We’re in to the start of 2018 and the Sixers are 21-20 as they approach the midway point of the season. For a team that’s in the later stages of “The Process”, the city and the team have to be excited about what they’ve seen so far.
Joel Embiid has been as good if not better than originally advertised when he was drafted, what seems like forever ago. As he’s finally been removed from a minutes and games restriction, Embiid has provided the team with scoring, defense and energy that couldn’t have been expected from someone that hasn’t played basketball in three years. His frankness with the media and while on the court have brought a lot of attention to himself and the team. He doesn’t back down from anyone on the court or on Twitter. As much as he’s had people come at him, in the end, everyone seems to realize that he’s just being entertaining and they are willing to accept that as part of his game and personality.
On the court, Embiid has been nothing short of amazing. He’s already matched his game total from last year and seems to be getting in to even better basketball shape and playing at a high level, which is getting better as he continues to pile up minutes and games. Right now, Embiid is averaging 23.8 points per game and just under 11 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. His field goal percentage is lower than to be expected from a center, but that seems to come from him being inclined to take as many three-point shots as he does.
As he becomes more comfortable in the offense and with his teammates, he can start to assert himself down low and limit the amount of times he spends outside, trying to shoot threes. Remember that he hasn’t really been playing basketball for that long and as his IQ goes up on the court, he should really limit himself with the outside shooting and use it to his advantage when he can. We really couldn’t ask more of Embiid at this point in the season yet. He’s an All-Star and there’s good reason for that.
Rookie of the year?
Ben Simmons has been nothing short of amazing to start of the year and his career. After sitting out last season with a foot injury and having everyone in Philly doubt just about everything, Simmons has proven that he was the right choice and the right guy to lead this team into the future. Right now, Simmons has to be the runaway choice for Rookie of the Year in the NBA, contrary to what anyone might say about anyone else. He’s averaging 16. 8 points, 8 rebounds and 7.3 assists to go along with 2 steals per game. How can you ask more from him as your starting point guard?
The one knock on Simmons is his lack of an outside shot or at least his willingness to take outside shots. When you watch him play, you can see that the talent and shooting are there, he seems to just prefer to drive or pass. When you’re 6’10” and playing the point, it’s easy to see why he would take advantage of the players tasked with defending him. If the team were better shooting from outside and he had confidence in them, he may start to relax on the perimeter and start shooting, but for right now, the smart play is to use his skill to his advantage and get some easy points.
For as much as Dario Saric gets called out on not being a “great” player, he’s been doing just fine and performing at a level that should be expected from him. 13.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game is at the level he performed at last year when he was ripped off in the ROY voting. He’s had to jump between starter and sixth man this year and when given a consistent role, he’s performed very well. Saric is never going to be the first option for the team and he’s not going to be a star in the league, but he can be a great sixth man or a very good starting 4, for the team in the future. His shooting percentage at 43% could be better as well as the 36% he’s shooting from beyond the arc, but they’ll get better as he’s given better opportunities and playing with more talented players. There have been times this year where he’s seemed to try to hard and push the envelope when he’s paired with players that aren’t pulling their weight. Saric should be and will be a vital part of this team for the future as they all build and grow together.
Speaking of poorly performing Sixers, has anyone thought at all that Jerryd Bayless or Amir Johnson have been of any sort of value to the team? Everyone talks about Bayless being a shooter that the Sixers desperately need, but he’s not. He’s shooting 36% from three-point range and doesn’t provide any real value to the team. He’s more of a detriment when he’s on the floor and seems to only be out there to showcase anything good he can offer for his nine-million dollar salary.
Amir Johnson has flat out been a waste. Signing him was supposed to provide depth and leadership to a young team that needed both. He’s been neither. Five points and 5 rebounds a game is nothing close to earning his $11 million and he seems to be just another reason why the fans can’t stand Bryan Colangelo. He’s taken minutes from a healthy, finally, Richaun Holmes and Dario Saric. I can’t see why either of these players would be on the team next year or hopefully after the trading deadline.
Robert Covington seemed to be the underdog that everyone could root for early in the season as he was putting up points, playing great defense and shooting the lights out. After signing his contract extension, he’s seemed to cool off, yet he’s still giving the team almost fourteen points per game. Six rebounds and almost two steals a game are also good stats for a player of Covingtons ability. I think, as fans, we thought that he was going to have a breakout year and become a star as his early season play was showing, but, in reality, he’s been a very good player and a steady guy at the small forward position. I couldn’t ask more from Covington other than to pick his shots more wisely as he’s currently at 38% from beyond the arc. He seems to put up quick shots when the Sixers come down the floor, but that’s more of a team wide problem rather than just being an isolated issue with him. He’s still 27 and young enough to be a valuable piece of the Sixers puzzle going forward over the next few years.
It’s time for THAT discussion:
“Markelle Fultz is in trouble. He’s a bust. He’s a wasted pick that could have been used on someone that could contribute right now. He doesn’t’ know how to shoot. He doesn’t have confidence and needs a sports psychologist.” If you listen to the fans and national media, that is all you know about Fultz. If we’re to look at the end game, Fultz can still be the player that everyone agreed should have been the first overall pick in the last draft. His athleticism, scoring and defense are still there, but after the “shoulder injury” or whatever was going on with him, he’s back to practicing with the team and participating in the five on five drills.
Fultz doesn’t need to be a spot up shooter, but he’s a quality player that could create for himself and others, as his court vision is above average. People take a look at awkward shooting in practice and make their own opinions about how bad he is, but we should really be patient with Fultz and we’ll start to see the player that we expected to have on the team. Hell, it’s seemed to work out for Embiid and Simmons missing time. Losing confidence in Fultz is stupid as the guy has only been on the court for four games this season. Hopefully, we’ll get to see Fultz on the court in game action, regaining his confidence, and getting back to being a player, in the next few weeks. Either way, patience is what we’ve had over the past few years and there’s no reason that the team, it’s players, or it’s fans should lose that patience now.
J.J. Redick was supposed to be the “shooter” for the team. While he’s averaging 17.3 points a game, his 40% shooting from the outside isn’t what was expected. He is streaky and continues to put up, as well as the rest of the team, quick shots without setting up for the best shots. Reddick will be seen, if he continues his play this year, as underperforming his contract. That’s acceptable but, if he gets hot at the right time as the Sixers get near or in to the playoffs, Reddick could become a fan favorite at the right time.
Where art thou, Furkan?
What ever happened to Furkan Korkmaz? He was brought over as a shooter and good defender. What we’ve seen is a guy that’s bounced back and forth between the G-League and the NBA bench. He’s appeared in six games this year. That’s not enough for a guy that is touted as a good shooter and plays on a team that lacks quality shooting. Why he’s not getting minutes when other poor players are on the floor is a mystery. Defense and outside shooting are two things that the team really needs to improve on an we have a guy that can provide both, supposedly, relegated to sitting on the bench. He has to be a better or, at worst, at least the same as Bayless or TLC. He should be given a shot.
This team has provided some excitement as well as some let downs over the first half of the season but, having a 21-20 record over the first forty one games is not bad for this team as they’re finally starting to see some rewards from “The Process”. The big questions, moving forward, is whether Bryan Colangelo will screw up the team at the trading deadline by moving a valuable young player or a valuable draft pick. He’s not shown anything other than having the name to instill any confidence in the fans of the team.
It’s sad to think that Sam Hinkie preached his patience in “The Process” and was ousted before being able to see it through. But, I have a hard time believing that Hinkie wouldn’t have fleeced some team when discarding Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Colangelo has wasted those assets and while their value, seemingly, wasn’t that great, Hinkie had a way of moving pieces and getting a good return for them. Conangelo can’t make that claim and really has done more to hurt the team than he has to help it. I hope that the Sixers can move on from him, but after seeing how the NBA wanted Hinkie gone and the Sixers bowed to that one, I don’t see him leaving. I can hold out hope that he doesn’t completely ruin what’s finally starting to show some promise.
Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports