76ers

Give and Go: Biggest takeaway from Sixers season so far

uspresswire-ap-sixers-fultz-simmons-saric.jpg
USA Today Images/AP Images

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.

Watch NBC Sports BetCast for live betting analysis during Sixers vs. Pelicans

Watch NBC Sports BetCast for live betting analysis during Sixers vs. Pelicans

Marc Farzetta, Tyrone Johnson and betting expert Brad Feinberg will host NBC Sports BetCast Friday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ during the Sixers' game vs. the Pelicans. 

It will be the third of 10 BetCast broadcasts this season on NBCSP+, with Marc Zumoff, Alaa Abdelnaby and Serena Winters calling the game simultaneously on NBCSP.

The BetCast broadcast will focus on real-time sports betting data and provide live analysis on the odds.

Will the total score be over or under 223 points? How many points will JJ Redick score in his return to Philadelphia? After making two three-pointers Thursday night in Boston, how many will Joel Embiid hit tonight?

Farzetta, Feinberg and Johnson will break it all down as the game unfolds Friday night.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers vs. Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

After the Sixers' win over the Celtics on Thursday night at TD Garden, they're one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NBA, along with the Heat. Miami hosts the 22-3 Lakers on Friday night.

The 19-7 Sixers can move to 14-0 at Wells Fargo Center tonight with a win over the 6-19 Pelicans.

Here are tonight’s essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia (NBC Sports BetCast on NBCSP+)
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

No Horford again 

Al Horford will miss his second consecutive game with left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness.

The regular starting lineup was briefly intact for Tuesday's win over the Nuggets in Richardson's first game back after a six-game absence because of a hamstring injury, but that didn't last long.

Mike Scott took Horford’s place Thursday and played well in his second start of the season, scoring 15 points and making 5 of 7 three-pointers.

“I just do my job,” Scott told reporters. “Catch and shoot, move the ball, play hard on defense. Same role when I come off the bench, so it's pretty easy.”

Joel Embiid, after a 38-point, 13-rebound night against the Celtics, is not listed on the NBA’s official injury report, so it looks like he’ll play in the second game of this back-to-back.

Redick is back in the building 

JJ Redick is set to play his first game against the Sixers since signing a two-year, $26.5 million with the Pelicans this summer.

Though the Sixers’ offense has missed Redick’s outside shooting, savvy screening and two-man game with Embiid, the team's three-point numbers have not taken an extreme dip. 

The Sixers are shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range, sixth in the NBA.

Redick had interesting insights on the Sixers’ post-heavy offense, Joel Embiid’s maturity and more after the Pelicans’ shootaround (see story).

The Zion-less Pelicans are struggling 

No. 1 pick Zion Williamson is with the Pelicans, but he’s sidelined as he recovers from surgery on his right knee.

Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said Friday that Williamson is on schedule and the team doesn’t want to rush his return.

New Orleans comes into Philadelphia on a 10-game losing streak and has the third-worst defensive rating in the NBA. Former Sixers Redick, Jrue Holiday and Jahlil Okafor feature for the Pelicans, while Brandon Ingram is having a career year.

The 22-year-old Ingram, who was traded from the Lakers to New Orleans this summer along with Villanova product Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball, is averaging 24.9 points per game and shooting 40.8 percent from three-point range. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers