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ENEMY LINES

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A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP PHILADELPHIA

THE THING they have going for them is that J.J. REDICK, BEN SIMMONS and JOEL EMBIID have such a good familiarity with one another. Introducing their new pieces into an intricate system late in the season can be difficult, so they might simplify some stuff. But they're no joke, man. They're deep.... I think TOBIAS HARRIS was a hedge against possibly losing JIMMY BUTLER, but they have a dynamic lineup now where they can play multiple styles. Tobias needs to massage the ball a little, and he's done an admirable job getting that out of his game and being more decisive. But in times of stress—human nature, there's a tendency to revert to what's familiar. Butler is the same way. [Coach] Brett Brown wants movement and cutting. For Tobias and Jimmy, those aren't their strengths.... Redick is continually getting better as he gets older—that's a remarkable story. The freedom-of-movement rules and the increased importance of shooting have helped, but the way he impacts the game even when he's not getting the ball, with his cutting and spacing, it's invaluable.... BOBAN MARJANOVIC can play a role against an Aron Baynes [of Boston], a Marc Gasol [of the Raptors]—he can protect Embiid a little bit. You can only play Marjanovic in short spans because of his defensive deficiencies, but he can give you four minutes, get eight rebounds, make three great passes. He was a little bit underrated in that deal [for Harris] because of who they might have to face in the playoffs.

THE 76ERS have been many things over the past few years—embarrassing (to the NBA), adored (by a cult following), snakebitten (Joel Embiid's myriad injuries), fortunate (Embiid's recovery), depressing (Markelle Fultz's jumper), thrilling (last year's playoff run) and completely bizarre (former GM Bryan Colangelo's Twitter scandal)—but they have never been boring. That trend continued when Philadelphia made a large bet on this season by acquiring Jimmy Butler in November; acquiring Tobias Harris from the Clippers was a double down.

What's good: Send help against Embiid or Ben Simmons in the post, and Harris (43.0% from three-point range) or J.J. Redick (39.5%) will be waiting for a kick-out. Butler's isolation skills can help them close games, and with five starters capable of creating a shot, the Sixers are going to feast on mismatches in transition.

What's concerning: Harris and Redick may struggle on defense, and unless GM Elton Brand can find an elite point-guard defender on the buyout market, Butler will have to spend a lot of time chasing Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. With five skilled scorers, there are going to be ongoing questions about shot distribution.

So did Philly just build the most talented team in the East—or a very expensive runner-up? Whatever the answer, the experiment seems an appropriate extension of the Process. You don't have to love every move, but you can't help but admire the ambition.

3 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

KEY IN-SEASON MOVES

ACQUIRED: SF Jimmy Butler / SF Tobias Harris / one first-rounder

LOST: SG Robert Covington / SF Dario Saric / two first-rounders

0 TELLING NUMBER

Times the 76ers have been held to fewer than 95 points in a game since an opening-night loss to the Celtics.