Somewhere along the line of myself following NBA basketball I picked up someone saying that 25 games is a good time to really evaluate a new team. And for whatever reason, it made sense to me and I decided to roll with it.
So the Sixers are now 28 games into the season. They are 20-8 with wins over the Raptors, Celtics, Pacers, and Heat. They are currently sitting in the 2 seed. And all along this 28 game stretch the only starter to not miss a game is Tobias Harris.
To me, this says a lot about the team. But the main thing it tells me is that they are really talented. Brett Brown has been on record saying he doesn’t think this team will really gel till Christmas. And honestly I think he is wrong. I think end of January to February is when we will see this team start to play their best ball.
Their defense is legit, there is no way around that. Length, size, and pesky defenders are going to make every team work hard. My biggest problem with this teams defense is sometimes they tend to cruise and then turn it on in the 3rd and 4th. The small effort lapses are a concern to me, but I think will get worked out towards playoff time.
Offensively, this team is still learning about each other. I think that’s pretty common for a new team. Offense is harder to learn where a player is or is going to be or likes to be than it is to learn defense with new players. At times it still looks clunky and jammed, but they are still learning how to play with each other. Joel has had the toughest time adjusting, and rightfully so he has the biggest adjustments to make. They are learning though and we can see flashes of what this team can be offensively, just need to put it all together.
My favorite part of this team is having a starting 5 that any one of them can go for 25-30 any given night. We’ve seen Josh take over, Tobias has been ballin’, aggressive Ben has been there, Horford has had his games, and Joel has been dominate at times. Most recently dropping 38 against Boston. The lows have been low and the highs have been good, but don’t get it twisted either way, when these guys figure each other out they will be closer to the high than the low.
Biggest surprise has been the bench. They have had 4 players score 18 or more off the bench. That kind of production has been a rarity in this town. And the defense is there too. The drop off when Embiid comes off the court is no where near as bad as last season. In all honesty, this team struggles more when Ben is off the court. Matisse Thybulle has been as advertised if not better on defense, and starting to come into his own shooting the 3, in the 40% for the season now. He has even thrown down some strong dunks.
For a team that is still figuring it out, they are still pretty damn good. And contrary to some popular belief, some of the problems they have can be fixed in time. This team is far from peaking.
Some 1/3 Season Grades
Embiid – B
This could be harsh because 22 and 13 isn’t anything to scoff at, especially when he has better players around him, less minutes, and less shots. But I fully believe we haven’t seen the best of Joel this season. He has admitted he hasn’t had much fun, got crushed by Barkley and Shaq on national TV. And responded by dropping 38 on the Celtics the very next game on the same channel. Joel is just getting started. Key going forward stay healthy, have fun, and dominate. He gets a B for now but that’s just because he has room to get better.
Ben – B +
Has had some really good games and some games where he was MIA or not that great. However his defense has been on point. He has shot and made 2 threes so that’s a start. Distributing well, and making free throws down the stretch of games where they hack a Ben. Still much room to improve and would love to see the aggressiveness and shot more, but overall he has been playing well.
JRich – B –
Josh has been a little streaky at times. I don’t know if it’s his new role on offense or new team but he has been up and down a little. We saw what he is capable of when he is hot against Miami. One thing you can count on with Josh is regardless if he is scoring or getting shots he plays hard and good defense. Still I don’t think we have seen him at his best.
Horford – A
He is exactly what I expected Al to be. Scores when we need him, hit a few big shots, sets phenomenal screens and plays defense. He is a good vet and great Embiid insurance. I would like to see him take a little less 3 point shots, but the defensive is giving it to him so it is what it is.
Tobias – A +
Outside of his cold streak Tobias has been excellent. The biggest flaw in his game in the past seems to be no longer a flaw. His defense has improved vastly, and he is really buying into playing it. He had become a guy who can score in the 4th, and get a bucket when he needs to. He is finishing at the rim strong, and shooting close to 40% ish from 3 if we take away that awful shooting he had for a couple games, which is completely out of norm for him. He bounced back strong and I see no signs of him regressing.
Bench – B+
Bench play has always been a concern for the Sixers. However the bench has performed very well. Matisse has the makings to be one of the best defenders in the league and his offensive game is coming along. Scott is doing what we expect him to do. Ennis has been a huge plus this season. Offensive rebounds and 3 point shooting has been key to his game. Furkan has has some good game and bad games but over all has proven he can play a little in the NBA. Going forward I would love to see the Sixers add a shooter or ball handler to the bench, but also think they will be ok if they stand pat.
Coach – A-
This may be a controversial one among Sixers fans. Brown may be the only head coach to be 0-8 28 games into the season. While I don’t agree with every thing he has done this season, I think he is doing a really good job. Incorporating more PnR action, even with Ben and Joel in the post. But what I have liked the most with Brett, is how he is handling players. Challenging Ben to be aggressive, get to the line, and shoot. The one 3 and 8 fts a game may not have come to fruition but you can clearly see Ben shoot a little more, and even want the ball at the end of the game when teams are clearly going to foul him. Not sitting Tobias during his cold streak, putting Mike Scott in the starting line up when he was struggling and Horford was out seemed to cause a spark for Mike. There is definitely some things that aren’t right yet that could come down to some coaching, not being able to break a press seems like 1, but over all he has been better than not this season. I think he is pushing a lot of the right buttons.
1/3 of the season gone, second seed in the east, on pace for almost 60 wins or so. This team is good, and we need to embrace it. The best part is we haven’t even seen them at their best yet. The east should be scared. The Sixers are still coming.
- Robert Manoff
- @manoffrm on twitter