We discussed last week how the impending absence of Joel Embiid would be a blow to the Sixers and their chemistry. It would also give us some insight as to how this team’s success and failures during the absence could give the management an idea of what value Embiid brings to the team and how he may or may not be providing the team with the upside everyone expects he’s capable of.
This past week was a great sample for these points, as the Sixers haven’t exactly struggled in the ways people initially feared they would.
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Mavericks vs 76ers Jan 11
The second game back without Embiid didn’t go as well as the first when the Sixers handled Boston, following a takeover performance by Ben Simmons. What began as a promising start on the road in Dallas quickly fell apart in the second half for the Sixers. Though the movement and play in the first half was largely a success, the Mavericks were content to let the Sixers take threes all second half and it played perfectly into their gameplan.
The Sixers shot just 9 for 37 and only got to the line 12 times in the game, indicating the Sixers failed to exploit the mismatches in the paint against the Mavericks. Ben Simmons wasn’t as aggressive attacking in the paint in the second half, ball movement slowed, and the Sixers shot their way out of the game. The Sixers were an astonishing +11 on the turnover margin but were -11 on the boards.
For the game, the Sixers attempted a whopping 19 more shots from the field than the Mavericks but a 37.8% effort from the field really killed the Sixers. The Mavericks shot 50% and 40% from both the field and three. It was a really odd game as it seemed the Mavericks sort of mind tricked the Sixers into beating themselves by taking away their high ball movement/high assist offense.
Pacers vs 76ers Jan 13
Following the letdown performance against a solid opponent in Dallas, the Sixers traveled to Indiana to take on the Pacers Monday night. Just as they had done Saturday, the Sixers got off to a good start and let it slip away in the second half.
When the second half began, the energy on defense for the Sixers seemed complacent. The Pacers connected from an array of uncontested threes to close the 11 point third-quarter deficit as the game crept onward. Down the stretch, it was the Malcolm Brogdan show as Brogdan put the game away with a flurry of free throws following some careless Sixers possessions.
The Sixers settled on a number of midrange shots in the second half, occasionally working the ball down low and driving the paint, but not frequently enough, given the advantages they had in size.
For the game, the Sixers were -2 in turnovers but +2 in rebounds. However, the Pacers were able to convert a high percentage of second-chance points, winning the offensive rebounding battle and seemingly giving more effort throughout the second half. Both teams shot poorly as the Sixers held a 41% to 38% advantage from the field, but the Pacers were better from three (38% to 18%) and from the line (81% on 31 attempts). It was a discouraging loss from an effort standpoint, despite the strong night from Simmons and Richardson.
Nets vs 76ers Jan 15
On Wednesday, the Sixers had an opportunity to bounce back with a home game against the Brooklyn Nets. The Sixers finished strong in this one, overcoming a four-point fourth-quarter deficit to close out the game with a barrage of threes and a 11-point victory. Tobias Harris had the hot hand in the game, going 14-20 from the field and 4-6 from three while also leading the team in rebounds.
I watched this one from start to finish and honestly, it wasn’t too impressive. I think if the Sixers had Embiid, this game would’ve been in-hand early in the second half. Regardless, the Sixers pulled it all together when it mattered and they put away the sub-par Nets and hopefully set themselves up for what should be a soft three-game spread of Chicago, New York, and Brooklyn. For the game, the Sixers were +5 on the boards and +16 in the points in the paint margin.
It wasn’t a confident performance overall, but it was nice to see the Sixers lean on their strengths and not try to outshoot the opposing team from deep the entire game.
SugarHouse and BetRivers futures bet of the week: 6th Man of the Year
With the season halfway done, it’s time now to take a look at the players who are having the biggest impact for their team coming off the bench this year: The NBA’s 6th Man of the Year award.
Lou Williams -106
Lou Williams has started under ten games for the Clippers, so as long as there aren’t any major injuries going forward, Lou isn’t a threat to disqualify himself from this category. Williams won the award in 2015, 2018, and 2019.
On the year, Williams is having a nice go of it. He’s averaging a career-high 6.2 assists per game to go along with 2.9 rebounds, and 19.9 points per game. The stat line is higher across the board than his line in 2015 when he first won the award, but the key is how will his numbers stack up against the rest of the league and what are his odds for sustaining such numbers.
The Clippers this season are likely the best team he’s played on in his career. Offensively, we can expect his assists to stay high, given the offensive structure of the team and the concentrated scoring ability of the lineup. Points projections will always remain relatively volatile, but he’s on a solid pace this season, so there’s little reason to believe those numbers will drop off much at all.
Montrezl Harrell +175
Harrell is very close to Lou Williams in all likelihood. The odds suggest the vote is very close, but Lou Williams has traditionally been healthier, playing in at least 67 games each year over the past five full seasons. Though Harrell has been healthier the past two seasons, he hadn’t played a full season prior to 2017/2018. Even though may not be much to go on with concerns for injury more than Lou Williams, a player’s ability to score in high volume and efficiency coming off the bench seems to be traditionally more coveted than a more well-rounded player such as Montrezl Harrell.
Last season, Harrell averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2 assists. This season, he’s up to 19.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 1.9 APG. If we’re comparing him to Lou, it’s difficult because they don’t play the same position, but their numbers are very close. Also, Harrell’s PER is 22.76 this season, while Lou’s is just 18.62, for what it’s worth.
I think there’s no denying that both serve as valuable assets to the Clippers, but weighing who is more worthy of the Sixth man award is very difficult. I’d actually lean towards Harrell, considering his improvement in both scoring and rebounding this season and his higher PER. Williams has already won the award three times, so there’s probably a feeling among voters they need fresh blood in this award.
The odds favor Williams but they should be closer to Harrell’s odds and since Harrell’s odds are so good, I’d value that return versus the lesser return on a bet for Lou. Harrell is also the better defender, so I like that quiet advantage in the scenario where voters want to dig a little deeper.
Dennis Schroder +350
Schroder is close enough to both Williams and Harrell with odds, but he’s much further away from the two from an efficiency standpoint. Schroder averages 18.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.7 APG. His PER is 15.48 and he averages 30.7 minutes per game (more than both Harrell and Williams).
I don’t think Schroder has much of a case here, unless the Thunder make a run and he gets more involved and raises his efficiency numbers. The only scenario I can think of where Schroder wins is with either of the other two getting hurt, or Schroder becomes a go-to player down the stretch and the Thunder get the sixth seed or something.
Even so, his odds seem appropriate, given the likelihood he’s currently the third most likely player to win and he’s limited defensively.