The Sixers have already taken a significant step forward over last season, this past weekend proved that. But what did we learn from the Sixers dominant display against Detroit and their other weekend fixtures?
1. I am completely understanding of the concerns the Sixers have towards Joel Embiid’s health and his minute restrictions. With that being said, they need to allow him to play. They’re a much better team when he’s on the floor and it shows. His health and body can get better as he plays, consistently. The rest, may be doing more damage than it’s worth for this team. As good as Ben Simmons has been the first few games, Embiid is the life of this team. Seeing what he did in his return to the lineup against the Pistons, should be noted.
30 points and 9 rebounds is very good for Embiid and it shows his value to the team as they move forward. Putting him out there on a regular basis will be better for the team than having him sit. Even at 28 minutes per game, he’s leading the team with almost 20 points per game. He needs to be able to play in order to make an impact and having him sit isn’t doing anyone any good at all.
2. Ben Simmons, fresh off his first triple double of his young career, appears to be the real deal. Even if it’s only four games, the guy has shown the skills that have earned him the LeBron comparisons. In the Pistons game, he brought the ball down the court and stumbled. As he fell to the floor trying to recover the ball, he had the vision to know where Dario Saric was. He corralled the ball and while on the floor, spun and delivered a perfect bounce pass to Saric through two defenders and allowed for Saric to drive for an easy reverse layup.
His ability, with the ball in his hands, is really a thing of beauty to watch. He’s also stayed within his limitations offensively. He’s driving the ball and scoring low as his outside shooting isn’t his strong suit. He’s only attempted two three pointers this season and missed both. But, overall, he’s shooting 49% from the floor. He’s also grabbing almost 11 rebounds per game to go along with 7 assists. These ARE LeBron type numbers. He’s a complete mismatch for guards and forwards to defend, so it’s making it very difficult for teams to guard him.
3. Dario Saric is only averaging about 22 minutes per game and he’s shooting poorly. The amount of fatigue on his body has to be the cause. He’s basically been playing basketball straight through for the past two plus years. The team has to figure out how to fix this before it gets in to his head and causes some real problems. 34% from the floor and 23% from three point land isn’t going to do him any good. Maybe, starting Saric and getting him some more open looks and easier baskets can get him back in stride. When he’s on the floor with Simmons, he looks much better. When he’s running with the compete second team, he’s able to be defended tighter and it’s causing his stats to show it. He should be on the floor more, with better players. He’s a compliment not a focal point and the Sixers need to realize this sooner rather than later.
4. Markelle Fultz is struggling. Is he not ready for the NBA? Is he not as good as he was made out to be? Not at all. He’s injured. As Sixers fans are accustomed to hearing, the most recent #1 overall pick in the NBA draft has a shoulder injury. Playing through it is not good as he’s not “needed” right now. Fultz is part of the future and his injury isn’t enough that he needs to be shut down for the season, but he needs to heal and get back in to being a healthy player and the guy everyone had pegged as the most NBA ready in the past draft.
Word today is that he’s had fluid drained from his shoulder and that’s not good. It’s affected his shot and his overall game. He should be shut down for the immediate future in order to insure his success later in the season. He’s not starting and his minutes won’t be hurt as TJ McConnell is fine as the point on the second team. Give him the rest and time off he needs in order to come back strong.
5. Jerryd Bayless is starting to change my initial opinion of him with his play to start the season. He’s shooting an equal 52% from the field and from three point land. He’s out there with Simmons, so he’s not going to pile up assists, but his shooting and movement have helped the team. His defense can still be suspect, but his shooting will keep teams honest in their defense of Simmons and Embiid when they’re on the floor together, along with JJ Reddick and Robert Covington. What he can do, is provide a strong leadership quality to this team. Coming back from last years injury and showing the team the effort it takes to maintain in the NBA is valuable to the young players on the roster and he’s showing that he has that value here in Philadelphia.
6. Jahlil Okafor was sighted on the floor during an actualy game for the first time this season, over the weekend. With 10 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 22 minutes, Okafor has shown that he can still be a valuable player on the team, or another if there’s one out there looking for him. After Saturday though, he was another no show when Embiid returned to the lineup on Monday. Has he been given a fair chance to be a part of the team? Not this year. Last year, the pairing with Embiid didn’t work, but Okafor looked at himself over the summer and omitted to being better. His weight is down and his commitment seemed the strongest it’s been since he was drafted 3rd overall in the 2015 draft. It worries me that he’s relegated to the bench for three of the first four games this season. For arguments sake, he should be another Kevin Love. Love isn’t the best defender or anything close, but people look at his scoring and rebounding and consider him a top player. Okafor isn’t being given that chance and he’s only been in the league for two years. There’s a reason he was drafted 3rd and he isn’t being done any favors by the team. He needs to play.
1. There was a time, not long ago, that the Warriors were the darlings of the NBA. As they won their first title, everyone was quick to anoint Steph Curry as the best player in the league, even though he wasn’t. When they lost to the Cavaliers in the 2016 finals, their recourse was to go out and get Kevin Durant, the best free agent and arguably one of the top few players in the game. Their return to being champions was complete last summer and we got to see glimpses of a petulant Curry on the court. He’s become a joke and entitled. Throwing a mouthpiece after a non-call that he wanted put this on full display this past week. How does the NBA react? By fining him $50 thousand dollars as a repeat offender.
Now, there’s a history of players throwing things and not being suspended, (see article https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/6/17/11962842/steph-curry-mouthpiece-fan-nba-finals-suspension-fine) but Curry threw his first mouthpiece in the finals last year and hit a fan. This year he threw it at a ref. It’s become a habit. If it had been 5 years or so, then it’s frustration, but as he’s supposed to be one of the greats in the NBA, and this is only a few months from his last time, he should have been suspended.
The whole team has taken this entitled attitude with Draymond Green constantly talking about how great they are, Durant pointing at his ring finger aimed at the Bucks bench, etc. The truth is that they’re now just expecting things to be handed to them. They’ve taken this to absurd levels and it will, hopefully, be fun to watch them get beaten up in the playoffs. It may not be enough to stop them from winning another title, but the Western Conference playoffs aren’t going to be the cakewalk they were in the past few years for them. When they get to the finals, if they get there, they’ll be going against LeBron, again. The Cavs team, while not starting off quickly, was assembled, knowing that they need to be operating at their peak come playoff time. As Wade, Rose and eventually Thomas settle in to their roles, the Cavs could be very dangerous to any team that’s been beat up during the Western Conference playoffs.
2. The Eric Bledsoe situation in Phoenix is sad to watch from afar. The Suns apparently want a lot for him in trade, but they’re going to have to relent as they sent him home and they need to get him out of town as quickly as possible. There are plenty of trade options and they need to be on the phone to get it done as quickly as possible. How can this affect the Sixers? Well, we happen to have the aforementioned Jahlil Okafor sitting on the bench, waiting to score 20 points a night for any team in the league. With their ability to take on salary and the love of draft picks, the Sixers could figure in to any trade involving Bledsoe as a third party.
That’s all for today.
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports