Let’s start by taking a deep breath. The Sixers are going to be fine. The recent loss to the Brooklyn Nets was an extremely disappointing result and brought back flashbacks to the Brett Brown era where back-to-backs were seemingly an insurmountable challenge.
Despite the aesthetically pleasing and fast-paced style of play that has been put on display so far this season, the Sixers offense is far from a finished product. Prior to the Nets game, the Sixers led the league in passes per game. The ball movement was smoother, the spacing has been better, and they have transitioned into a modern NBA team. However, the team is still facing a problem that could cripple their ceiling as a team if they can not learn how to take better care of the basketball.
The Turnover Problem
So far on the season, the Sixers are averaging 15.9 turnovers per game. This ranks 4th worst in the league (ahead of just the Knicks, Bulls, and Heat). Ben Simmons leads the team in this regard with 3.6 TO’s per game, quickly followed by Joel Embiid with 3.1. Given that these two have the ball in their hands the most, and lead the team with 32.8 and 32.6 minutes per game, this is not the biggest concern.
However, next up on this list is Dwight Howard. Dwight averages 2.0 turnovers per game on just 13.5 minutes per game. Furkan Korkmaz also averages 2.0 turnovers on his 18.3 minutes per game. While the distribution of these turnovers amongst the rest of the team is relatively even, the fact that the number is so high is the greatest concern.
In the Nets game, the Sixers turned the ball over 20 times. This was especially concerning as they almost exclusively came from the starters. Embiid and Simmons led the charge with 5 turnovers apiece. Tobias Harris also had 4, Shake Milton had 3, and Danny Green had 2. The last remaining turnover came from Dwight Howard in his 15 minutes of play before he fouled out. Luckily, rookie Tyrese Maxey has kept his turnovers at a minimum.
Sixers’ Bright Spots
There are a few bright spots regarding the turnover conversation. While on the surface the 3.1 TO’s per game that Embiid is averaging may seem like a lot, it is tied for the lowest number of his career. He has shown great improvement passing out of double teams this season and that has become one of the biggest keys to the Sixers overall offense.
There seems to be a never-ending list of positive things when talking about Tyrese Maxey but his ability to take care of the ball is definitely right at the top of this list. Maxey has averaged just 0.6 TO’s per game in his first 8 games of NBA action. In the Nets game, Tyrese was the first player off the bench, playing 21 minutes, scoring 16 points, and turning the ball over 0 times. Doc Rivers had nothing but glowing things when asked about Maxey in the post-game which was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise somber press conference.
How to Fix it?
The turnover issue is a serious problem for the team but one that should work itself out organically. This offseason brought on a major turnover on the roster and this team has still only played just 8 games together. Danny Green was quick to speak on this after the game saying, “We’re still trying to find our identity as a team.”
The 20 turnovers that came in the recent Nets game is the second-highest total on the season, only behind the matchup against the Hornets in which they coughed the ball up 22 times.
That being said, the sooner this issue begins to get resolved the better. Doc Rivers began the offseason talking about how he wanted the 76ers to be a top 10 offensive team, and limiting turnovers will go a long way in accomplishing this goal. Great teams do not turn the ball over and ranking as the 4th-worst team in the league in this category simply doesn’t cut it.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire