Off to a strong start, the Sixers need to stop shooting themselves in the foot if they want to take the next step
It is still early on in the season, but the Philadelphia 76ers look the part of a playoff team. The young stars are taking leadership roles, role players are stepping up, and fans are selling out the Wells Fargo Center to see this up and coming squad. Even with all the things the group is doing right, there are some areas of the game that need to be tightened up in order to stay on the path towards the playoffs.
In an incredibly weak Eastern Conference, many have predicted the Sixers finishing the season as high as the fourth seed. That is a real possibility, but the team will need to fix some things in order to even make the playoffs, most notably the turnover problem. The problem was evident from the very start, it was easy to make excuses because the team was incredibly inexperienced, but now after a quarter of a season the problem still remains.
The Sixers are last place in the NBA, averaging a scary 17.5 turnovers per game through 22 games. While the Sixers record doesn’t really show the effects of those turnovers, it could come around to bite them if it isn’t corrected. Joel Embiid, for as much as he is accountable for the Sixers success, is at the forefront of their troubles as well. It seems like whenever the big man puts the ball on the floor it ends up going the other direction on a fast break. Right now Embiid is fourth in the league in turnovers at 4.2 per game, while other franchise cornerstone Ben Simmons is seventh, averaging 3.7 turnovers per game. Giving such a giant offensive load to two young players, mistakes are bound to happen, but giving opponents 18 more attempts to outscore you because of miscues is something that can’t happen going forward.
The problem isn’t lazy ball handling, but more so defenses starting to adjust to the young superstars. Almost every time Joel Embiid has his back to the basket with the ball in his hands he is either drawing a foul or giving the ball up. Why? Joel Embiid is actually too good for his own cause sometimes. His ability to draw fouls so easily forces defenses to send a guard down low to double team him and steal the ball, if Embiid isn’t driving to the lane within about three seconds of getting the ball then he is double teamed immediately. For as good as the seven foot center is with the ball in his hands in transition, more often than not a guard can steal the ball from him when his feet are planted in one spot.
Ben Simmons’ problem with turnovers is a little more complicated. He makes some incredible plays for such a young player, but he also makes some very rookie level mistakes. With a jump shot that is still developing, Simmons’ offensive game thrives from inside, but before he gets to the inside he is usually left alone on the perimeter. That was until recently, when teams realized giving Ben Simmons room to work isn’t a good idea. Making great passes is a lot easier without a player on top of you, something Simmons has figured out lately. With that defender now on top of Simmons a soon as he crosses half court, more errant passes have been a result, giving other teams extra chances. Simmons is still the catalyst of the offense, and has been doing a spectacular job this year, but a rookie curve is to be expected.
It doesn’t help much when the bench is 28th in the league in bench points per game. Averaging an anemic 26.3 points, the bench leaves Simmons and Embiid to work harder, needing to take more chances to make up for the second unit’s flaws, resulting in more turnovers. This turnover problem isn’t totally on Ben and Joel, but they are the two that make this team either sink or swim. A young team like the Sixers are going to have their bumps in the road, and this is the first one.
Side Note: I might just be the leader of the #BringTonyWrotenBackToPhilly movement. Wroten could do everything, and a team can never have enough explosive players off the bench. So let’s bring Tony in on a 10 day contract, and maybe it will even get Jerryd Bayless off of the court