The Sixers are currently 34-21 sitting in the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The team has disappointed a bit but the East is much more difficult than it was last year. The team also has plenty of time to climb up the playoff seeding with 27 games left in the season.
With the NBA still on a break after the All-Star game, let’s take back at five thoughts from the season so far:
1. Simmons Taking Steps Forward
Ben Simmons started the season looking like he had regressed. By December 1st, Simmons was only averaging 12.9 PPG, 6.9 TRB, and 8.3 AST which, while a quality stat-line, is a major drop from last season. Things started to pick up for Simmons in December and He’s really taken off since the start of 2020.
Simmons has his averages up to 16.9 PPG, 7.9 TRB, and 8.3 AST. Most impressive is that he’s increased his scoring by four points-per-game without seeing a decrease in his assists. The numbers for Simmons in 2020 are eye-popping; he currently boasts averages of 21.3 PPG, 9.4 TRB, and 7.9 AST. Few players are able to put up those types of numbers but what’s crazy about Simmons this season is that he’s been even better defensively.
Last season, Ben Simmons showed off his potential to become one of the best defenders in the NBA, a Defensive Player of the Year Candidate. This year, Simmons has delivered on that potential. Always active in the passing lanes, Simmons has improved to an average of 2.2 steals-per-game which leads the NBA. Simmons does struggle against smaller quicker guards like Kemba Walker and Spencer Dinwiddie, but he’s been called upon to defend some of the best wing players in the game (Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James).
Simmons surprisingly still has room to grow even more as a defender, something he could even achieve by the end of this season. The growth Ben Simmons has seen may not include a jump-shot, but in almost every other area of the game, Ben Simmons is among the NBA’s best.
2. Thybulle and Korkmaz Are Here to Stay
Since the Sixers drafted him, Matisse Thybulle has been exactly as advertised. A true 3-and-D player, Thybulle has found his role much sooner than expected. His stats may not be eye-popping but his impact is clear. Thybulle has shown himself to already be a premier defender in the NBA. He gambles a lot but he does so for good reason. Thybulle ranks first in steals-per-game among all rookies and second in total blocks among rookies. A clear difference-maker defensively, the icing on top has been Thybulle’s three-point shot. Currently averaging over 37% from deep, Thybulle is already a capable shooter and has time to further develop his shot.
Korkmaz has been on a mission this season to prove himself as an NBA player and has certainly accomplished that feat. It was a difficult couple of years for Korkmaz, he was drafted due to his shooting potential but struggled to find time on the court. This was so disappointing for Korkmaz that he actually requested a trade last season but thankfully, he remained a Sixer. A free-agent in the off-season, Korkmaz had difficulty landing a contract and was near a move overseas when the Sixers offered him a modest deal. Since then Korkmaz has done nothing but prove himself, becoming a talented shooter and improving his defense.
Korkmaz has improved his points-per-game and his shooting percentages leading to an increased role and chance to show off more and more his talent. Shooting near 40% from deep, Korkmaz has become one of the most relied upon players for a team desperate for shooting. Korkmaz is still under his modest contract next season and between now and then, will have every opportunity to contribute to a contender.
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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports