Why are the Sixers still being haunted by turnovers?

Ben Simmons
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 05: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Ben Simmons (25) looks toward the net during warmups before the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 05, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Turnovers have plagued the Sixers for what feels like an eternity. They’re like ‘sloppy joes’ when it comes to taking care of the ball. The only difference between them and ‘sloppy joes’ is that the Sixers tend to leave a bad taste in your mouth. The team’s ceiling is capped as long as turnovers remain a staple of their offense. 

The Sixers have only ranked outside of the bottom ten teams in turnovers once since the 2013-14 season. They ranked dead last in turnovers in four out of those eight seasons. Many thought the turnovers were a Brett Brown issue but that myth has been debunked. The Sixers rank 28th in turnovers this year, averaging 17.4 per game under Doc Rivers. Here’s a breakdown of the roster and their turnover averages this season in descending order:

Ben Simmons- 4.2 

Joel Embiid- 3.2

Tobais Harris- 2.3 

Furkan Korkmaz- 2.0

Dwight Howard- 1.9

Danny Green- 1.7

Shake Milton- 1.7

Seth Curry- 1.5

Paul Reed- 1.3

Tyrese Maxey- 0.9

Mike Scott- 0.4

Isaiah Joe- 0.4

Matisse Thybulle- 0.4

Vincent Poirier- 0.3

Tony Bradley- 0.2 

Terrance Ferguson- 0.2 

Dakota Mathias- 0.1

The main culprits stand out very clearly. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are responsible for 42.5% of the teams’ total turnovers.

It should be noted that Embiid is putting up the second-lowest turnover rate in his five-year career while in the midst of an MVP campaign. Simmons, on the other hand, is posting his highest turnover rate while having arguably the worst offensive year of his Sixers tenure. He accounts for 50 out of 243 total turnovers for the Sixers which is roughly 20.5% of the team’s total turnovers. A lot of math, I know. However, it is important to get the whole picture here. 

Simmons is a big part of the Sixers turnover problems, although there are other issues that I will get to later. The Aussie has seemed to lack confidence this season and his high turnover rate could be a result of that. When attacking the paint, Simmons often finds himself jumping in the air with nowhere to go and kicking it out which usually results in a turnover. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

In previous seasons we would have seen Simmons put his head down, attack the paint and attempt to finish. This year, Simmons is avoiding contact as much as possible. Along with the high amount of turnovers, he’s only attempting 4.8 free throw attempts per game which is the second-lowest mark of his career and the lowest since his rookie season. He’s also shooting a career-worst 50% from the field and attempting a career-low 9.2 shot attempts per game. The lack of confidence from Simmons is glaring. Like any regular person, Simmons’ lack of confidence could be contributing to his poor performance at work. 

However, Simmons isn’t the only player that’s dragging the Sixers down the turnover ladder. They have made Joel Embiid the sole focus of their offense this year and rightfully so. Embiid is the most dominant post player in the league. The issue with running the offense through the post is that the team doesn’t have many players who can effectively make an entry pass to Embiid when he is on the block. Trying to force the ball down to Embiid can really rack up the turnovers for the team due to their lack of ball handlers and adequate passers.

The Sixers’ turnover issue isn’t just one person’s problem though. They have to perform better as a team and figure out how to integrate Simmons more into the offense. He’s been an unwilling scorer this season but perhaps putting him in better positions to do so could boost his confidence and actually encourage him to put more points on the board. As dominant as Embiid is, Simmons has found it to be a difficult adjustment becoming the Robin to Joel Embiid’s Batman. 

On top of this, Simmons was nearly traded for James Harden just a few days ago. Being a part of trade rumors surely hasn’t helped his confidence either. The Sixers need to make Simmons aware that he is just as important to the team’s offense and long term future as Joel Embiid. Doing so could bring back the Ben Simmons of old and help reduce his turnovers. 

The Sixers would also do well to bring in more ball-handlers to help relieve some of the playmaking pressure off of Ben Simmons. Adding more capable ball-handlers to the team will also help the offense flow much more smoothly and feel less clunky. The Sixers are already one of the best teams in the league. Cleaning up their turnover mess and showing more composure on the court would catapult the Sixers into the favorites conversation. 

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire