76ers head coach Brett Brown is displaying much more trust in his players this season, argues Max Rappaport (TastyPoutine/Creative Commons).


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With redshirt rookie Ben Simmons garnering heavy praise around the league and Joel Embiid looking healthy and better than ever, the long-tanking 76ers are finally winning games, beginning to reap the benefits of their ambitious Process, which Sam Hinkie launched nearly four and a half years ago. As Simmons comfortably leads the Rookie of the Year chase, filling virtually every corner of the stat sheet, he’s surrounded by improved shooter Robert Covington, veteran free-agent acquisition J.J. Redick and, more broadly, a considerably bolstered roster compared to a season ago. Philadelphia’s Defensive Efficiency has cracked the league’s top 10, and Brett Brown’s squad is playing with confidence and even some semblance of consistency. Max Rappaport, co-host of the 76ers-themed Stepover Podcast and contributor to Complex Sports and Bleacher Report, helps us delve deeply into this up-and-coming Eastern Conference team. To close the show, Joe Borelli of the SuperFlight Podcast makes a special appearance to rave about Simmons, whom he affectionately refers to as an “anomaly” and a “physical freak.” The (numerical) time stamps below are only approximate, but the quotes contained inside are the real deal:

6:42-7:25 (MR): “I think the hardcore Process fans, maybe their enthusiasm level hasn’t really changed or it’s been shifted in a different way. They’re no longer cult followers of lovable losers. Now they care about wins and losses too, and that makes it, in some ways, more fun, because the team’s better and Embiid’s playing and Simmons has been awesome. But at the same time, it was kind of a win-win before…Now, it’s like half the time you’re kind of pissed after a game.”

14:54-15:27 (MR): “He [Embiid] has a super-high usage rate, even now, but it doesn’t feel as…It felt really forced last year, and he was great and they didn’t have Ben Simmons and they really needed to lean on him, but it felt like when he was on the floor, he was going to put up every shot and he was going to go for every block and dive out of the bounds and basically put his body on the line. And I feel like this year, he’s a huge part of the offense and probably the piece in the offense other than Ben Simmons, but it feels more in the flow of things and I feel like that’s been the biggest difference. It just feels more in control.”

19:29-19:55 (MR): “When he [Simmons] was first coming into the league, a lot of people talked about a ‘6-10 Rondo,’ which sounded kind of right to me and also sounded awesome…I’m like, ‘That sounds great. That’s an incredible player if he’s that.’ But I think he’s been more than that in the sense that he can score way more efficiently than I thought he could and is just more aggressive getting to the rim and pretty successful doing it. I think that’s really opened up his ability to pass out of the paint.”

21:01-21:52 (MR): “I think just having more shooters on the floor is a big part of it. The two big things he [76ers head coach Brett Brown] has talked about basically since 2013 when they hired him are pace and space. And pace, they’ve always done. They’ve always been one of the teams in the league with a higher offensive pace and really trying to push it in transition and utilize the athletes they had, but they just didn’t have shooters…You put Joel Embiid there, you have Robert Covington who’s shooting over 40 percent, you add J.J. Redick, who even if he’s not hitting he creates space just with his gravity.”

28:11-28:24 (MR): “The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that he just seems to trust the players a lot more. Brett Brown for a long time was someone who I thought was maybe the most timeout-happy coach in the league.”

30:56-31:25 (MR): “It’s nice for him [Markelle Fultz] that he’s gotten the benefit that Simmons and Embiid and even [Jahlil] Okafor when he had his injury issues and Noel before that didn’t get the benefit of, which is he’s basically flying under the radar as a No. 1 overall pick who’s not playing at all. And not only not playing, but not playing with some mystery ailment that nobody can seem to explain properly. You would think this would be a huge story, but you almost forget he exists sometimes.”

Joe Borelli at 46:22-46:58: “His [Ben Simmons’] speed, it lulls you to sleep sort of. You see him coming, and then he just goes into another gear and just kind of blows by his guy. And he’s so big and strong that people can’t really guard him down in the paint. Let’s also not forget he’s really good at rebounding the ball, which is another skill of his that was highly touted coming out of college, remember? He’s just the total package. I think about Ben Simmons, honestly, the way I used to think about LeBron years ago. The guy is just so big, and he’s so strong. He’s just an anomaly. He’s just a physical freak.”


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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod