Sixers might be creating their own style of play | Bob Cooney

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Sixers coach Brett Brown talks to his team against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 in Philadelphia.

IN SPORTS, if you're reacting instead of anticipating, you are usually a step behind.

The high-flying offense that the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers introduced in 1979 led to nine championship appearances in a 12-year span with five titles.

Teams tried to emulate the style that was orchestrated by 6-9 point guard Magic Johnson, but with little success.

The Detroit Pistons then won back-to-back championships with a bullying style, which was just too physical to keep going for a long run. Then a guy named Michael Jordan started hitting his stride.

With a triangle offense implemented by coach Phil Jackson, the Chicago Bulls perfectly filled roles around Jordan and Scottie Pippen and grabbed six rings in eight years. The triangle is still being attempted by teams around the league.

The San Antonio Spurs made five championship appearances in 12 years by changing the style of their game according to their talent. The Spurs rode big men David Robinson and Tim Duncan for a while, then built their scheme around Duncan by sprinkling shooters on the court to complement him. They then decided a running/passing game was the new way to win and they perfected the scheme that culminated in another title in 2014.

The Golden State Warriors took that a step further by littering the floor with shooters who spread defenses like warm butter on toast and move the ball with surgical precision to get open shots practically wherever they want. They have made it a game of shooters, shooters and more shooters, and it is a style that many are still chasing.

Maybe, though, the Sixers aren't one of those teams. Maybe president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown aren't reacting but instead anticipating a new way of play that in a few years the rest of the NBA world will be trying to emulate.

The Sixers possess an oddity in Joel Embiid, a 7-2, 285-pound center who can dominate the league down low at both ends of the floor. The fact that he can step out and make threes and also switch out on guards defensively is a bonus. Dominating big men in the paint are as rare as an uneventful day at the White House these days.

And then there's Ben Simmons, whom the team plans to play at point guard despite his 6-10, 250-pound frame. The Sixers envision him rebounding, starting the fastbreak, throwing outlets and getting to the basket with his quickness and ballhandling ability.

And now, with Tuesday's draft lottery getting them the No. 3 overall pick - should they stay there - they might be teaming an athletic, suspect-shooting wing in Josh Jackson with Embiid and Simmons and Dario Saric, or a lightning-quick, disruptive defender and offensive wizard in De'Aaron Fox.

Few shooters are on the Sixers' roster, and the above draft possibilities won't correct that. The Sixers can, and probably will, spend some money to bring in some shooters, but maybe playing big and fast and overpowering at the rim while using threes as another weapon might be what they're thinking. Envision maybe a more powerful version of the stretch game that is so popular right now.

"Actually, versatility and size and skill and character are the things that we're aiming for," Colangelo said Wednesday. "I like to think that people are always going to try to copy the best defenses, people are always going to try to copy the best offenses. It's what's effective, it's what's working. Some of that is analytic driven, some of that is coaching-philosophy and style-of-play driven.

"I like to think sometimes I'm on the front end of that copy movement in terms of where the game is going and where it's been. There are a lot of things that we look at in terms of projecting out what the league looks like for the next three to five years and we're trying to build our team accordingly."

Not a mention of shooting came from Colangelo there, but it is the area both he and Brown have said needs to be addressed. It appears the plan is to have a team big enough to overpower opponents, with enough shooters to keep defenses honest and with enough length sprinkled around the perimeter to keep opposing shooters unsettled.

Perhaps this is avenue Colangelo and Brown are looking to travel. Maybe it is a style that, in a few years, many others will look to emulate.

Maybe the Sixers are anticipating a whole new style of play and not reacting to what the rest of the league is doing. Over the next few months as the draft and free agency come and go, we shall see.

cooneyb@phillynews.com

@BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixersblog

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