We’ve reached the quarter mark-ish of the season and your Philadelphia 76ers currently sit 5th in the East with a 12-9 record.
Last night they played a tough game against the Celtics but ended up falling 108-97, playing sans Joel Embiid.
Going into the game I was hopeful but not confident. When playing the team with the best record in the NBA, on their home court, you need your best player and the Sixers didn’t have that.
With every Sixers punch the Celtics had a stronger counter combo. Finally, with about a minute and a half left Al Horford hit a jumper to give Boston a 13-point lead, 103-90, which was the dagger.
Both last night’s contest vs Boston and Wednesday’s against Cleveland were clear indicators where this team stands.
They are fun, tough and talented but they are also young, mistake-prone and inexperienced. Boston and Cleveland won a combined 104 games last season, were the first and second seed in the East and squared off in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Sixers aren’t ready yet to complete with them but I will say, they are a lot closer than I originally thought.
As we sit one fourth the way through the season here are the top 3 positives and negatives we’ve seen thus far.
1. This team can score!
They are currently averaging 108.5 points per game. That’s a big upgrade. The previous 5 years were much lower:
I know what you’re thinking, those are The Process years, of course they would be lower. Correct BUT even the beloved 00-01 team that went to the finals only averaged 94.7 points a game. And you’d have to go all the way back to Jim Lynam’s 90-91 Sixers to find a team that averaged over 105 points a game.
2. Ben and Embiid.
This one is short and sweet. They have proven they are superstars, future MVP candidates and should be All-Stars THIS season. Embiid is playing more minutes than expected and he’s dominating them. His per 36 is off the charts. 27.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.2 blocks. Ben is hands down the rookie of the year. This team is one stretch four superstar that is looking for a championship in his later years away from competing for a title. Sup Bron?
That is the Sixers’ record against the spread this year. You might think that doesn’t really matter but I’m here to tell you it really does. Think of it this way, Vegas is never wrong. They always win and sometimes if feels like they can predict the future. With that being said, 15-6 ATS means that they’ve been better than what Vegas thought. The only team better than them ATS is Boston, the best team in the league.
It’s not an exact correlation of how the season is going but it does tell us that they are better than expected this season. Their win/loss projection prior to the season was 41, they are now on pace to win 47 games. Last season that would get you a 5th seed in the East, this year it might get you a 4th. Could you imagine Philadelphia with home court advantage in the first round? Wow.
1. Jah and the fact he’s still on the team.
He didn’t travel with the squad to Boston last night, Brett Brown instead opted to have him workout in Camden. The situation is getting awkward. You have his dad at games wearing a “Free Jah” t-shirt and people on ESPN trashing the Sixers’ organization for “holding him hostage.”
No one is holding him hostage, he’s had his chances.
Kyle Neubeck from Philly Voice gets it:
Listen I agree that he needs to go and Bryan Colangelo needs to come to terms with the fact he isn’t going to get much for Okafor. Colangelo needs to pull the trigger and just get him out of Philadelphia.
With that being said, Okafor stinks. Once he does get moved the rest of the NBA, their fans and all the Sixers’ haters will realize just that. His defense is nonexistent and borderline offensive. He has a career 111 defensive rating which puts him at the bottom end of ALL active players.
So please Bryan. PLEASE. Trade him so the rest of the league can find out what we already know.
2. Ben has to shoot it more.
He doesn’t have much confidence in his shot so his entire offensive game has been driving to the basket and either getting fouled, dunking or throwing the off-hand floater. Just look at his shot chart for the year.
Almost everything is coming in the paint which is understandable when you look at his percentages. Overall he’s shooting 50.5% on 303 shots taken this year. Of those 303 field goal attempts, 218 have come from inside 10 feet. That’s 71.9% of all his shots. Inside 10 feet is where he’s comfortable and he’s shooting 58.7% from that range.
Outside 10 feet he’s only taken 85 shots and is shooting 29.4% on those looks. Clearly he knows he can’t make them on a regular basis and is avoiding them but he needs to start attempting them more. If for no other reason than to make opponents step out towards him so he can drive the lane or get a teammate an open look.
3. Lastly, Brett Brown.
I’m going to get sideways looks from this but hear me out. This Sixers team turns the ball over more than any team in the league (17.5 per game), they continue to blow lead after lead, have the 5th worst second half +/- in the league and can’t shoot free throws.
Those are coaching issues. I like Brett, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand more times but he has to be better. The team for sure is doing better than expected but they have also let games get away from them. Even wins they have grabbed they had to fight it out late in the game after blowing a big first half lead. I don’t need perfect, this team is growing and evolving, I need better.
The first quarter of the season has been fun and nerve-racking but I can’t wait for the rest of it.
The Sixers are back at it Saturday, hosting the Pistons. I’ll be at the game so follow me on Twitter @Popoleo07 for some live game tweets.