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Sixers film review: How Sixers can further cut down on turnovers

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Sixers film review: How Sixers can further cut down on turnovers

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. 

Sloppiness 

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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Sixers pursued 'high-level, accomplished' executives before hiring Elton Brand as general manager

Sixers pursued 'high-level, accomplished' executives before hiring Elton Brand as general manager

In the wake of the absurd scandal involving Bryan Colangelo and burner Twitter accounts, the Sixers searched for their next general manager and handed Brett Brown the job on an interim basis. Eventually, they promoted Elton Brand.

He was certainly not their first choice, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“When they opened that job up, when Colangelo was gone and before they promoted Elton Brand, they went after any number of high-level, accomplished executives around the league,” Wojnarowski said on The Woj Pod. “They were willing to offer Daryl Morey, Bob Meyers, Dennis Lindsey, Sam Presti. There may have been more.”

Brand’s only previous executive experience was as the GM of the Sixers’ G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats (formerly the 87ers). It makes sense that the Sixers would have preferred more established candidates.

The Sixers were “rebuffed” in their efforts to hire Morey, The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported in July of 2018. A mentor to former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, Morey won the NBA’s Executive of the Year Award in 2018 and is still GM of the Rockets. 

Stein also reported the Sixers “commissioned a clandestine run at prying Myers away from the Warriors that was likewise rebuffed.” Myers has served as the Warriors’ general manger since 2012 and won three championships with the team.

Lindsey is the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Jazz, while Presti has been GM of the Thunder franchise since 2007. 

The Sixers had an interview with former Cavs and current Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin but, according to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, “felt he wasn’t a good fit for their front-office structure” and wanted to “make collaborative decisions instead of a GM who will have the final say.”

In July of 2018, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Amy Fadool, “It’s very consensus-oriented, there’s a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that.”

Wojnarowski noted on the podcast that Harris and the Sixers’ leadership above Brand remain influential.

“Ownership’s got a lot of say in Philly," he said. “You’ve got a group of owners that are involved, that are there. How many team have multiple owners courtside each corner of the arena, each night?

Brand has made several major moves since assuming the GM job in September of 2018, including trading for Jimmy Butler, shipping Markelle Fultz to Orlando, trading for Tobias Harris and then signing him to a five-year, $180 million deal this summer, and giving Al Horford a four-year contract with $97 million guaranteed. At 37-23 this season and 9-21 on the road, Brand’s roster has not performed the way he envisioned. 

Wojnarowski and Max Kellerman also talk about expectations for the rest of the Sixers' season, the history of Sam Hinkie’s Process and more on the podcast, which you can listen to here

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Tobias Harris is blocking out outside noise about big contract, trying to carry Sixers

Tobias Harris is blocking out outside noise about big contract, trying to carry Sixers

When you’re given the largest contract in the history of a storied franchise like the Sixers in the city of Philadelphia, you’re going to face scrutiny.

Tobias Harris has gotten his fair share since inking a five-year, $180 million near-max deal this past offseason. The 27-year-old hasn’t consistently provided the scoring needed to complement Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Though at times, like Thursday night against the Knicks, Harris has looked like the player GM Elton Brand traded for and then chose to re-sign as a franchise cornerstone. 

With Embiid and Simmons both on the shelf, this is the version the Sixers need to see a lot more of.

“At the beginning of the game, had some good looks going,” Harris said. “We had good pop to our flow, to our offense, and was able to get some just in-the-flow plays. Once I'm able to get into the flow and the ball is able to move around, that's where I'm at my best. And I just carried that throughout the game.”

Harris, who was one off his Sixers high with 34 points, has said since he arrived before last season’s trade deadline that he flourishes in systems with good ball movement. That’s likely why he’s shot the ball better from three with Simmons on the floor (37.5) than off (29.5).

Simmons leads the NBA in assists on threes whereas with Embiid, his methodical approach in the post can make the offense stagnant at times. With both off the floor, Harris will have to do more to get his own shot.

Brett Brown admitted after Thursday’s game that he’s simplified the offense with his two All-Stars out. Against the Knicks, Harris just attacked mismatches all night, punishing smaller defenders in the post and driving on New York’s bigs.

“With those two out, we'll have to find our identity of how we're going to play,” Harris said. “You saw tonight, we had a lot of just wide-open looks out of the initial pin down action either between Al [Horford] and [Josh Richardson] or Al [Horford] and [Alec] Burks so we got a lot of easy ones going and just were able to go at different mismatches that we felt.”

The trio of Harris, Horford and Richardson struggled in Cleveland, going 12 of 35. They all had bounce-back games of some sort, but it was Harris who likely got the most heat and responded in the biggest way.

Does he feel like it’s his responsibility to carry the team right now because of the large investment the they made on him?

“I would be naive to think there’s not a hint of that,” Brown said. “I think he’s really competitive and if you paid him a nickel or $170 million, I think that you’re going to get a highly competitive player. ... He’s very prideful. That’s why he’s good. 

“He’s trying to do his part obviously to earn his keep, but I think it’s way deeper than that. I think he just wants to be on a winning team for a long time and try to help steer this program to trying to find, at some point, a championship.”

With the fans, there's a sentiment of Harris being overpaid, so not much is made when he hangs 34 on a bad Knicks team. It makes sense. Fans would rather root for an underdog like Shake Milton, who's come out of nowhere to earn important minutes.

Harris has become a leader and a respected player in the Sixers’ locker room. That’s his only concern.

“There's obviously outside noise that comes involved with [signing a big contract],” Harris said. “I always look at it like the only noise that really carries weight for me is noise in our locker room, and with the guys on our team and coaching staff. I truly believe that you can ask every single one of them in the locker room, the value that I bring to this team, on and off the floor, and they will vouch for that. That's the credibility that I go with. ... So I just try to do my job on a daily basis, be a professional every day and go to work.”

With 22 games left and the Sixers trying to claw their way up the East with their All-Stars banged up, Harris will have ample opportunity to show his value to everyone else.

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