Every Sunday this season, we’ll have a few observations on the week that was for the Sixers.
The Sixers are 3-3, and there’s a good excuse for every loss. The Celtics are a better team. Ben Simmons was out against Detroit, and Blake Griffin scored 50 points. Milwaukee is a tough place to play the second game of a back-to-back.
Still, it’s clear the Sixers aren’t playing near their peak level. With the team adjusting to new, switch-heavy defensive concepts and transitioning from the most effective starting lineup in the league last season to one with Markelle Fultz trying to find his way, that’s not a great surprise.
• If the Sixers were 2-4, it would be in large part because of the worst shooting night of Simmons’ NBA career. Simmons’ 5 for 20 performance was the second-lowest field goal percentage of his career. His previous low was a 1 for 6 effort in the regular-season finale last year vs. the Bucks. He gave himself a “D” for his play against the Hornets, and you can see why — it’s very rare for him to miss that many easy shots around the rim.
• After Saturday night’s win over the Hornets, Brett Brown said Joel Embid’s 37 minutes were “too many.” However, Embiid’s heavy load (even after rolling his ankle in Friday’s practice) hasn’t been an outlier early in the season. He’s averaging 35.8 minutes, tied for ninth in the league.
Brown said in training camp that there’d be no restrictions on Embiid this season, but it makes sense that he’d want to manage the load of his star, who is playing like the MVP candidate he said he wanted to be, averaging 29.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
For Embiid’s minutes to go down, Amir Johnson and Mike Muscala would likely have to see the court more. Johnson’s 11.1 minutes per game would be the lowest of his career. His 114.1 defensive rating is worst on the team.
• Though Wilson Chandler won’t solve all the Sixers’ problems once he returns to the court, he can help fill a couple serious holes. Chandler has yet to make his regular season Sixers debut; he’s been sidelined since suffering a hamstring strain in the first preseason game on Sep. 28. He was a partial participant in Friday’s practice.
Against opponents like the Bucks, Chandler’s defense on the wing would have been a substantial upgrade over that of Landry Shamet and Furkan Korkmaz. His ability to create his own offense would also be welcome on a second unit that has lacked scoring options outside of “sixth man” JJ Redick, who is averaging 31.4 minutes, fourth-most on the team.
• The Sixers have turned the ball over just 12.8 times per game, fourth-fewest in the NBA. While the Sixers’ coaching staff believes low turnover numbers don’t guarantee success (and the Sixers’ .500 record supports that philosophy), it’s still an encouraging stat. Embiid’s drop from 3.7 turnovers per game last season to 2.2 turnovers per contest in the first six games is an especially positive sign.
• We’ll take a close look at Markelle Fultz’s past few games in our weekly Fultz stock watch, but here’s one note before then: Fultz is spending a lot of time standing either in the corner or in the short corner “dunker spot.”
Along with having the confidence to take open jumpers, Fultz’s off-ball movement outside of the structure of the offense is key when he plays as a two-guard.
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