The Grizzlies travel to Philadelphia after snapping their 3 game losing streak in a double overtime thriller against the Brooklyn Nets. The 76ers are on a roll since acquiring Jimmy Butler the day of the first Grizzly/76ers matchup on November 10th, going 8-2.
To get more familiar with the new look 76ers, I caught up with Adam Aaronson from Liberty Ballers to get ready for tonight’s matchup.
1) The 76ers have been great since adding Jimmy Butler on November 10th, going 8-2 overall. What has been the biggest thing Jimmy has brought to the team?
It’s impossible to ignore Jimmy’s overall offensive repertoire, and he has been stellar on defense as well. But what stands out is his ability to consistently knock down big shots. Even while adjusting to a new system, Butler has come up large in big moments frequently for the Sixers, most notably with his two game-winners in Charlotte and Brooklyn.
These developments have been especially exciting for Sixers fans because of just how brutal the team’s half-court offense at the ends of games had been previously. Before Jimmy, it had literally been years since the Sixers had a ball-handler who could shoot a three-pointer off the dribble. Yes, I completely understand how sad that is.
2) Jimmy Butler already has 2 game-winners in his 10 game stint with the team. How have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid responded to Jimmy becoming the “go to” guy so quickly?
While the dynamic between this new big three will certainly be something to follow in the coming months, it’s been smooth sailing so far. While it’s human nature to want to be the guy who takes big shots, Embiid and Simmons seem to be completely dedicated to doing what is necessary to win. And if Jimmy can keep knocking down game-winners, I’d imagine Embiid and Simmons will continue to be supportive.
3) Markelle Fultz is in the rumor mill once again meeting with specialists on his shoulder. It seems like his time in Philly is running out. Has Fultz played his last game as a 76er?
I think he has. It has been reported that Fultz would prefer a change of scenery, and let’s be honest: it makes no sense for the Sixers to deal with an off-court distraction this large involving a player who simply has not been able to ever have a positive impact on an NBA court for a sustained period of time. Especially not when they are looking to make a run at winning the Eastern Conference.
4) Assuming the 76ers do try and trade Fultz, what do the Grizzlies have, if anything, that would interest the 76ers in a potential trade?
We’ll gladly take Jaren Jackson Jr. off your hands.
If the Grizzlies were willing to part with Garrett Temple and throw in a second-round pick, that might be enough to get a deal done at this point- and it’s very fair to wonder if that is even worth it for the Grizzlies. While it’s crazy to think about considering the fact that Fultz was the consensus top overall draft prospect just a year and a half ago, he’s a completely different player now. He went from an impressive versatile shooter to essentially a non-shooter, and while some team will likely take him on in the coming months as a reclamation project, I’m not sure how a team can value him as anything other than the total non-shooter he has become.
5) In the first matchup of the season, the Grizzlies beat a shorthanded 76ers team in OT. What adjustments do you expect Brett Brown to have made going into tonights matchup?
The key for the Sixers will be containing Mike Conley, who dropped 32 in the last matchup between these two teams. Conley should expect to see a good amount of Jimmy Butler tonight, who was not present for last month’s game. The Sixers have been getting torched by ball-handling guards recently, from D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie to Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson. They will need to sure up their defense against one of the league’s better point guard rotations in Conley and Shelvin Mack. If Brown can devise a plan to limit Conley’s impact on the game, this should be a win for the Sixers.
As someone who will be rooting for the Sixers, I can identify reasons to feel confident about this matchup- the last time these teams played, the Sixers were without Butler, Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler, Joel Embiid had his worst game of the season, and it still went to overtime. But on the other hand, Conley and Gasol are two stars whose playstyles are exactly what a team should want against the Sixers- Conley, a lethal three-level scorer who does much damage out of the pick-and-roll, which the Sixers have struggled to defend since trading Robert Covington; and Gasol, a perimeter-oriented big-man who will likely be getting some wide open looks from beyond the arc, as the Sixers try to keep Joel Embiid down low as much as they can.
I’d keep my eye out for some Conley-Gasol pick-and-pops tonight- it just might be what the Grizzlies need to knock off the Sixers once again.
Good luck, y’all!