Because the Blue and White Scrimmage was canceled (Sorry, Jason), we still have yet to get a good look at our 2018-19 Sixers. Luckily for us, Kevin Kinkead of Crossing Broad provided a Periscope stream of the portion of practice that the media is available to see. The quality isn’t perfect, but it’s clear enough for some takeaways, though some are more salient than others. Before you read, it’ll help to watch the livestream here:
I’m gonna start from the top.
0:24 – Top of the Key Screen (Bayless)
There’s nothing incredibly exciting to see here. Bayless sets a screen at the top of the arc, and someone on the other side of the ball (obscured) rises for a shot and misses. There’s nothing incredibly exciting about this, but we didn’t see screening at the 3pt line particularly often last year. Sixers were 11th in the league in screen assists, so this isn’t an impactful moment, but a nice one to observe, considering a lot of the other practice videos we’ve seen during training camp have also started utilizing these screens. Maybe we’ll see the playbook change to include these more often.
0:54 – Fultz Transition Drill
Someone rises up and misses a three (or maybe a long 2), and Fultz pulls down the rebound. Immediately, a member of the coaching staff starts counting down from 4 (a second after the rebound, so a 5-second transition drill). Fultz absolutely flies up the court and steps nicely into a layup/finger roll at full extension, hitting the shot. That speed and explosiveness in transition is going to be vital to the team going forward if there’s any hope of Simmons and Fultz playing together. The transition game was important to the Sixers last season, but despite their attention to the running game, they were 16th in the league in fast break ppg, according to nba.com. Adding another pass/score dual threat in transition may be able to help them take their transition game to new heights.
2:40 – Inbound and Play
At this point, they’re practicing side-outs. The ball is inbounded, then swings to JJ Redick, who shovels the pass to the far corner to Markelle Fultz (who tosses up a no-look, scooped, aired out “shot”). Obviously Markelle didn’t shoot the trey, but he had an intricate move to maneuver him to the far corner, where he likely would have shook his man. I could be reading into this, but that play is drawn up for Markelle to be able to dribble into a midrange, attack the basket, and have the option to shoot the catch and shoot three. Drawing up plays that give him the ability to score at all three levels gives me some confidence that they trust him to score at all three levels.
4:22 – Simmons Free Throws
After the players congregate and split up, Ben Simmons walks to the far court and begins shooting free throws. His form is slightly different – previously, he was stopping his motion with the ball held completely overhead and shooting only with his wrist. In this video, he’s stopping the ball a little under face level and continuously shooting from there. The shot we see bounces around a bit, and it’s possible he’s found this technique gives him a bit more shooter’s touch. More than anything, it’s nice to see he dribbles the ball similarly before each free throw, since he never had much of a free throw routine last year.
4:32 – Robert Covington Shows a New Jumper
This one is a little tough to see. You’re probably going to want to watch the video a few times, and maybe check a picture or video of Covington shooting from the previous year. (I’d show you here, but I don’t have those rights) You’ll notice that for the past few seasons, Covington released the ball at full extension over his head. His motion started near his chest and finished with the ball well over his head, only the very bottom of the ball overlapping with his forehead. In this video, we see him releasing the ball when it’s almost directly in front of his face, from a shooting motion that starts lower in his body. I’m no Drew Hanlan, but Covington did work with “The Lethal Shooter” over the summer, with a focus on making his shot 1) more consistent from outside, and 2) reliable inside the arc. Because RoCo’s arms are so long, he shoots threes with a particularly high arc (as we know). The problem with that is it can be hard to tone that arc down from closer ranges, which may be why he has struggled to hit the pump-fake step-ins that Redick lives off of. This shot may open up some of Covington’s game as a midrange shooter, giving him an extra dimension offensively. All that said, this is a pretty grainy video from a post-practice drill, so we can’t be sure that this jumper is the new norm. Luckily, we’ll find out tonight when the Sixers match up with Melbourne. (Finally. Basketball.)
Oh yeah. By the way, Furkan took some threes during this part of the video.
They went in. He can shoot.