The Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers begin a seven-game series this Sunday from Wells Fargo Center. Before tip-off tomorrow afternoon, the Peachtree Hoops staff answers three roundtable questions. For our second roundtable, we take our shot at some bold predicitions for the series.
Brad Rowland: John Collins will have a big series. There have been times when Collins has waxed and waned within Atlanta’s offense and, given the team’s success, that hasn’t been an issue. This series could allow him to hunt mismatches though and, if Embiid is unable to go, the series could feel smaller. That isn’t to say that Clint Capela won’t be important (because he will be), but Collins could be a point of emphasis on both ends of the floor, unlocking certain lineups that will be key in swinging the series.
Wes Morton: The Sixers resort to playing Ben Simmons at the five without Embiid, and it largely works and forces major defensive adjustments from Atlanta. This will be born out of necessity, as the only other player who figures to give the Sixers minutes at the five is Dwight Howard – unless the sparingly used rookie Paul Reed is ready for that challenge. But the elite combo of size, handle, and physicality to go along with the ability to facilitate surrounding perimeter players with Simmons in a point center role will force Atlanta to move away from Capela for key stretches.
Glen Willis: De’Andre Hunter plays more time at the power forward position than at small forward (he only played 30% of his regular season minutes at the three). I think the Hawks will need to play small a lot in the series and rely on their best offensive lineups for stretches to punish the Sixers preferred defensive scheme.
Rashad Milligan: Now seeing my first round bold prediction of Kris Dunn getting into the first round rotation and getting into a fight was all the way off, I’m going to stick to those wrong guns and say Kris Dunn, in the rotation or not, will get into at least one altercation with a Philadelphia 76er in this series. To give an actual basketball prediction, I think De’Andre Hunter scores 30 in his hometown at least one game in the series.
Graham Chapple: My bold prediction is that Onyeka Okongwu receives a few more minutes and builds on his strong Game 5 showing against the Knicks. Okongwu has been playing a little better ever since Game 3 and if there’s a series where he could play a little more, why not this one? Sure, why not.
Elliott: Tobias Harris will do what Julius Randle couldn’t. Harris scored 34 points per 100 possessions with Embiid off the floor, versus 26 with both on. And Atlanta can’t load up against Harris as it did against Randle since the Sixers have better shooters than the Knicks. Harris will need to take a bigger role, and he might have better success.
Malik Brown: Trae Young won’t have the same series he had in the first round. This Philly team is built different defensively and physically than the Knicks, and they’re more battle-tested as well.
Andrew Kelly: I think we see some games where Capela gets in foul trouble against Embiid and forces Okongwu into action. His flashes of quality play are happening more frequently now and I think he could have a game where he turns heads in a good way with a stretch of play that firmly puts his talent on the radar.
Josh Lane: Trae Young will struggle this round since he will have a tougher time getting past the perimeter defense and he will be forced to defend against a team that will have better personnel to attack his weak points.
Zach Hood: The Sixers struggle to contain Trae Young just as badly as the New York Knicks did in the first round. Philadelphia obviously has much better personnel to matchup with Young in Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle (among others), but it seems unlikely they are able to neutralize Young given the success he’s had vs. the Sixers in his career. Young has enjoyed some of the best games of his career vs. Philly, including a 39-point/18-assist performance in January of 2020 when both Simmons and Embiid were active. For his career, Young averages 27.1 PPG, 9.4 APG and 7.9 free throw attempts vs. the Sixers.
Tony Papadopoulos: Ben Simmons will average more points (14.8), and Trae Young will average fewer assists (9.8) than each player averaged in their first round matchups. Atlanta isn’t designed to defend both Simmons and Tobias Harris, and Simmons has the ability to punish the Hawks’ guards at the rim and dish the ball when being guarded by the frontcourt. On defense, the Sixers feature a bevy of long, switchable defenders, Trae will have to work very hard to deal out ten assists a game against Simmons, Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Danny Green.