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Preview: New-look 76ers host Hornets for a back-to-back

The Hornets are in Philadelphia for their first back-to-back series of the season.

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (2-3) at Philadelphia 76ers (4-1)

When: 7:00 pm EST

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

How to watch: Fox Sports South(east), NBA League Pass

The Philadelphia 76ers “big three”—Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris—remains the same, but the supporting pieces have been moved around since last season. Former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was hired as the president of basketball operations, Doc Rivers replaced Brett Brown as head coach, and since then the Sixers have become a vastly different team.

Over the off-season, Philadelphia essentially traded Josh Richardson, Al Horford, Zhaire Smith and some assortment of draft picks for Seth Curry, Danny Green, Terrance Ferguson and Vincent Poirier. They retooled their offense while not losing much defense on the perimeter. For my money, the Sixers are a dark horse Eastern Conference Finals contender—and also the current favorite to land James Harden.

Curry and Green add the spacing the Sixers needed in their starting lineup, and a backup center trio of Dwight Howard, Tony Bradley and Poirier gives them the best Embiid injury insurance they’ve had in his entire career. Ferguson hasn’t played much to start the year, but he’s always had potential as an athletic three-and-D wing. They still need a guard-size halfcourt playmaker to aid Simmons—who has cooled off a bit in the last two games after a solid start—but Tyrese Maxey should be able to handle that in a reserve role as a rookie.

Embiid has helped Philadelphia get off to a pretty hot start, posting per-game averages of 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks on 52.3 percent FG/38.5 percent 3PT/82.5 percent FT shooting splits. He’s put up at least 25 and 10 in three games, had 21 and nine in the other, and sat out with a back injury in the team’s sole loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without Cody Zeller, the Hornets have nobody that’s even close to Embiid’s size to throw at him, which will most likely be a problem tonight given his impressive start to the season.

Mike Scott (left knee bruise) is listed as probable for tonight’s game, while Furkan Korkmaz is out.

Last night’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was moderately pitiful, but the best way to get over a game like that is to play another one. Their offense was working in the first half; Gordon Hayward, Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier were all getting looks and Bismack Biyombo was screening and rebounding well, but the shots just weren’t falling, and then it seemed like they got frustrated after a while and stopped trying. Not that this will blow anyone’s socks off, but the Hornets are gonna have to play a lot harder than they did in the late-third and fourth quarters last night if they want to get back to .500, and the starters are going to have to shoot better than a combined 17-for-50.

LaMelo Ball has continued to impress, earning 27 minutes last night and posting 15 points with six assists—and at least three or four hockey assists. The 6’ 10”, 240-pound Simmons is a horrible matchup for Ball so it will be interesting to see how much/when he plays tonight. It’s very early, but at this moment, Ball is one of the five best players on the team and his impact on the offense has kept them competitive in multiple games. James Borrego just can’t keep him off the floor anymore.

Zeller (left hand fracture) is only player on Charlotte’s injury report.

Final note: Nick Richards went in ahead of Vernon Carey Jr. last night and had a nice dunk in transition for his first NBA bucket. Who knows if that means anything in terms of the rotation, but maybe Borrego is warming up to the rookies (or just Richards) a bit as the Hornets’ need for another rotation-level center becomes more apparent. Biz is doing his thing, but beyond that the cupboard is literally bare. That should be fun against Embiid and Howard.