The Sixers‘ bench has put together one great game after another, turning one of the biggest liabilities from last year, into one of the best assets on the team.
With a slew of injuries and COVID-19 protocols, many of the bench pieces have had to step into the starting lineup as of late and have performed at solid enough levels thanks in large part to the progression of last years players and in large part to the two main acquisitions made by Daryl Morey in free agency.
The New Additions
Andre Drummond has been one of the most underrated signings in all of free agency. With a minimum contract as his price tag, Kareem Abdul-Drummond has established himself as the best backup center that Joel Embiid has ever had. Drummond is putting up 7.5 points per game, 11.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks in almost 22 minutes per game over the course of 13 games.
Drummond has also started 6 games this season, providing legitimate security for when Joel misses any games. Over these 6 starts, Drummond has played 29.8 minutes per game, scoring 11.0 points per game and securing an astronomical 15.7 rebounds per game, along with 2.8 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. The double-double machine has secured 4 double-doubles this season in 4 out of his 6 starts.
King Georges has been amazing in a million different ways. Georges has been chucking up three after three, draining 39.3% from beyond the arc on a ridiculous volume of 5.6 three-pointers attempted per game. The Minivan has played in 15 games this season and has solidified himself as an astronomical upgrade over Mike Scott. This season, Niang is scoring 11.7 points per game on 43.9/39.3/90.9 percent shooting. Niang has been one of the key factors in the Sixers’ improvement on both volume and makes this season.
I have no idea why the Utah Jazz decided they didn’t want to keep Georges Niang, but for 6.7 million dollars over two years, the Jazz deserves the biggest thank you not of all time.
Those Who Have Progressed
BBall Paul has come straight out of the mud and gone from a fun project to a potential steady bench contributor. Paul started a very important game against the Chicago Bulls where he put up 10 points and 9 rebounds to go with a block and a steal.
While Reed may not be a day in day out type contributor, he has taken a jump forward this year, providing legitimate playing time for a team being ravaged by injuries.
Furkan Korkmaz has come back down to earth lately, as his field goal percentage and 3 point percentage have both taken a dip from where it was early in the season, but his value to the team is still at an all-time high. Korkmaz’s current shooting split is 38.6/34.1/88.9, a far cry from the high levels of efficiency posted earlier in the season. Even with his decreasing efficiency, Korkmaz is still posting a career-high in points per game with 11.4.
He also has career highs in three-pointers made per game (2.2), and three-pointers attempted per game (6.5). Furkan’s volume is still extremely valuable as eventually all of those threes attempted will convert to three-pointers made. Korkmaz is also contributing 2.9 assists per game and 3.0 rebounds per game, both career highs for the sharpshooter.
If we exclude games where Steph Turkey was starting, we can see that the extra attention received from starting has been one of the main contributors to his decrease in inefficiency. In the 10 games Korkmaz has played on the bench, Korkmaz’s shooting splits increase to 40.2/38.2/87.5 with 5.5 three-pointers attempted per game. Korkmaz also contributes 2.7 assists per game and 2.7 rebounds per game when off of the bench.
Shake Milton hasn’t been able to get his three-pointer going this season, but his return has been a blessing in nearly every other way. While he may currently be shooting 25% from three, his two-pointer percentage is actually higher this year than last, posting a 51.7%, the second-highest of his career.
In the 11 games he has played this year, Milton has started 4 of them, contributing 12.5 points per game and a career-high in both assists and rebounds with 3.2 in each category. His return has given the Sixers their potential Sixth Man of the Year and bench flamethrower back in the lineup. His existence and health give the Sixers a player to keep the bench scoring alive.
The best defender on the 76ers, Matisse Thybulle, has been limited to only 9 games this season, two of which he started, thanks to COVID-19. During his time on the court, though, Thybulle has been an absolute defensive menace, posting career highs in steals and blocks.
Thybulle is ripping 2.3 steals per game and 1.7 blocks per game, single-handedly becoming a one-man wrecking crew on defense. Thybulle also leads the team in deflections per game by a massive margin with 3.8 deflected passes per game. Second place is Danny Green with 2.3 deflections per game.
What It Means
This is a truly dangerous Sixers bench, that of which we haven’t seen in a long time. With so many great role players, the Sixers have been really stepping up in ways many of us couldn’t imagine, and this doesn’t even include the potential in guys like Isaiah Joe, who had a fantastic preseason, or Charles Bassey, who could become a legitimate piece of this team eventually.
This doesn’t include Tyrese Maxey, the blossoming star point guard, because of the unfortunate circumstances with Ben Simmons forcing Maxey into the starting lineup. This team and bench are built extremely well with the chemistry and skill to keep us in any game.