Sixers midseason report card: Grading the Centers

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With the Sixers’ season starting to pick up speed, it’s time to evaluate the progress of the team at the halfway stage. Today, it’s all about the bigs! If you missed the first installment of our midseason report card, check it out here: 

Joel Embiid: 23.4pts, 12.3reb, 3.3ast

GRADE: B

I struggled to decide whether Joel Embiid deserved a B+ on the year or just a B. Embiid’s numbers are once again above All-Star level. He has never averaged less than 20 points-per-game in his career and that trend looks to continue this year.

There are a few things working against the Sixers star Center. Unfortunately, Embiid is hurt yet again, after tearing his radial collateral ligament in his fourth metacarpal. This injury joins a long list Embiid has suffered in his young basketball career.

Embiid was recently cleared for non-contact drills but he’s not ready to rejoin the team on the court, at least, not yet. He will be reevaluated this week and we should have a better idea of a timetable after that.

Even more concerning than the injury is Embiid’s lack of growth. He’s seeing career lows in points and blocks per 36 minutes two of the areas he typically impacts the most. The drop in points wouldn’t be too concerning except that it’s partnered by a drop in efficiency also.

Embiid certainly has time to turn this around but it’s extremely important that he comes back strong from this injury.

Al Horford: 12.5pts, 6.5reb, 4.0ast

Grade: C

When the Sixers signed Al Horford this past offseason, it looked to be a brilliant move by Elton Brand and in theory, it was. Horford, a multi-time All-Star, can still play at a high level and is known as a terrific locker room presence. The idea made sense but the fit, not so much. It was obviously worth going for it as you had to make the absolute most of the cap space the team had, but it hasn’t been as clean a fit as hoped.

Horford has struggled to find his fit in the offense which is partly on him, partly on Brett Brown. All of Horford’s shooting numbers are way down which is the scariest part of all. Horford joined a team with a lot of top-heavy talent so it would make sense that he would score a bit less, rebound less, but the percentages are concerning to say the least.

Many Sixers fans have discussed the idea of trading Horford because of his seemingly bad fit on the team. For the right deal? Sure, very few players in the NBA are truly “untouchable”. Horford’s bloated contract, his age, and lack of performance are reasons it would make sense to move on but what if you could improve his play and decide on a trade later on?

Horford is in a way limited offensively, not to say he is a bad offensive player but he has his niche and that’s okay. Al Horford is far from the Sixers go-to option on offense, he is so far down the list that he is asked to do things that are uncomfortable for him offensively. One way Brett Brown could fix that would be by move Horford to the bench.

Signing a Center to a four-year $109 million contract only to be a backup won’t go well with the fan-base but it may be what’s best for the team. If the Sixers can add that stud bench piece (Derrick Rose), pairing that player with Horford on the second unit will allow Horford to play the position he should and give him plenty of opportunities to find his groove offensively. Horford thrives on pick-and-rolls but with Embiid and Simmons on the court, it’s not that often that he gets the opportunity.

There are a lot of what-ifs and I fully expect Horford’s grade to be higher by the end of the season but for now, it remains a C.

Kyle O’Quinn: 3.3pts, 3.7reb, 1.5ast

Grade: C+

Kyle O’Quinn is fine, he’s not great, he’s not even good but he serves a purpose as a floor-spacing Center and one of the best teammates in the NBA. He doesn’t see a lot of playing time but his impact is still felt in the locker room and that can’t be overlooked.

He’s not quite a backup Center talent but he’s a great third-string Center which is one more reason to move Horford to the bench. He adds what he can but he is what he is, there’s not much else that can be said about him.

Norvel Pelle: 2.5pts, 3.6reb, 0.5ast

Grade: B

Norvel Pelle has been one of the few pleasant surprises this season. If you don’t know the name, he is on a two-way contract so he splits time between the Sixers and the G-League Deleware Blue Coats. A bouncy shot-blocker Pelle will eventually have a regular role on an NBA roster.

In small doses, Pelle has shined and shown the potential to be a solid backup in this league. The Sixers decided not to sign him to a contract for the rest of the season but he is still on the Sixers/Blue Coat’s books. The Sixers should look to keep him around if they can help it.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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