December 3, 2023

3 storylines as 76ers, who are already dealing with injuries at center, face young Thunder team


Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

The 76ers are back on the road for two games before a four-game homestand at Wells Fargo Center starting Thursday. They start their short road trip in Oklahoma against the Thunder.

A bit of news ahead of the Sixers’ matchup Sunday with the Thunder: First-round pick Jaden Springer has been assigned to the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G League affiliate. The 19-year-old will be at Delaware’s training camp, which starts Monday. The Blue Coats, who took guard Shamorie Ponds with the first overall pick in Saturday’s G League draft, will open their season November 6 against the Long Island Nets.

Here’s three storylines for Sunday night’s match.

Dealing with injuries at center

Big men Andre Drummond (right ankle sprain — doubtful) and Joel Embiid (right knee soreness — questionable) are hurt. Ben Simmons (personal reasons), Shake Milton (right ankle sprain), and Grant Riller (left knee injury recovery) are still out. 

Paul Reed didn’t play Friday against Brooklyn, but he looks set to receive a lot of minutes in Oklahoma City.

Rookie Charles Bassey and usual backup power forward Georges Niang are two potential center options other than Reed. Niang did play small-ball five minutes during the preseason and has said he’s willing to fill that role if asked. A positive way to view the situation for head coach Doc Rivers is there could be opportunities to experiment and learn more about young players against the rebuilding Thunder. 

Productive in the backcourt

Through two games, Seth Curry has made 13-of-17 field goals and 6-of-7 from distance. Dating back to the Sixers’ second-round series last postseason against the Atlanta Hawks, Curry is 62.7% from long range over his last nine games.

Tyrese Maxey hasn’t matched Curry’s stance, but he’s been good as Simmons’ replacement in the starting lineup, especially in the second half. Maxey’s 25 points after halftime leads the team. In 70 minutes this season, he’s committed one turnover. 

Neither Curry nor Maxey are comparable to Simmons defensively, but both have been strong so far. 

“He’s been solid,” Curry said Friday of Maxey, “playing hard both ends of the floor, good activity defensively, and being aggressive offensively. He’s getting into the paint, making plays. You can tell he’s getting better seeing the floor. So it’s good progress from him.”

A young team

The Thunders’ roster is packed with intriguing young players in their early 20s and younger, among them Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, the sixth overall pick Josh Giddey, and Villanova product Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. 

The results so far have been rough as OKC lost by 21 points to the Utah Jazz and 33 to the Houston Rockets. 

It’s not a bad night to be shorthanded at center (assuming Drummond and/or Embiid don’t play), since OKC is an undersized team likely at its best playing a fast-paced style.

Sunday’s game will be the Thunder’s first with home fans in attendance in 600 days, as well.


When: 7:00pm ET
Where: Paycom Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

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