If you watch the Sixers on a regular basis, it’s easy to pick out a couple of things they don’t do well.
They’re not a particularly great shooting team, save for the occasional ridiculous Furkan Korkmaz performance. Another thing they don’t do all that well is create off the dribble in the half court. GM Elton Brand wanted to build a defensive bully, but this roster has lacked creators all season.
Enter Alec Burks.
After a hectic couple days, Burks did not make his Sixers debut in Sunday’s win over the Bulls, but it’s clear his skillset should help the Sixers.
“I’m going to be dramatic, but I believe it — this is our sport,” Brett Brown said pregame Sunday. “You have to play off a live ball. … You need somebody that can break down a defense, that can get to the paint — hopefully out of an isolation, out of a live ball. And [Burks] can do that. And so I felt that when we didn’t have [Josh Richardson]. You felt that.
“If we’re all honest, with the identifiable skill sets of our guys, it’s not like give it to so-and-so and they’re going to break somebody down, get into the paint and find people — that’s not it. We have very good players with high levels of skills, but that thing you’re talking about is needed. You really need it, and you especially need it when you play late in the season.”
Burks was acquired from the Warriors along with Glenn Robinson III just after midnight Thursday. Both players found out about the trade aboard the team’s plane on its way back to San Francisco from Brooklyn.
There’s a lot that goes into trades behind the scenes. Burks has a wife and daughter that he had to get settled on the opposite side of the country. He took a red-eye flight and arrived early Sunday morning. The front office chose to give Burks “a little bit of daylight” instead of having him play while lacking sleep.
The 28-year-old was having a career year for Golden State and thought he might’ve been there to stay despite his expiring contract.
“I didn’t believe it when I found out, to be honest,” Burks said. “After a couple of people told me, I believed them, when I was on the plane. My initial reaction was just great team in the East … and two superstars I get to play with.”
One of those superstars is Ben Simmons. While Burks’ skillset should complement both Simmons and Joel Embiid, he should help Simmons in the half court immensely.
The Sixers now have a “stable of wings” with Burks and Robinson and the emergence of Korkmaz and rookie Matisse Thybulle. While each guy brings useful skills, Burks has the elusive one that Brown mentioned.
With Simmons being perhaps the most untraditional point guard in the history of basketball, Brown has been creative in how he’s used him. We’ve seen Richardson and Milton initiate the offense at times while Brown has tapped into Simmons’ strengths as a screen and a roller.
Burks can play in a similar role to Richardson but can be a more dynamic scorer. Golden State used him in pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs, but Burks ability to just create on all three levels should be a massive help to Simmons and the Sixers’ half-court offense in general.
Brown didn’t want to reveal too much about how he saw his rotation playing out, only that he’ll roll with 10 players for now and shrink that to nine in the postseason. He did note that Simmons’ ability to essentially play five positions gives him options.
“It’s going to end up, how I judge it, this sounds simplistic, is like who are my best players and I’ll figure it out,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter if, because of the flexibility and really Ben, you have a chance to do things. There will be a judgment that I have to make, and I’m excited to make this, of who do I think my best players are?”
It’s hard to imagine Burks would not be among those “best players.” He knows why he’s here and who he’s here to help.
“From afar, it starts with the two superstars, Ben and [Embiid],” Burks said. “They control the game. They’ve got a lot of great role players that I didn’t know — now I know a little bit from being around them a couple hours. We’ll just see how it plays out the rest of the season.”
It could play out with Burks taking on a significant role because he possesses unique skills that the Sixers need.
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