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The Bench is the Next Part of the Process

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When the second youngest team in the NBA is in contention to not only make the playoffs, but possibly make some noise in the first round, some veteran help to solidify the bench is essential. Enter Marco Belinelli. Belinelli fulfills two major needs for the Sixers’ veteran presence and consistent shooting off the bench. The Sixers were rumored to be in discussions to trade for him before the deadline, but after being bought out by the Atlanta Hawks, Belinelli chose Philadelphia.

Belinelli’s decision to play with the Sixers signals a major cultural shift. This was a team that was rebuilding to the point of national embarrassment over the last four years. They are no longer an embarrassment, and have already surpassed last year’s 28-game win total from last year.

“Marco had the choice of several good teams and he chose us,” said Coach Brett Brown. “I think it’s a statement about the guys in the locker room, a reflection of where our program is heading and how it’s viewed in the marketplace.”

The program is heading in the right direction. With Monday night’s win over the Knicks, Philadelphia has won 15 of their last 22 games, and is growing up as the season has progressed. T.J. McConnell, who has emerged as the sixth man, had a triple double against New York-off the bench. However, Philadelphia has had very little consistency off the bench, especially at the guard position. They have been in the bottom five in bench scoring for most of the year. Justin Anderson has showed flashes, but isn’t a great shooter. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot played his best ball when he started while J.J. Redick was hurt, but has not been good off the bench, and inconsistent shooting the ball. Jerryd Bayless has been awful, and has only been coming of the bench in blowouts of late. The perfect fit for Belinelli is to come of the bench and provide a deep threat.

‘We need to get our bench going,” Brown said. “They are not naive to that. They are prideful. The bench has been a big part of our recent wins, and we need them to be.”

It’s imperative that you have a productive bench if you want to be any sort of factor in the playoffs. The Sixers’ starting five currently ranks sixth in plus/minus, and can be dominating at times. However, they have blown some big leads late in games this year. When the starters are gassed, there really hasn’t been a consistent scorer off the bench. Belinelli, who won a championship with the Spurs, also won the 3-point contest during the 2014 All-Star Weekend, knocking off Washington’s Bradley Beal.

 

Belinelli should get his first action on Wednesday night when the Sixers host the Miami Heat, who they are percentage points ahead of for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. Belinelli will be joining his ninth team at 31 years old. This is his 11th NBA season, and is a career 37.7% 3-point shooter. There is no question that he should add instant offense to an inconsistent bench. The addition of Belinelli may also signal that Markelle Fultz could be shut down for the year.

About Mike Small

Married for 23 years, and a father of four. Currently a Pharmaceutical Sales Leader, and contributor for TLSportsMedia, covering the Philadelphia 76ers and other relevant NBA topics. Previously worked as a television sports anchor in Eastern North Carolina, radio talk show host in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also served as the producer of "The Dean Smith Show", a weekly television show on The University of North Carolina basketball team, and "The Mack Brown Show", a weekly television show on the UNC football team-while doing all of the player features. Wrote a weekly column and articles for Carolina Blue Newspaper. Was also a contributor to, "A Season of Dreams", a book on the 1993 National Champion North Carolina Basketball Team.

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