Five shots: How do the Sixers look at the end of the season?


Is Joel Embiid hitting the wall as the Sixers get later in to the season?
This late in the season isn’t a good time for Joel Embiid to be slowing down. As the Sixers prepare for a possible playoff run, the center has looked a little sluggish at times. Embiid is averaging 31.3 minutes per game and has appeared in 52 of the Sixers 63 games so far this season. As they were going to limit his minutes early in the season, the Sixers seemed to abandon that approach shortly after Embiid made comments saying that he felt like he could be out there more. So, what is the issue lately?

Nothing really. He’s still averaging close to his season norm of 23 points and 11 rebounds per game. He’s actually shooting better of his past ten games, slightly up at 50% from his season average of 48%. But, it’s the end of the year and lots of players will slow down a bit. Joel can take some time and a less minutes, so that he’s ready for the playoffs if it’s needed at the end of the regular season. The patience in “The Process” has appeared to pay off for Embiid and the Sixers as he’s currently in the running for Defensive Player of the Year and has been the focal point of the Sixers return, possibly, to the playoffs.


Can Ben Simmons lock up the Rookie of the Year Award as the season winds down?
Ben Simmons has been doing all of his normal Ben Simmons things lately. His scoring in the past few games has dipped to around 14 points per game, but he’s averaging close to 10 assists and 8 rebounds as well over the past five games. Donavan Mitchell has seen his scoring going up of late as he’s close to 20 points a game, but he’s still taking, on average, 4 more shots per game than Simmons.

The thing with Mitchell is that he’s the focal point of the Jazz offense and he’s going to take a lot of shots. Where he falls behind Simmons is the other stuff like assists and rebounds. He’s four behind Simmons in each of those categories as well as trailing Ben in steals and blocks. Lately, the media have cooled on their promotion of Mitchell, but he’s still the name that jumps out as they want to push someone other than the Sixers star. Last year, it should be noted, that Dario Saric was the most consistent and better player, but when voting, the media said it’s not all about scoring, you need to do the other stuff as well. Malcolm Brogdon actually only beat Saric, by two, in assists, other than that Saric topped him in the big three stats. The Bucks made the playoffs, the Sixers didn’t, and the award went to Brogdon.

This year, the Sixers on the verge of the playoffs in the East while the Jazz are currently 10th in the West. We’ll have to wait and see, but overall, the award should go to Simmons and if he continues his late season run, it shouldn’t even be a question.


Where in the world is Markelle Fultz?
Fultz videos appear daily on the internet and he’s seen shooting short and long-range jump shots. His shooting motion seems much more fluid and in line with what he did in college. His athletic ability is still there as there are also a lot of videos of him dunking in pregame workouts and warmups. So, why are the Sixers holding him out still? Not wanting to disrupt the flow of the team is understandable, but he’s not someone that’s a mid-level talent who may cause issues. He’s the #1 overall pick in the past draft who has very good defensive instincts and can score on his own or off open looks, which is something Ben Simmons is good at getting his teammates.

His defense would be a welcome addition to a team that’s fourth overall in defensive efficiency rating this year and his energy would help down the stretch as the team has been falling apart on both sides of the ball, late in games. The only answer, really, is that Bryan Colangelo is betting that what’s worked for Simmons and Embiid (sitting out a year) is going to work for Fultz. But, that’s detrimental to the team as well as Fultz, who is probably having a hard time just being a pregame participant and sitting in a suit for the actual games. Whether or not Fultz sees any action is strictly on BC and it’s time to get him in the games. He can’t be worse than the minutes being given to Amir Johnson, Ilyasova, or Belinelli. His scoring would add a lot to the teams second unit and his defense would keep them from falling apart late in games. Let’s hope that BC gets his head out of his backside, just enough to see that Fultz can help the team, NOW.


Can Super Dario find the playoff princess?
While much has been made of the signings of Ilyasova and Belinelli, Dario Saric is the guy that’s stepped up as the season has gone on. Over his past five games Saric is averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds. The big thing with Saric is that he’s shooting 50% from three-point land and 56% overall through these games. He’s coming up big when the Sixers need him and continuting his late season brilliance from last year. Take away a poor shooting game in Charlotte and Dario is averaging almost 21 points a game lately. Very impressive for the 3rd or 4th option on offense. The Sixers will need him to continue this level of play throughout the end of the regular season and into the playoffs if they intend to make any sort of run through the playoffs this year. All of the talk that people have of sending him and some picks to the Spurs for Kahwi Leonard are ridiculous as he’s become a valuable piece of the Sixers puzzle and “Process”.



Is JJ Redick elite?
JJ Redick was recently called one of the best three-point shooters of all time. I had to look that up because I couldn’t believe it. While he’s been very good, I didn’t realize just how good he’s been. In terms of attempts and makes, he’s 31st on the All-Time list of three-point shooters, but in terms of shooting percentage, JJ ranks 4th all-time. More impressive than I’ve been giving him credit for. The list of top fifty all-time is littered with names that you would associate with being great shooters, although Jason Terry makes the list with a horrible shooting percentage, but he’s a gunner and has taken the 4th most attempts all-time. Lately, JJ has been shooting 50% from three and that’s what he was brought in to do. Knock down the shots that need to be. It’s a shame that we focus on the misses, but in terms of sheer shooting ability, JJ is again an all-time great. This year, his 17 points per game have really helped the Sixers and they’re going to need him come playoff time. The good news for Sixers fans is that JJ wants to be here. Given his huge deal this past off-season, it’s hard to imagine him re-signing anywhere close to that, especially if the Sixers want to make a run at Lebron in free agency, but a more reasonable three or four-year deal might just work since he’s stated he wants to stay and continue playing for the Sixers. Let’s see how BC can screw this one up as well.



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Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports