Where do you start when talking about the Philadelphia 76ers this season? After tonights game, it’s obvious that the team has issues and they’re not being addressed. So, let’s address some of them.
Turnovers continue to be a problem
Tonight, against the Toronto Raptors, the team had twenty-three turnovers. You read that correctly, twenty-three. I don’t understand how a team does that and expects to be successful. AS the point guard, Ben Simmons, is supposed to lead the team and tonight he did exactly that. He finished with eleven turnovers. That’s not a typo either. Simmons had ELEVEN turnovers. It’s absurd to think that you’re supposed to be an elite point guard and you finish a game with ELEVEN turnovers. Simmons was two rebounds away from an insane quadruple double of 11 points, 10 assists, 11 turnovers and 8 rebounds. You’re not going to win many games when the point guard is playing like that. Joel Embiid had four that he’s accustomed to getting and even JJ Reddick got in on the fun by coughing it up three times. The only people that played more than ten minutes without a turnover were Robert Covington and Landry Shamet. Simmons didn’t have it tonight and Brown still had him out on the floor for 34 minutes. He needed an extended rest and reset and that’s not what happened. This team averaging over 15 turnovers per game. Simmons could not hold on to the ball to save his life tonight. It was sloppy from the start to the finish and there’s no other way to say it.
The offense isn’t working
Having someone like Ben Simmons and his other-worldly court vision and passing is supposed to be a benefit to the team. It would, except that every time the Sixers cross mid-court, he’s supposed to give the ball up to Embiid or Amir Johnson, yes that’s right AMIR JOHNSON, out on the perimeter to run the same pick play. The same play. Every time they come down the floor. If your best point guard doesn’t have the ball and he’s not a threat to shoot from the outside, then how do you expect to succeed? That’s a question that only Brett Brown can answer, but I don’t think he really has any idea. If Embiid doesn’t pass to Reddick out of the pick, then he holds it and tries to maneuver closer to the basket. You’re asking your center, who’s supposed to be one of the most dominate big men in the game, to become a guard and put the ball on the floor. Around the basket, within six feet, Embiid is virtually unstoppable.
Outside of that, he’s not a guard and you’re eliminating everyone from the game with those isolation plays. Too many times Embiid loses the ball or doesn’t get off a good shot. It’s not his fault, he’s doing what he’s supposed to. But, it’s also not working. Sure he’s scoring a bunch but the offense shouldn’t be run through the center if he’s not able to recognize double teams quickly enough to pass to the open man. If you have a talent, like Simmons, then he should be allowed to move the ball and the tempo as he sees fit. The offense isn’t running through the best passer on the team though and that’s all on Brown. He needs to figure out how to make it work or adjust to the players that he has. If you’re a screen and three-point shooting team, then you better be able to make the three-pointers.
The three-pointers are not falling
Since I brought it up, let’s talk about it. The team is shooting 33.8% from beyond the three-point line this season. Dario Saric, who’s obviously fatigued, is shooting 23.8% from downtown. Yet, he still keeps chucking up six per game. JJ Reddick is doing his usual 41% from downtown and he’s shooting nine of them per game. The sad part is that, the man everyone loves to hate, Robert Covington is shooting 42% on his 6.9 attempts per game. Emiid is at 23%, Shamet is at 36%, Fultz is at 36% and Mike Muscala is hitting at 40%. Then you have Simmons who has no shooting percentage because he hasn’t taken one this season. Not one. McConell, Korkmaz, Bolden, Johnson? ZERO POINT ZERO. Embiid and Saric are both just bad at it for two guys that are combining to shoot eleven times a game.
Those two represent 29% of the three-pointers taken by the team. Can you expect to win with that type of shooting? Brett Brown seems to think that you can. The team starting five is, on average, close to 6’9” and have an unusual advantage with the height and movement they possess, yet they routinely waste that advantage by playing small ball, with lots of movement (often too much) and not enough of going inside and getting the easy points. Stop with the obnoxious amount of three pointers per game, you’re not the Warriors.
They don’t play to their strengths
With a team that’s tall and athletic, you would think they would push the pace a little bit more. Actually, you would think that they would push it a lot more. But, they don’t. They slowly bring the ball up court and get ready to set their screen offense, that doesn’t work. It’s frustrating to watch. Simmons doesn’t have any attack in him. Teams are backing off him and daring him to shoot from outside, which we’ve established, he is simply not going to do. But, with his speed and ability, he should be driving the lane a lot more and looking to attack the rim. He doesn’t. Is he afraid or does Brett Brown ave him so locked in to setting up a failing offense that it’s not part of his game. I know that it’s early in the season, but this is when the team should be adjusting and utilizing the talent that they have. Fultz and Simmons are athletic point guards. Covington can get good penetration. Joel Embiid is a beast in the low post. Why wouldn’t you have these guys driving the ball? It would at least help to have the two point guards using the penetration to draw defenders in and open up the three-point shooters for better shots.
The Fultz/Simmons experiment is failing
As Brown let everyone know to start the season, Fultz would be starting with Reddick coming off the bench. So, you as well as every team in the NBA knows, the Sixers now have two point guards on the floor that don’t shoot. At least Fultz is trying when he’s on the court and that’s all that you can ask. Keep taking them shots. But, Simmons is not doing anything that’s not within eight feet of the net. Since the both play the same position at the same time, are they at least being used correctly? No. Brown still runs the offense through Embiid out on the perimeter and basically relegates the team to three on five basketball with two guys standing outside just watching. They’ve already committed to getting Amir Johnson close to twelve minutes per game as he takes up the minutes that Embiid is sitting, at the center position.
So, why not start Muscala at the power forward spot and Reddick at the two guard? This gives you more quality shooting as Muscala is hitting threes at a 40% clip and his defense is way beyond anything that Saric can do. It will alow for Ben to be surrounded by three quality outside shooters to go along with himself and Embiid. This would also put Fultz directly in charge of the second unit. He’s not going to see as many minutes per game, but he would see quality playing time with Johnson at center, Saric in the four spot, as well as Landry Shamet, who’s shown that even if he’s not shooting great right now, he’s not afraid to take some shots. You could even throw Korkmaz on the floor with a completely new a fresh unit to see what he can bring to the table because he’s not doing a thing in the five minutes he’s getting per game right now. Fultz could actually run the offense and we’ll be able to see how he handles it. A lot of people are calling for Simmons to take Saric’s spot at the power forward position but, right now, that isn’t the best option for the team, especially with the height and play that Muscala has been providing since his return.
Brett Brown is a big part of the problem
All of these issues can’t all be laid at the feet of the players, even though they’re the ones that are on the floor. Brown has to take a lot of the blame. It’s like watching Andy Reid when he would script the first ten plays of the game and then watch other teams feast on the Eagles if they didn’t adjust to the defenses. Recently, when you watch the Sixers on the court, you can start to see them get in to a rhythm. That’s usually the part of the game where Brown starts making haphazard substitutions. Saric can miss ten shots in the opening quarter and still plays close to ten minutes, while Fultz can make a couple of quality plays and gets taken out within the first six minutes. Simmons could be losing the ball all over the court, as he did in Toronto tonight, and he’s still on the floor. Brown doesn’t recognize when he should be making some changes. Get them off the floor, let them get their head together and then put them back in when they’ve had some rest and hope they can start over fresh. Instead, you get ridiculous substitutions like when Embiid scores ten points and has the other team questioning whether to drive inside and you pull him out to put Johnson in. On top of the poor rotation and the offense that just doesn’t work with this group of players, he seems to have lost sight of what got them to the top of the Eastern Conference last season and that was their defense. Last year their defense was ranked third in the league, this year it’s thirteenth. They’re allowing 111.3 point per game to opposing teams and that number jumps to 120.4 when the Sixers don’t play at home. It’s sad. The team has completely lost its way.
Looking at all of this is giving, not just me but, all the Sixers fans headaches. The team that everyone was so excited for to start the season, doesn’t look anything like the one that played last year. Actually, they look exactly like the one that got outplayed by Boston in the playoffs, but not the regular season version that had everyone believing that the Process was starting to pay off. We can bitch and moan about all the things that they didn’t do correctly in the past, whether it’s the draft, not signing free agents, making bad trades, or signing poor players (where have you gone Jerryd Bayless?), but none of that makes a difference right now. What needs to happen and happen quickly is that the team gets straightened out.
Everyone likes to talk about how it’s early in the season and that they can still pull it together, which is true. What they’re not looking at is that the problems are becoming more glaring and more consistent with each passing game. If the issues aren’t addressed quickly then they will continue to spiral out of control and we won’t have to worry about how the Sacramento Kings are doing because we’ll be back in the lottery at the end of this year. It’s up to the coach to fix the problems. We’ve allowed Brett Brown to get by because he’s had poor players through the start of the “process” but there’s no excuses now. With each passing game, with each poor shooting performance, with each lost turnover, it’s looking more and more like Brown got lucky last season and that we’re seeing that he’s just not that good of a coach.
Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports