The Philadelphia 76ers went 1-3 on their California road trip. The team’s road struggles continued, but if there was a silver lining, it would be the emergence of reserve players stepping up and proving their worth in the team’s future rotation.
Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson are both progressing towards a return to the court, with growing optimism Embiid will be back in the lineup when the Philadelphia 76ers return home against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. Ben Simmons‘ injury, on the other hand, continues to be cloaked in uncertainty and speculation. In the absence of three of the team’s starters, a few reserve players are fighting to solidify their position in Brett Brown’s playoff rotation.
Obviously, if you have watched any game since Simmons has been sidelined, the first player mentioned has to be Shake Milton. Milton has averaged 21.3 points on 58 percent shooting, including 57 percent from three-point range during the four game road trip. In addition to Milton, Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, the duo acquired from Golden State at the trade deadline, averaged 13.8 and 11.8 point per game during the same stretch.
Mike Scott, whose time has been limited this year due to the bench depth, has made the most of his opportunity of more playing time. The last four games he has racked up 10.8 points per game with 56 percent shooting from three-point range and 7.8 rebounds per game. Scott provided a spark off the bench during last year’s playoff run by aggressively rebounding and knocking down big threes when they were needed.
I believe Scott has earned more playing time with his recent performances, even when the team’s starters return. When one player gets more court time, naturally other players get less. With the emergence of Shake and the consistency of Burks and Robinson, the wing position is becoming overcrowded.
Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle have struggled lately and could see their playing time diminished. Korkmaz is a streaky shooter, but when he is on, he is on. Additionally, Thybulle is one of the team’s best perimeter, on-ball defenders, but his offense game has started to take a hit. In order for either of these guards to garner playoff minutes, they must make their strengths more consistent and not shy away from the bright lights of the postseason.
When Embiid, Richardson and hopefully Simmons return, they will need to learn how to help their younger bench players shine. Getting the supporting cast off to a fast start in games and building their confidence can be more important to the team’s overall success than individually dominating and stuffing the stat sheet.
Ideally, the team will be completely healthy and have the time to develop this balance prior to the postseason. One thing is for certain though, bench depth is not a bad thing and will only help the Sixers in their quest for an NBA Championship.