Early Season Report Card: The Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers Start of Season

For the Philadelphia 76ers, last season was close to “on schedule” as the process could be. Though they were eliminated in the conference semifinals for the second year in a row, last year’s team was much better than the previous year’s team. Had the Sixers taken Game 7 against the Raptors, I’m confident they’d have taken out the Bucks and advanced to the Finals.

I say this as someone who isn’t a fan of the 76ers. That team was especially talented and versatile and were playing great basketball. Sometimes, it just comes down to one shot, and that was the difference between a playoff team and a championship team.

The 2018-2019 season so far

So far, the 2019-2020 season has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. For one, the Philadelphia 76ers lead the NBA in turnovers per game at 18.8 per game. The loss of Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick has put this team chemistry in a bit of a flux, but there’s a lot of talented youth on this team who should get more of an opportunity to shine with a lot of minutes freed up.

There are some pleasant surprises so far this season on offense, like Furkan Korkmaz (14 PPG over last 4 games) and Raul Neto (11 PTS over last 3 games). It’s been helpful using these two to supplement scoring for Ben Simmons while he’s missed some time with the shoulder injury. Recent Free Agent signing, Al Horford, has been everything the 76ers could’ve hoped for to this point, averaging the most points since his 2013-2014 season with the Hawks. His turnovers are at a career-low right now, but his shooting percentages are lower across the board.

Tobias Harris has been helpful as a secondary option on offense. His dynamic skill set helps enhance the offense. Joel Embid has looked good so far this season as well. The big question here is Ben Simmons. What should the 76ers do with him? There’s no doubt they could get a King’s ransom for him, given the skill set, his dynamic abilities around the basket, and the mismatches he creates on both sides of the floor.

The issue keeping Simmons from being among the elites at the position is his inability to shoot. We’ve seen players evolve over the years and develop their shots as their careers advance, but Simmons seems to have a mountain to climb in that area. Much of the issues with the 76ers the past few seasons have been centered around how to best set this roster and how to maximize the output, given the talent on the floor. Can this roster bring a championship home to Philadelphia? For the 76ers, the 2019-2020 season is one that should make or break them as a power in the East.

Breaking down the start thus far

I could touch on the first few games, but I feel like it’s hard to discern teams in that first week. With the Embid suspension after the fight, it also really affected the early chemistry, so I think it’s fair to give that time a mulligan. The 76ers have gotten off to a 7-3 start. For most teams, it’s a decent way to begin the season, but for a team with such high expectations, it’s not the start they’re hoping for. Though the 76ers have lost three of their last five, with two losses being very close and to quality teams while Simmons was out (AC joint sprain).

Suns vs 76ers – Nov 4

This game was one that really seemed to sneak up on the 76ers. The Suns had already one major win on their resume this season in a big win over the Clippers. Anyone who watched this game with the 76ers saw why the Suns are dangerous. In a game without both Joel Embid and DeAndre Ayton, the post was the place the 76ers decided to make the most in. Al Horford and Tobias Harris carried the 76ers while Ben Simmons struggled mightily in the game, often completely disappearing at times. Furkan Korkmaz continued his emergence tour by adding 20, but the game was dominated by Devin Booker and a strong 40 point performance. The Suns pulled away for a big win, adding another formidable victim to notch in their belt.

Jazz vs 76ers – Nov 6

Rudy Goebert seemingly scored all 14 of his points off the pick and roll in this game. I’m not even joking. It was yet another night of “Fire up the roulette wheel and see who the leading scorers on the 76ers would be tonight” as Joel Embid and Josh Richardson led all scorers. This game only had ten minutes of Ben Simmons as an AC joint injury in his shoulder prevented him from playing out the game. Once Simmons was gone, it was clear the 76ers didn’t really have the best backup plan in place to stop Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. Though the 76ers kept it close, a cold night from Al Horford and the absence of Simmons was enough to aid the Jazz in a close victory.

Nuggets vs 76ers – Nov 8

The Denver Nuggets have been a quality team seemingly waiting for some injuries in the Western Conference to get over the hump in the postseason. No 76ers player broke 20 points in the contest and the Nuggets hit some insanely clutch shots down the stretch to hold off the 76ers in this one. Joel Embid had 8 of the team’s 17 turnovers and the 76ers blew a 21 point fourth-quarter lead in the game. The best thing 76ers fans can do after a game like this is to find a way to completely block it out of their memory. How you go about that is your business.

Hornets vs 76ers – Nov 10

The 76ers got an incredibly unimpressive win in a game where they turned over the ball 20 times. With no Ben Simmons on the court, the 76ers rallied behind a big third quarter to keep the Hornets at a safe enough distance to ride out the game. It’s one thing to turn the ball over a lot and lose, but the 76ers turned over the ball an insane number of times and still managed a victory. That says a lot about the current state of the team’s chemistry, but it also tells us this team is capable of so much more.

Cavaliers vs 76ers- Nov 12

The Cleveland Cavaliers started a lineup including both Cedi Osman and Darius Garland and nearly left Philly with a win. It was truly an ugly performance from the 76ers. Tobias Harris went 0-11 from three and it took a late series of Cavs brain farts and bad plays for the Sixers to pull ahead in the final 20 seconds. Had Kevin Love knocked down his uncontested three at the end of this game, Sixers fans would be in shambles. Regardless, a win is a win.

Upcoming games: Magic, Thunder, Cavs

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Author: Collin Hulbert