On Monday night time, after Philadelphia received its first win of the season, Joel Embiid joked that Sixers followers “probably wanted me to be traded and the whole team to be sent down to the G League.”
Of course, Embiid was joking, however the Sixers’ 1-4 begin and the way sluggish they’ve performed isn’t a laughing matter. It’s nonetheless too early to enter panic mode, however it’s additionally truthful to spotlight a few of the weaknesses the Sixers have proven within the early going. Overall, there has simply been a scarcity of effort, and that’s been mirrored within the efficiency and final result on the courtroom.
There might be no G League speak. In this mailbag, we are going to talk about the weaknesses and the way the Sixers may tackle them.
(Editor’s be aware: Submitted questions have been edited for readability and size.)
How fixable are the issues on this workforce and the way possible are they going to be mounted: lack of ball motion, lack of defensive effort, rotation? — Ian G.
Realistically, I believe all three are fixable. The Sixers have seemed like they don’t care, but I nonetheless see loads of expertise. I actually don’t be ok with my preseason prediction that the Sixers would be the top-seeded workforce within the Eastern Conference. Unless one thing adjustments rapidly, that one will end up laughably improper.
Let’s begin with the defensive effort as a result of that’s the most regarding takeaway from the first-plus week. I wrote in regards to the Sixers’ improved ball movement throughout Monday’s recreation, which was the optimist’s standpoint (don’t you dare name me too Negadelphian!). While that win was an encouraging step offensively, the NBA is a make-or-miss league. Against San Antonio and Indiana, groups whose entrance workplaces might or is probably not despondent after wins, Philadelphia shouldn’t be counting on capturing variance.
The largest perpetrator has been abysmal transition protection, which carried over to Wednesday’s recreation in Toronto. Cleaning the Glass has a statistic known as “transition points added per 100 possessions,” which tries to account for each transition frequency and effectivity. The Sixers’ opponents are including 9.3 factors per 100 possessions in transition, which is useless final. I went again and checked to see what the worst workforce was for this class in every of the final 5 seasons: 3.7, 4.0, 4.5, 4.0 and 4.5. Let that sink in for a minute. According to this metric, the Sixers are greater than twice as unhealthy at transition protection than the worst groups within the league over 5 years.
The transition protection was the focus of my piece last night, however it wasn’t any higher of their lone win of the season. Since the Sixers take excellent care of the ball, each missed shot by them is a disaster.
There are many examples to select from, however I believed the play above encapsulates every thing improper with the transition protection.
Tyrese Maxey is pissed off with himself or the referee, which slows him down. Everyone within the beginning lineup not named P.J. Tucker has been responsible of this at occasions. Montrezl Harrell doesn’t seize the offensive rebound, which the Sixers rank second-to-last in. Just like early final season, when there was a built-in, 6-foot-10 excuse sitting out the video games, this workforce is pulling off an unattainable double. They don’t get again on protection in any respect, but that isn’t as a result of they’re efficiently crashing the boards. Few groups handle to lose each of those, however the Sixers are. It is unattainable to win this manner.
There are some schematic tweaks wanted. James Harden and Tucker are stationed within the corners, and whereas they do their finest on this play, they’re usually not very quick and that could be a future again. Head coach Doc Rivers and assistant Dan Burke in all probability have to tweak the offense or begin instructing their nook gamers to get again instantly when a shot is launched.
“I think there were probably 10 times we didn’t match up right in transition and they took advantage of it,” Rivers mentioned on Monday. “So that’s going to be a point of emphasis with Tobias (Harris), P.J. and Joel on the floor at the start of games. The speed at times can be a factor, so we have to watch that.”
The half-court protection has been higher by default, though that wants main work as effectively. Embiid has gotten again on monitor offensively over the previous week, however his media day comments about having extra within the tank defensively are turning right into a working joke. Both within the half courtroom and transition, Embiid has seemed to be as culpable as his teammates.
The perimeter protection has been sieve-like, as effectively. One of the largest points within the half courtroom has been the shortage of communication on switches. Maxey and Harden are essentially the most frequent offenders. There is at the least one play each recreation the place Maxey is exasperatedly making an attempt to straighten out the protection after a botched change involving him results in factors.
The backcourt goes to have defensive limitations all through the season and into the playoffs. Still, the quantity of simple photographs this protection has handed opponents is untenable if they need, you realize, to win video games. Tucker spoke lots within the preseason about constructing the proper habits, however on protection, this workforce is simply creating unhealthy ones. They want to start out taking part in tougher, plain and easy.
The ball-movement query is an fascinating philosophical debate that I think about we are going to proceed to have all through the season. Harden groups sometimes rank towards the very backside in passes per recreation — the Sixers at the moment rank twenty first, which is nearer to common than that quantity suggests — and that simply isn’t the Brett Brown, pass-happy offensive ecosystem Embiid matured in as an NBA participant.
When listening to Embiid’s feedback about extra ball motion on Monday, it’s unattainable not to consider the place Harden’s idiosyncratic recreation suits in. Could Harden be doing extra to get Maxey going?
I’m keen to be affected person on that one, even when the offense is a large number as effectively. Harden, Embiid and Maxey usually made the offense work final season and the expertise remains to be right here.
The rotation is a captivating query as a result of the Sixers have potential contributors that aren’t seeing the ground. Harrell’s minutes have been an journey as a result of he’s not getting the ball sufficient. It’s early, however a career-low utilization and true capturing share matter an awesome deal in terms of his playability. The play under was one in all my favourite units of the season with Harrell, Tucker and Harden seamlessly flowing between a stagger ball display right into a post-split after which into one other ball display. The motion is gorgeous, but Harrell will get blocked on the rim by Buddy Hield.
If Harrell can’t rating, there’s little cause to play him over Paul Reed contemplating the workforce’s present defensive considerations. Reed has not performed effectively both, though he and Harrell each have the excuse of an uneven rotation throughout single video games. Harrell and Georges Niang have additionally spent 11 minutes collectively, which seems like an unforced error with the defensive considerations that frontcourt pairing poses. That leaves us Danuel House Jr., who has seemed misplaced on each ends of the courtroom at occasions.
Outside of the Harrell utilization, I don’t have any main qualms with Rivers’ rotations to date. But there are affordable strikes he could make if issues don’t enhance. That brings us to …
How is there no room within the rotation for Matisse Thybulle, the most effective defenders within the NBA, particularly when the workforce is struggling defensively? — Steve M.
I didn’t discover all of it that stunning that Thybulle was out of the rotation to start out the season. The Sixers loaded up on function gamers with out sacrificing depth within the offseason, so logically a few gamers can be the odd-men out until Rivers determined he was going to play an unorthodox 12-man rotation.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey was trustworthy all offseason about wanting to search out two-way gamers that might maintain up within the playoffs. Thybulle and Niang had been the 2 specialists that got here to thoughts when Morey made these feedback. Thybulle’s offensive limitations had been one thing the workforce didn’t need to depend on, and they didn’t come to an extension settlement earlier than the season. Considering the rotation items the Sixers introduced in, I used to be sympathetic to the thought of leaving him out of the rotation. Thybulle’s offensive limitations have confirmed troublesome to work round in vital video games.
But I simply spent lots of phrases explaining how the workforce’s protection has been in shambles. One solution to stem the tide is by inserting Thybulle into the lineup, each as a major possibility in opposition to high guards, wings and as a change defender on Harden-led bench models. Having Thybulle within the recreation when Tucker performs middle is an intriguing possibility, though that lineup is understandably one thing the Sixers don’t need to use each recreation. At the very least, Thybulle can dash again on protection and make an opponent suppose twice about throwing a 50-foot cross together with his instincts.
Thybulle received three minutes within the second quarter in opposition to San Antonio, however that has been it so far as rotation minutes are involved.
“Between Matisse and Shake (Milton) and Furk, we’re going to just fill it out,” Rivers mentioned of the rotation. “Going by camp, I think Shake is probably the guy ahead because I thought he played the best. But that doesn’t mean in the games that works out the same way.”
To sum it up: While it’s comprehensible Thybulle wasn’t within the lineup to start out the season, that could be a card Rivers goes to need to play if the protection doesn’t enhance. The definition of madness is doing the identical factor again and again and anticipating completely different outcomes.
Why ought to I’ve any confidence Doc can get essentially the most out of this roster? — Mark D.
Since you not often see a fan base extra fed up with its coach than this one at the moment is, it will really feel improper if I didn’t take at the least one query about Rivers. With the Phillies advancing to the World Series, the Sixers’ poor begin has added much more gasoline to the fireplace. Per WagerOnline, Rivers is now the favourite to be the primary coach fired this season.
I like the best way Mark framed this query, and my reply can be that over the previous two years, Rivers has delivered good regular-season outcomes and has assembled a great employees round him. The Sixers received essentially the most video games within the Eastern Conference two years in the past and earned homecourt benefit within the first spherical final season.
Now, you may imagine that Embiid was primarily accountable for delivering these outcomes. That is actually how I really feel. But I’m according to my perception that the NBA is a gamers’ league firstly, which is why I imagine the gamers are primarily accountable for these first 5 video games.
Embiid went out of his solution to reward Rivers for getting the Sixers extra organized after Monday’s win. But Rivers hasn’t had any schematic solutions within the early going, and his gamers have usually seemed lifeless taking part in for him. At some level, these issues must change if he’s going to proceed teaching in Philadelphia.
(Photo of Matisse Thybulle and Doc Rivers: Jason Miller / Getty Images)