Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and while the offseason for the 76ers have been enveloped by trade rumors surrounding Ben Simmons, Philadelphia addressed the long-term security of another of its All-Stars, big man Joel Embiid. The 76ers retained Embiid via a supermax extension, adding two seasons to his existing deal to keep him in Philadelphia through the 2026-27 season. Embiid has wholly shed the injury concerns that marred his first few seasons in the NBA to develop into a franchise-altering, MVP-level player. Of course, given his injury history, size, and style of play, there is an inherent risk for Philadelphia, but this was an obvious move for the franchise.
While rumors continue to swirl around Simmons, it seems another name on the trade market, Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, will not be going anywhere. Coming off a pair of relatively disappointing seasons after emerging as a valuable contributor to Toronto’s championship run, Siakam remains a valuable two-way contributor. The Raptors could look to rebuild Siakam’s value during the first half and deal him at the deadline, or Toronto could be a surprise playoff contender, prompting the Raptors to hold on to Siakam for the duration of the season. Both options are realistic for Toronto entering the season.
Leading into the draft, Chris Duarte was linked to many teams looking to add a win-now piece, and so far in the summer league, the Oregon product has looked ready for a role on a playoff team. Working against Duarte is that Indiana’s backcourt is loaded with talent, but the Pacers were doomed a year ago due to injuries ravaging the group. With Duarte, the Pacers have a worthy piece of running with the second unit or filling in for the likes of T.J. Warren or Caris LeVert in case of injury. Duarte seems to be a safe bet for an immediate role with Indiana, though he may lack star upside. But, for a team already brimming with talent, he is a perfect fit.
Likewise, Davion Mitchell, nabbed by the Sacramento Kings in the lottery, looks like an NBA-ready contributor on the defensive end. Much like Duarte, the path to regular playing time looks to be the only obstacle facing Mitchell as a rookie, as he will be contending for minutes with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. Sacramento’s best lineup this season will likely feature all three, and it will be interesting to see how the Kings manage to make the pieces fit. The Kings remain a fringe contender, but with Haliburton and Mitchell being added the past two years, Sacramento is proving more than capable of adding difference makers in the draft.
Houston generated headlines with the selection of Jalen Green with the second overall pick. Still, the addition of Alperen Sengun with the 16th overall selection is looking like an equally interesting one for the rebuilding franchise. Sengun has asserted himself well in Summer League, looking very much like a year-one contributor for the Rockets. Viewed as a boom-or-bust prospect entering the draft, Sengun has looked very much the former, thriving on the boards and looking like a defensive contributor. Sengun and Green, along with fellow rookie Josh Christopher, have Houston looking to be a fun watch during the upcoming season.
Second-year forward Patrick Williams entered the NBA with a defensive pedigree. Though his rookie season featured multiple ups and downs, the Florida State product is thriving as a go-to scorer for the Bulls this summer. Most impressive for Williams is his increased efficiency shooting from beyond the arc. His defense remains effective, and he is proving to be a solid partner alongside second-round pick Ayo Dosunmu, who is thriving as a ball-handler and defender during summer play. Chicago spent the off-season adding a pair of big names via free agency, but a pair of homegrown products may prove to be equally crucial to the team’s playoff aspirations.
New York also spent the offseason adding big names through free agency, signing Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. However, the Knicks, like the Bulls, may have their playoff hopes hinge on a pair of youngsters. 2020 first-round picks Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin were excellent during summer league play. Toppin excelled as a pick-and-pop option next to Quickley, who showed excellent shooting ability and unexpected strength as a ball-handler and passer. There’s no denying Quickley and Toppin are going to be significant players for the Knicks this season.