sixers had declined his option for this season. In his first two seasons, Korkmaz had been a three-point shooting specialist who had not made a lot of three-pointers (32.3%, about the same as Joel Embiid), so little was expected.
Korkmaz has had a surprising year, drilling almost 40% of his three-point tries and the Sixers have gotten a real boost from the play of Shake Milton, who was nailing 45.3% of his ‘treys’ on the season and over 50-percent in the weeks before the shutdown.
However, those two are the only ones making more than 36.5% of their three-pointers. With a team as big as the Sixers, unless there is a threat of an outside shot, opponents can just sag in on defense without the concern of paying for it.
This is where Broekhoff could have proven so important to the Sixers.
Outside shooters go into slumps. Forward Mike Scott has basically been in a season-long slump after shooting so well last year and Tobias Harris has never shot from ‘3’ with Philly like he did with the Clippers.
Korkmaz and Milton both basically have zero playoff experience, so them getting a bit of the playoff jitters would not be a shocking development. Broekhoff, with his European playoff experience, could have stepped in and knocked a few threes in to help loosen the defense.
What might have been
With a well-known reputation as a sniper, at the very least Broekhoff would have had the respect of the opposing defense. No team would leave him wide open near the three-point line. Even if he did not shoot well, his mere presence would help open things. Both Embiid and Horford would have more opportunity to work in the paint.
Broekhoff also would have given Brett Brown some interesting lineup options. If you are an an old-timer (over 35), you might remember those Orlando Magic lineups which featured Dwight Howard (back when he was GOOD) at center surrounded by four three-point shooting threats. Surrounding big men with shooters works. No one could stop Howard one-on-one but if someone gave his defender help, a three-point shooter would be wide open. Pick your poison.
If Brown threw Embiid down low with Kormaz-Scott-Broekhoff out there with Milton at the point, what is a defense to do? Again, pick your poison. (I say this with the knowledge this five together would be horrific on defense but score a ton of 3-pointers and layups and Embiid does cover up for a lot of mistakes).
Now, we are not saying that Broekhoff is the next Steph Curry or even a Davis Bertans. He was cut by Dallas back in February. No one picked him up until the Sixers in July, which says something.
But in basketball, fit and chemistry is very important (see 76ers: 2019-20) and, if he is hitting his threes as usual, Broekhoff could have developed into a key piece of the Sixers rotation in the playoffs.
We will never know much the loss of Broekhoff will be to the Sixers. It might be devastating in the end if no one is hitting from outside, or it could be negligible.
But it is a loss, even if you have never heard of him or did not know he was going to be on the team. Hopefully the team doesn’t miss his presence.
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