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Give and Go: Biggest takeaway from Sixers season so far

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we'll take look at the biggest takeaways from the Sixers’ first five games of the season.

Harris
Through five games, it’s clear that the Sixers are a young team with plenty of talent, plenty of work to do and plenty of room to grow. 

My biggest takeaway is that Dario Saric is going to have to get back to at least last year’s level of performance if the Sixers are going to maximize their potential in terms of wins and losses.
 
Saric is clearly still finding his way through five games. He has shot a paltry 33.3 percent from the floor (41.1 last season) and 21.4 percent from three (31.1 last season) so far. He has also posted a true shooting percentage of 39.8 (50.8 percent last season).
 
Saric has to get going, and it’s on Brett Brown to figure out how to get it done. The 23-year-old has yet to hit double figures in a game in points despite two contests in which he’s taken double-digit shots. Against Houston on Wednesday, he took a single shot (a three-pointer) and went scoreless. Saric wasn’t held scoreless a single time in 81 games last season. 

The second unit needs his scoring, rebounding and playmaking. Don’t expect this Sixers team to make a playoff push without way more offensive output from last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up. It’s simply not going to happen.

Hudrick
There were — and still are — many questions surrounding the Sixers. One of the biggest: can Ben Simmons play point guard at the NBA level?

So far, the answer is a resounding yes. Just five games into his rookie season, Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists. The only players to average those numbers through their first five games are Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Connie Hawkins. Pretty solid company.

Another aspect of Simmons' game that has been a pleasant surprise is his defense. There were times against Houston when he was matched up against superstar guard James Harden and held his own. Simmons is an obvious nightmare matchup offensively with his ability to handle and create at 6-foot-10. Defensively, he's just as nightmarish, flashing the ability to guard one through five and using his length to disrupt passing lanes.

There are still plenty of things for Simmons to work on. He has to able to shoot from 12 feet from the basket. He has to finish around the rim. He has to make free throws. He's still just 21. Robertson and Hawkins weren't even in the league until 22.

It's a long season, but the early returns on Ben Simmons as a point guard look extremely promising.

Haughton
Everyone say it with me now: relax.

It’s not even officially Halloween yet and a certain segment of fans are ready to run players — and even the coach — out of town?

You’ve certainly heard some of the criticism. Perhaps it’s even been uttered by you.

Markelle Fultz is a bust. The Sixers should have drafted Jayson Tatum. 

Really? Are you giving up on Fultz after four NBA games? It’s obvious he was playing hurt and trying to tough it out with a shoulder injury, which comes to find out, doesn’t lend itself well to shooting a basketball. What we have also seen is a 19-year-old with a strong ability to get to the basket and a willingness to do whatever is asked of him for the team. 

As for the Tatum chatter, it was pretty well known that he was coming into the league as a more finished product than Fultz but that the guard holds more upside. Still, none of that would even matter on this team with the current construction. Marshall pointed out above how Saric is struggling to find a role with Simmons running the show, so what do you think would be different with Tatum?

Hmmm, what other critiques have we heard? Oh, that Jerryd Bayless needs to go.

This one baffles me the most. The Sixers have had exactly one player in the past five seasons shoot above 40.0 percent from three-point range (Hollis Thompson shot 40.1 percent in 2013-14 and 2014-15). Yet, Bayless is off to 50.0 percent clip from beyond the arc and 46.8 percent from the field, but people want him out.

And we all know about the Amir Johnson opinions. He’s old. He’s slow. Why is he playing over Jahlil Okafor?

Brown made Okafor’s situation quite clear Friday (see story). And when Richaun Holmes returns from his injury, we’ll see Johnson in even smaller doses on the court.

Early performances and games certainly matter just as much as any other time during the season. However, it’s a long season. Let it play out a little bit more before making judgments.