Why is Brett Brown Moving Away from Trey Burke Again?

Justin Grasso

The curious case of the backup point guard position continues for the Philadelphia 76ers this season. Heading into the year, it was evident that Sixers head coach Brett Brown was going to utilize Ben Simmons as the starting point guard.

But the backup position is what came in question. Over the offseason, the front office acquired two veterans through free agency. One happened to be the seven-year veteran, Trey Burke. The other? Fifth-year veteran, Raul Neto.

Neither of the two offseason acquisitions had the spot locked up. So a battle throughout training camp and the preseason would be necessary for Brett Brown to figure out which guard could win over Simmons' backup minutes.

When it came down to it, Brown favored Neto over Burke, going against what the public wanted. As many see Burke as the better option for the offensive side of the ball, the coach who believes defense trumps all viewed Neto as the better defender.

Therefore, Neto received the edge over Burke at first. The decision to keep Burke waiting for minutes drew tons of criticism from not only Sixers fans -- but it also called for the Sixers' head coach to get called out by Burke's father as well.

While Burke refused to endorse the criticism, it seemed the message might've been received by Brown, who decided to increase Burke's minutes over time. For the last few weeks, Burke has gotten the edge over Neto. But for the last couple of games, Brown switched back to his initial pick once again.

On Monday night, Burke only saw four minutes of playing time against Indiana. While Neto technically didn't play more than Burke did against the Pacers, he did receive seven minutes of playing time against Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Burke didn't play at all.

After the win over the Nets, Brett Brown explained his decision to roll with Neto, as opposed to Burke. "There is sort of a responsibility I feel. . . You don't want players to rot," Brown said in regards to Raul Neto. "Like, you need to keep them alive. It's time to give [Raul Neto] some life again. He still has tremendous value."

While Brown decided Neto needed minutes to get back into the swing of the game, he also explains the decision comes from a matchup standpoint.

"If the other team has scooters -- some roadrunners -- maybe that's a better matchup for Trey. We've seen sometimes where we needed some energy just to get into lanes so somebody can make a shot. Trey does do that -- he's instant offense. But in general, it's a matchup thing. It's a gut feel thing. It's a keep somebody alive thing."

Now just because Neto has received the minutes lately, does that mean Burke is back to the bench for good? Not exactly. Just recently, the Sixers had the option to let Burke go in order to avoid paying for his guaranteed salary.

That's not the route the team went, though. While the constant change at the backup point guard position can be a bit confusing, and even frustrating at times, Burke will likely still have a role moving forward.

However, that doesn't change the way Brown views Neto, either. Both guys will continue to switch off until the Sixers finally find their identity as a team. Considering the trade deadline still isn't here, some quick changes could delay the search of identity until the roster is finalized, further complicating the use of Burke and Neto.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_

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