I guess we could start by saying that the Hawks and Hornets aren’t very good.
One team is 34 and 44, the other is 22 and 55, and neither is going to the playoffs.
But the Sixers played both on the road, first beating Atlanta in Atlanta by double digits without Joel Embiid. Then they turned it around for a quirky 1 p.m. Sunday game in Charlotte without Embiid and Dario Saric, winning by an even bigger margin.
That has to count for something, right? This team took out the trash on the road while short-handed, which is what great teams do.
He put up 13, 12, and 11 on Friday night followed by 20, 8, and 15 yesterday afternoon. Add 4 blocks, 4 steals, and just three turnovers, and that’s a pair of lines that will win you games.
Simmons has compiled 60 assists over the last five games against a total of just 12 turnovers, so when you calculate his assist/TO margin, he’s pulling a flat 5 number. That’s well above his season average of 2.39 and also eclipses Spencer Dinwiddie’s league-leading 4.24 mark. In more simple terms, he’s just slinging the basketball around with incredible efficiency since the calendar hit “spring,” which is funny to me since it’s snowing outside.
And it’s not like Simmons is getting a ton of bogus assists on dribble hand-offs or easy dump off passes, he’s putting up that A/TO while trying high-degree difficulty stuff like this:
You can’t name 10 guys in the world who run the fast break better than Ben Simmons, my goodness. pic.twitter.com/1FkFrGzGWP
— Kermit (@HeyItsKermit_) March 31, 2018
And that’s one reason why I think the Sixers’ turnover issue is overblown. You connect on that pass and it’s ambitious, highlight-reel stuff. You miss, it’s an awful turnover. There’s just a higher degree of risk/reward when it comes to some of the passes the Sixers are throwing, which is responsible somewhat for their turnover issue. Obviously that doesn’t take into account Joel Embiid losing the handle or the stepping out of bounds that seems to happen at least once per game, things that have nothing to do with passing the ball.
They’re still happening.
Even in ten straight wins, this is what it looks like:
They went for a season low of five turnovers in the Brooklyn win, then coughed it up more than 15 times in four of the next five games, all wins.
So they’re 10-0 dating back to March 15th with 14.2 turnovers per game. Seems like a lot, but that number actually puts you right in the middle of the league, 16th place between Miami and Oklahoma City. The Sixers are still the worst turnover team in the NBA, but it’s not affecting the win/loss column at all, and they’ve steadily driven that number down to something manageable over the past two months.
More importantly, they’re playing good defense, shooting the ball well, and compensating in other areas, which is what they’ve done all year long.
Does Bryan Colangelo get any credit for bringing in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova or nah?
I asked that question on Twitter Sunday, sort of a rhetorical query for people who are down on the Sixers’ general manager. On one hand, these are easy, post-deadline acquisitions that didn’t require the loss of resources. On the other hand, you could say these guys simply wanted to come play with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
“They chose us.”
Really, then, do you give Colangelo props for boosting the Sixers bench, or not?
No. He did nothing other than pick up the phone. Give him credit for drafting Fultz. Oh wait he traded a pick when he could have stayed at three. He gets credit for JJ, Amir, and my favorite Bayless. Are you impressed yet?
— philly fan. (@jcallan27) April 1, 2018
Hard to argue with that.
Yes. They have improved the team depth quite a bit. I don't think they were really genius GM moves, but he gets credit.
— Rob Zane (@zaner28) April 1, 2018
No, They were both released from their previous team and it didn’t cost them anything. Both are better than what they had. Adding both was a no-brainer.
— The Lion King (@TTP_ThatsMe) April 2, 2018
The overwhelming thing with Colangelo is that everything he’s done has seemed to be… how would I say it…
….I guess everything he’s done – all of the positive things – were pretty obvious and straightforward. Need a veteran shooter? Sign Redick for 22 million. Need another veteran shooter? Go get Marco Belinelli for free. Trevor Booker not cutting it for you? Go get Ersan Ilyasova for free.
Beyond that, I think everything he does, anything super meaningful, is always going to be met with this line of thinking:
“Well, did Paul George come to Philly because of Bryan Colangelo? No, he came to play alongside Embiid and Simmons.”
“Well, did Redick take a pay cut because of Colangelo? No, he took one because he likes playing for Brett Brown.”
“Well, did the Sixers become relevant because of Colangelo? No, that was Sam Hinkie’s doing.”
Know what I’m saying?
I don’t know how much credit BC does or doesn’t deserve, but he’s going to be dogged with those kinds of qualifiers for however long he’s in charge. His job is to take what Hinkie did and get the Sixers to the finish line, and his Philadelphia stint will always be judged as complementary to what Hinkie put in place.
Whether or not you want to applaud the Ilyasova and Belinelli additions, their contributions are undeniable. They went for a combined 38 points on Sunday and 32 points on Friday.
Belinelli is currently shooting at his highest marks dating back to his first San Antonio season:
And Ilyasova is giving you 9.9 and 5.6 off the bench with the ability to step in for Dario Saric as a similarly-skilled power forward, putting up 16 Sunday in a starting role.
Long gone are the days of Jerryd Bayless and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot junking up the bench, and even if Bryan Colangelo is the one who put that bench together in the first place, at least he got it fixed without giving up any assets, unless you want to loop in the Booker trade, which was more about getting rid of Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas.
We’ll see what happens this summer before passing ultimate judgment on the GM.
Amir and Richaun
Getting the job done.
Brown played it exactly how I thought he would on Sunday, starting Amir Johnson and handing him 17-20 minutes, then letting Richaun Holmes play a bigger chunk off the bench while using Saric and Ilyasova as that 5/4 combination.
It didn’t work that way yesterday because of Saric’s absence, so Johnson was asked to play 31 minutes in a starting role and Holmes was given 17 off the bench.
As soon as Saric comes back, I think you’re looking at the former being the case again. Assuming Dario can go tomorrow against Brooklyn, I think it’s high-teens minutes for Amir, 20 or so for Richaun, then show your smaller lineup in the third and fourth quarter. The Nets shouldn’t present much difficulty at home, but you’ve got a tricky back-to-back in Detroit the following night.
I don’t really see the big deal with the Johnson vs. Holmes debate right now. They like Amir’s defense and veteran savvy. Holmes is the better offensive player. With Embiid out, you’ve got meaningful minutes for both players, and when you move on from Amir and his $11 million in the summer, Holmes steps in to be Joel’s backup next year.
Richaun has played 623 minutes this season, so it’s not like he’s been glued to the pine for the entire year. He’s been squeezed out of the rotation for chunks at a time, but nothing that I think is hindering his development or growth. When next year rolls around, he theoretically takes on a more meaningful role while hopefully improving his contributions on the defensive end.
So what did we learn from two rather pedestrian wins?
I think Ben Simmons is your (obvious) rookie of the year, this team has depth for the first time in a long time, and they’re handling the cupcakes in business-like fashion.