On November 9th I wrote a piece saying the sky isn’t falling. The Sixers were just coming off a 3 game losing streak to put them at 5-3. Went 2-2 in their next four to be 7-5. In their next 15 they went 13-2. Then lost 3 straight again. Won the next 3 and then lost the next 3. And here we are today, sitting in 6th place in the east at 23-13. This times feels a little worse. The last 3 games, even though they didn’t have Embiid against Indy, were almost mersrassing. The effort they put on the floor was flat out sad.
ll of this to begin the season, and I’m still holding hope.
I picked the Sixers to win the chip this year in my preseason preview. Although I am a homer and I did think objectively they could win. Honestly, I still do. By the end of the season this team will be closer to the team we saw win 13 out of 15, than the team we see lose 3 in a row. The talent is there, they just need to put it together on a night in and night out basis. When they take teams seriously we see what they are capable of doing. The biggest problem for me is they seem like they think they can coast. Listen, this team will be in the playoffs, but to make some real noise a top 2 seed is pretty important. Have to wake up at some point and realize you aren’t good enough to coast, and to take this seriously. I hope they figure that out.
To me, that starts with Joel and Ben. I understand everyone wants to point to the coach, but when you are out busting your ass and seemingly the two big stars aren’t doing everything they can it can affect your play. Joel and Ben have it in them, we’ve seen Joel go out and dominate when he wants to. I’ve watch Ben come out after a bad half and take over a third quarter to bring them back into the game. When Joel and Ben play like they have something to prove they are really damn good, but the real question is are they mature enough at this stage in their lives and careers to be that leader night in and night out. Looking at this season the answer is no, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be.
While both players, are doing good, Embiid is putting up good numbers and Ben is a defensive hurricane, their energy level is what i start to question. Joel is averaging 23 and 12, so it’s hard to complain, but at times it is like he is sleeping walking to 23 and 12. He is definitely better than that. I always thought players thrived off of Joel’s energy, and that seems to be lacking this season so far. And I think that has hurt the team.
All this being said I don’t think it is that bad as we think. It’s easier to fix attitude and intensity as the season gets closer to playoffs, compared to fixing a lack of talent. The Sixers do not have a lack of talent. They may be missing a skill set or two that can be acquired at the deadline or buy out market , but as far as overall talent, they are fine just need to put it together every night, and they need to start soon.
Here are a few thoughts from here going forward:
- I would not make major moves. I wouldn’t fire Brown mid season. I think that would cause the team to take a step back short term. The biggest problem so far this season is lack of intensity. Which has never been a problem for Brett in the past. Joel spent 3 years diving into stands for meaningless loose balls under Brett, and now he is playing uninspired and Brett’s the problem? He has his flaws but I am under the impression that getting guys to play for him was a strength, he is a players coach. If I am the Sixers I would wait till after the season to move on, depending on how the rest of the season goes.
- Outside of small trades, bench guys, I wouldn’t look to move the starting 5. If anyone is moved I would move Horford. There has been some talk about Horford for CP3 idea, if you are on twitter Lyle (@walkwithlyle) has been pushing this idea for a while now. It’s not a bad idea, CP3 is a baller, both contracts won’t be great towards the end, and CP3 fills a need, a ball handler that can score. Again that move in my opinion creates too much adjustment. If they move Al, their goal should be a Kevin Love type or a wing ball handler and move Tobias back to the 4. I think a ball dominant-ish high minute guard, would be a tougher transition than a stretch 4 or wing. I actually like the move for CP3, but if they did it I’d prefer it be an off season rather than mid-season.
- I’d also look for a bench piece. Marty Teller (@mwteller) has been talking about Alec Burks, which for the right price is a great bench piece to add to this team. Burks brings a skill set that this team needs on the bench.
- I am not sure if it’s obtainable, but this team could benefit from a TJ McConnell type. They need a spark plug guy, a guy that can come in for a few minutes, bust his ass, bring some intensity, maybe talk some shit, and have that rub off on his teammates. I like Trey Burke as a scoring spark, but he doesn’t bring the same type of almost F-you I’m fired up mentality that TJ brings.
- One major move I’d make, and I wouldn’t do it till closer to the playoffs, but moving Al to the bench, Tobias to the 4, and inserting a wing will help this team if they don’t seem to figure out their offensive struggles as it gets closer to playoff time. If it isn’t figured out by then, stop the experiment, find a short term solution and then re-attack starting Horford at the 4 next season.
Things I think are true about the East:
- The Sixers are one of if not the most talented teams
- The Sixers are a bad match up for the Bucks.
- Sixers length causes problems for the Bucks and defensively the Bucks have to place a guy on Tobias/Jrich/ or Ben that would end up being a mismatch.
- The Raptors are the team i fear the most.
- When healthy, they have really good role players, a deep bench. A guard that can get hot and score, Siakam has been playing like a star, and most importantly they are the only team in the East right now that can slow down or stop Joel.
- The Heat rely on too many young guys to continue playing at a high level all season and playoffs. 28-30 minutes a night and relying heavily on rookies is a tough sell in an 82 game plus playoffs scenario. Not a shot at them as players, but the rookie wall is real in most cases. So until Herro and Nunn prove that wrong, I am hesitant to buy in. Plus they are small. Other teams size is going to make it difficult in the playoffs.
- The Celtics aren’t as good as they seem. They lost 2 starters but they replacing Kyrie with Kemba is a pretty seamless transition. Again I think they are too small. If you cannot stop or slow down Joel, I don’t fear a team come playoff time.
- I also believe that the teams in the east are having a crazy year when it comes to wins and losses. 6 teams on pace for less than 30 losses is insane. The East had 2 teams with less than 30 last season.
- The biggest threat to the Sixers in the East are the Sixers. If they can get out of their own way, they can be really good.
I am much more optimistic than most right now, and I believe we should be as fans. Hope I am right.
10 9 8 76ers!
- Robert Manoff
- @manoffrm on twitter