The Philadelphia 76ers can’t afford to lose Mike Scott for an extended period of time.
When the Philadelphia 76ers traded for Tobias Harris at the deadline, many viewed Mike Scott as a throw-in. He was an expiring contract who, despite efficient three-point shooting, received limited minutes in L.A.’s deep second unit.
Scott has since blossomed into the Sixers’ best reserve, hitting triples, playing tough defense and fitting in with the Philly culture. As the crew mentioned in Ep. 3 of The Sixer Sense Podcast, Scott is “one of us.”
The first round wasn’t pretty for Scott, as he averaged just 5.8 points on 26.1 percent three-point shooting. Even with his struggles, though, the series doesn’t end in five games without Scott’s presence. It was his game-deciding three late in Game 4 that cemented the Sixers’ gentleman’s sweep.
Brett Brown has trimmed his rotation to eight in the postseason, with Game 1’s loss being the lone anomaly. One might argue it’s 8.5, as Brown hinted at before the postseason, since Jonah Bolden and T.J. McConnell have still seen very sparse minutes.
The Sixers’ only reliable bench pieces against Brooklyn were Scott, James Ennis and Boban Marjanovic. Scott’s importance will only rise against Toronto, a series Boban will not fare well in. Philadelphia is painfully low on bench firepower, and Scott will need to step up in a big way.
Assuming neither Boban nor Bolden can find their footing against the Raptors’ versatile offense, Scott will need to assume his biggest role yet. He’s already the Sixers’ primary backup four, but Brett Brown might need to hand him minutes at the center position as well.
Scott isn’t an elite defender, but he’s mobile and plays with grit. That’s enough to make him semi-successful against bigger frontcourt opponents, especially when sharing the floor with Ben Simmons, who can also defend fives.
The Sixers will need to play to both their size and versatility against Toronto, unleashing switch-heavy schemes that don’t have numerous exploitable entities. Covering up J.J. Redick will prove difficult, but keeping Boban on the floor could prove insurmountable.
With all that said, the biggest factor in Scott’s second-round performance will be health. He needs to be available. Scott left Game 5 with a right heel contusion, walking gingerly to the locker room. Contusions aren’t considered serious, but there could be lingering soreness that stretches into next series.
If Scott isn’t on point, the Sixers will have trouble keeping pace with Toronto. Being able to stagger five elite offensive talents is helpful, but it won’t matter if one of the few serviceable bench pieces can’t make an impact.
The Raptors will unleash Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and other capable pieces in the second unit. It’s perhaps their biggest advantage on paper, although it’s certainly not their only advantage. Scott, more so than anyone else, will be leaned on to keep the second unit competitive.
Also, as a brief aside, the Sixers will need versatile defenders. Zhaire Smith should suit up over Greg Monroe or Furkan Korkmaz. His skill set is tailor-made for this series, facing a Raptors team with multiple high-level creators and shooters.
There should be more updates on Mike Scott’s condition ahead of Game 1 in Toronto. His presence will be uncomfortably (and unavoidably) integral to the Sixers’ aspirations.