Turnovers are not the root cause of all evil.
It’s possible to turn the ball over a lot and still win a lot of games. The Sixers did it last season, in fact. They averaged 16.5 turnovers in their 2017-18 campaign, worst in the NBA, and still won 52 games.
Back on Sep. 17, assistant coach Monty Williams acknowledged that turnovers don’t always correlate with success.
You look at turnovers from a whole league perspective, Golden State won the title last year and they averaged 15.4 turnovers, [26th] in the league. So being in the top five in the turnovers category does not guarantee you a championship. There are a couple of teams, if you study those turnovers, they’ve been in the top five for the past four years and don’t win.
I think there’s a balance. The players today have more creativity than when I played. To allow that creativity to grow, there’s a give and take. Now, what’s the right balance? I’m not quite sure about that. But I do know that being in the top five or even the top 10 in turnovers does not guarantee you success.
Through their first 39 games, the Sixers are 26th in the NBA with 15.6 turnovers. They’re averaging 14.5 turnovers since Jimmy Butler’s arrival, 16th in the league.
While those numbers are an improvement upon last season, the Sixers can reduce their turnovers further.
Let’s look at the types of turnovers the Sixers commit and how they can preserve more possessions.
You can live with it
Plenty of the Sixers’ turnovers are tolerable.
Sometimes a player just slips.
And, if a possession is stagnant, you’d prefer Ben Simmons air balling a fadeaway jumper to him attempting an impossible pass and committing a live-ball turnover.
You can live with the defense making a good play sometimes too, as Rudy Gobert does below, anticipating Joel Embiid’s move and stripping the Sixers’ big man.
The Sixers also still have the occasional turnover that you can partially attribute to teammates still learning how to play with each other.
T.J. McConnell and Jonah Bolden are clearly not on the same page on the play below in Utah.
McConnell is at fault for throwing the ball at Bolden as the rookie turns his back and moves to set a pindown screen for Jimmy Butler, but you can at least understand these type of turnovers involving teammates with minimal experience together.
A fair share of the Sixers’ turnovers come down to simply not valuing the basketball.
Up by 20 points against the Jazz, Ben Simmons sizes up Thabo Sefolosha very casually. This play exemplifies one reason why the Sixers have a troubling tendency of letting opponents back into games.
Simmons has a lot of confidence in his ability on the fast break, as he should — he’s an excellent passer with exceptional vision. But there are times where his instinct that he’s capable of making every pass causes him to be careless with the ball.
There’s not much to be gained by whipping the ball to a well-covered Wilson Chandler in the corner, even if Simmons’ pass is on target. The Sixers don't want to rein in too much of Simmons' creativity, as Williams said, but they also don't want those kinds of turnovers.
Trying to do too much
Like Simmons, Joel Embiid knows he can make special plays.
While his self-belief enables him to Euro-step around defenders, it often leads him to turn over the ball when he eschews the simple read for a more ambitious option.
Below, Embiid is initially double-teamed by Joe Ingles, who then backs off. Embiid dribbles into the middle of the floor, Ingles comes back to help, and an off-balance Embiid belatedly attempts a pass to the cutting Furkan Korkmaz.
The most important thing for Embiid in these situations, as we’ve covered before, is quick, smart decision-making. He can cut down further on turnovers by sometimes overriding his natural tendency to take on multiple defenders.
The Sixers’ non-stars are also occasionally guilty of searching hard for an immediate scoring opportunity where none exists.
McConnell’s failed lob to Jimmy Butler below is a good example. It’s a highlight play if it works, but McConnell would need to execute a perfect pass into a tight window with 19 seconds left on the shot clock.
JJ Redick didn’t look thrilled with his teammates after the turnover on the play below in Portland. You can understand his frustration — right as Redick throws his pass to Furkan Korkmaz, Bolden starts to set a screen for Korkmaz, which throws off the timing of the play.
Still, with Al-Farouq Aminu lurking in Korkmaz’s vicinity and the Sixers down 20 points, Redick is trying to fire a pass cross court as opposed to throwing the simpler pass to Mike Muscala in the right corner or setting up a half-court possession.
Though fewer turnovers don't guarantee more success, it doesn't hurt your chances. The Sixers don't need any radical changes — they have the fourth-best offensive rating in the league since Butler's debut. There are, however, very avoidable turnovers that they can eliminate.
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