After a lackluster performance against the 13-29 Atlanta Hawks, the 76ers received some much-well warranted criticism. The Sixers allowed the Hawks, who are currently 20th in the league in points per game with 109, to put up 123 on the night. The Sixers were also torched by rookie Kevin Huerter, who finished the night with a career-high 29 points. They were also outmatched on the glass, losing the rebound battle 44-30. To put it in simple terms, the 76ers played with a lack of energy and urgency.
Joel Embiid sat out the game with some ankle soreness. While missing a player of Embiid’s caliber definitely hurt the team, they still shouldn’t have lost to the Hawks, especially with two other top 25 players still on the team. This loss really highlighted a lot red flags that many non-casual fans had already been worried about.
After being 3rd in defensive rating last season, the Sixers have slipped to 12th. After being an elite defensive-minded team, the Sixers suddenly find themselves in the middle of the pack.
Night in and night out, opposing guards and wings seem to crush their previous career highs and set new ones on the Sixers. Although they have three elite defenders in Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons,and Joel Embiid, the rest of the team seems to have trouble staying in front of the ball at times.
In a statement reflecting on the team’s recent loss in Washington, Brett Brown said, “It was disturbing watching our bench guard.” It really is that simple. The Sixers second unit just isn’t getting the job done, which leads me to my next point.
The Sixers current primary backup five consists of T.J. McConnell, Landry Shamet, Furkan Korkmaz, Jonah Bolden and Mike Muscala. While Shamet has been a pleasant surprise, the rest of the group has been underwhelming to say the least. Their second unit currently has a 48.6 offensive rating (29th), 49.1 defensive rating (2nd) and a -0.5 net rating (15th). For the most part, these aren’t numbers you want to see coming from a bench on a team with championship aspirations.
The Sixers lack of two-way wings and a true back up big man has hurt the team in games against the East’s elite, which consists of Toronto, Milwaukee and Boston. The Sixers are currently 1-5 against those 3 teams. They have experienced bench players who can provide quality minutes without falling a step behind when the starters need a break. The Sixers don’t have those type of guys.
The loss to the Hawks puts a lot of pressure on Elton Brand and the rest of the front office. While there are certainly moves that need to be made, and quickly, they shouldn’t rush and make a bad move just for the sake of making one. As Sixers fans know, patience is a virtue.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports