Philadelphia 76ers: Are two backup point guards better than one?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

So far this season, the Philadelphia 76ers have alternated playing time between Raul Neto and Trey Burk, but are two backup point guards better than one?

Going into the 2019-20 season, Elton Brand had one thing on his mind for the Philadelphia 76ers: Adding secondary ball handlers.

Ok, ok, I guess the team also wanted to bolster their frontcourt with a pair of top-tier centers to back up Joel Embiid and to fill out the roster with switchable, defensive-minded 3-and-d wings, but still, point guard was a point of emphasis to be sure.

But can a team have too much of a good thing? This year’s Sixers squad may soon find out.

You see, for much of the season, Brett Brown has arbitrarily picked who will back up Ben Simmons at the one seemingly at random – with Raul Neto earning virtually all of the backup minutes in October, and Trey Burke coming in hot over the past few weeks.

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While random may be a bit strong, as I’m sure Brown and his staff have a perfectly fine reason for everything they do, it can feel like that at times because of just how similar Neto and Burke appear from a purely superficial standpoint.

Sure, the duo each put their own spin on the point guard position, with Burke preferring to attack the basket as a score-first combo guard, and Neto opting to instead facilitate the offense as a floor general but measuring in at a near-identical 6-foot-1, 175 pounds (give or take). Not only that, but neither player is a particularly good defender, as evidenced by their Real Plus-Minus scores in 2018-19.

Outside of three double-digit scoring outputs through the first 18 games of the season – two from Neto and one from Burke – the duo have consistently been among the team’s least effective scorers game-in and game-out, falling behind the starting five (obviously), Furkan Korkmaz, and James Ennis.

But it wasn’t always going to be this way.

No, if a casual observer took the 76ers’ opening night victory over the Boston Celtics as gospel, one could confidently assume that Josh Richardson was the team’s backup point guard in the same way that Al Horford backed up Embiid when he exits the game. Granted, playing without an eight-man rotation in the regular season isn’t a great idea, especially when it’s composed of the starting five and three wings, but had Richardson shined at the one, maybe he would earn more minutes running the show with regularity.

Instead, it’s Neto and Burke, duking it out for 18 or so minutes a night with no guarantee they will play again the next game, week, or even month.

Hold up, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the problem isn’t that the 76ers have too many solid backup point guards, but instead lack one great one? I mean think about it, for years it was T.J. McConnell soaking up the backup point guard minutes behind Simmons to admirable effect.

Was he perfect? No, McConnell was never going to be a good enough shooter, or flexible enough defender to fit into Brown’s current scheme, but at least everyone knew he had the backup role locked in.

Next. Maybe signing Carmelo Anthony made sense after all. dark

Now, well, baring a surprise injury, or an even more surprising trade, it looks like the Philadelphia 76ers will play the hot hand between Raul Neto and Trey Burke until one of the two separates himself from the group. Or Elton Brand can make a move to acquire Kris Dunn from the Chicago Bulls, that could work too.