76ers

No easy fix for Sixers' turnover woes

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No easy fix for Sixers' turnover woes

The Sixers turn the ball over too much. Everyone knows it, and they want to fix the problem. So why do they keep giving their opponents extra possessions, as they did in Tuesday's loss to the Pacers?

There are a few reasons, the most obvious being youth. The Sixers’ point guard, Ben Simmons, is a 21-year-old, albeit a supremely talented one who tied Magic Johnson Tuesday by posting the seventh triple-double of his rookie season. And the guy they turn to most for offense down the stretch, Joel Embiid, is still figuring out how to deal with the swarming defense and double-teams opponents throw at him.

“I think it’s hard to expedite people’s birth certificate,” Brett Brown said. “I think you’re seeing young guys, if you go to who and where, we have to get better with some individuals. As a team, we have to get better. Some of it I have to own. When you look at the trending that’s been going on, say after the All-Star Break, I think we have been improving. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”

Brown is correct the Sixers have improved with turnovers, at least until the past two games. In the first nine games after the break, the Sixers turned the ball over just 12.7 times per game, a substantial improvement from their season average of an NBA-worst 17.2.

“I think some of them were self-inflicted,” Brown said. “I’d be curious to go back and watch the tape and see how many of the turnovers were in the first three to four seconds of the shot clock; some of the decisions to make passes in early offense did not help us. And some of the turnovers I give Indiana credit for. But we can almost sort of all go home after that statement that turnovers were the single thing that I think influenced this game.”

There’s no doubt the Sixers could have beaten the Pacers without so many turnovers. The Sixers had 20 fewer field-goal attempts than the current No. 3 seed in the conference and they still lost by three points. If you’re the positive type, that’s encouraging. Still, it’s not a winning formula.

“We dug ourselves in a pretty good hole turnover-wise,” T.J. McConnell said. “You can’t beat a team with that many turnovers.

“It comes from being unselfish. Some of the plays we’re trying to make the extra pass and that’s the kind of guys we have, trying to get the best available shot, but sometimes that’s not the right shot. We’ll live with us being unselfish, but you just got to take care of it.”

It’s not realistic to expect the Sixers to solve this problem overnight. Especially given the pace they play (fifth-fastest in the league), they’re not going to be a low-turnover team anytime soon.

But it’s reasonable to think that, with a few tweaks, they can trend closer to their recent stretch with 12.7 turnovers per game than their 21 giveaways against the Pacers.

Whether it’s being a little more selfish, being smarter early in the shot clock or simply continuing to grow up, nights like Tuesday can become more and more uncommon.

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

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Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

What exactly is going on with the Sixers?

After missing out on LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and any and all superstar free agents this summer, even their bench, fill-out-the-roster type of guys are dodging the Sixers like a plague.

The latest being forward Nemanja Bjelica, who was in Philly (but not really) for just a bit longer than Eagle-for-a-second Frank Gore.

Bjelica, 30, reportedly agreed to a deal with the Sixers on July 5, providing a boost off the bench and an upgrade over Ersan Ilyasova. 

That was all grand until Tuesday, when news broke that Bjelica had spurned the Sixers and was going back to Europe, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

But in the greatest (or lamest) twist in a strange and sad offseason for the Sixers, Bjelica is now looking to stay in the NBA and is working toward a deal with the Sacramento Kings, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania. That can't be right. No one would willingly sign with the Kings.

Bjelica posted career bests in points (6.1) and three-point percentage (41.5) last season. While he would have been a nice bench addition, it's not the end of the world. But it sure isn't a great look that the Sixers were toyed with and lost out to a lowly team like the Kings. 

After the Bryan Colangelo debacle and the star-hunting strikeout, we're officially at the "Player X would rather sign with the Kings" stage of the offseason.

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What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

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What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

LeBron James is a Laker. Kawhi Leonard is a Raptor.

The Sixers went star hunting and came up empty. So now what for a team that won 52 games but is likely one more superstar away from winning a title?

You may not like this answer, but the correct course of action is … nothing — at least not this offseason.

The only star that could possibly be available is the Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler — if you choose to believe the rumors. Butler, who is an outstanding two-way player, will be 29 entering next season and has an expiring deal. He already forced his way out of Chicago and reportedly wants to force his way out of Minnesota. How much are you giving up for that?

On a smaller scale, the Sixers lost Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to sign with the team for the mid-level exception. The Serbian forward decided instead to take his talents back to the EuroLeague. Bjelica certainly wasn’t a star but he appeared to be a solid bench piece that might’ve actually been an upgrade from Ersan Ilyasova. So what should the Sixers do with their MLE?

Nothing — again, at least this year.

Who do you want that’s left? Joe Johnson? Michael Beasley? Jamal Crawford? That’s three hard no’s for me.

The Sixers should go into camp with what they have and let the competition play out. Maybe they’ll figure out what to do with Jerryd Bayless’ deal or waive Richaun Holmes or sign Jonah Bolden or make a small trade, but this roster is mostly set. And that’s fine.

This team, that again won 52 games, should be better. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should only improve. Markelle Fultz can only go up. Dario Saric took a huge leap in Year 2 and we know the kind of worker he is. Wilson Chandler is an upgrade over any player the Sixers had on the bench last year, especially when you factor in defense.

They’re not the favorites to win the East, nor should they be. But that’s fine. With the Warriors continuing to load up and James now out West, what chance does any team in the East have? (Zero is the answer, by the way). 

Fast forward to next offseason. Leonard, Butler, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are among a loaded free-agent class. Any one of those players would be a fit and a huge upgrade for the Sixers and they’d be joining the team at the right time. Embiid and Simmons will both be a year more mature and developed and the Warriors will be a year older with their cap situation tighter.

As for the MLE, if the Sixers go star hunting again next offseason and wind up with someone like Leonard, they could use it on a ring-chasing, veteran mercenary. That’s much more valuable than one year of Johnson, Beasley or Crawford on a team that doesn’t have a realistic shot at a title next year.

Brett Brown may have set a tough bar for the offseason. When he did his now infamous star-hunting presser, it raised expectations from the fan base. Since the Sixers came up empty in their quest, most look at the offseason as a bad one.

There’s no nice way to put it: Missing out on James and Leonard sucks for the Sixers. But all is far from lost. Name another team in the NBA that has two superstars the caliber of Embiid and Simmons both under the age of 24. You can’t because such a team does not exist.

Would the Sixers have been better off if they landed a star this offseason? Of course. But now knowing that they swung and missed, their best course of action is inaction — for now.

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