The Sixers are out west as they continue an early season, opposite coast road trip. This week we’re blessed with three 9 p.m. Eastern tip-off times, which means the DVR is gonna get a lot of work around 7 a.m. the following day.
Phoenix on tap tonight, a Suns team which is actually 4-2 despite playing five of those games without DeAndre Ayton. The experienced Aron Baynes has stepped into a starting role out there and went for 20 points in the Saturday win at Memphis. It’s been less of Devin Booker just chucking the ball this year under former Sixers assistant Monty Williams, who took over for Igor Kokoskov this summer.
Your team, your town, your 76ers are the only unbeaten squad remaining in the Association, and here are some observations, notes, and thoughts on a Monday afternoon:
1. Furkan Korkmaz, a good story
He really struggled in the first three games, got ripped on social media, and then stepped it up with 17 points in the Minnesota win, followed by the Portland dagger.
Regardless of your thoughts on Furkan, you have to give the guy credit for getting to this point. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in 2017, missed time, and then had his rookie option declined after Bryan Colangelo, the guy who drafted him, got canned. Last season, he had surgery for a meniscus tear, which put him on the shelf for the second straight season before getting healthy by the time game 81 rolled around. He could have gone back to Europe to start and play more minutes, but decided to give it another go in Philly and knocked down the biggest shot of his career on Saturday night.
It’s a good sports story.
2. Ben Simmons and free throw shooting
He’s only hitting at 52% on 4.6 free throws per game, which is worse than the 56% number he put up as a rookie and the 60% he shot last season.
Still, Saturday night’s Furkan buzzer-beater would not have been made possible without the two huge free throws Simmons hit on the prior possession, and if he’s knocking them down in clutch time scenarios, then that’s the most significant takeaway thus far. He needs to be able to contribute late in the 4th quarter and this past weekend was a good sign.
3. Ben Simmons and jump shooting
It’s not a thing right now and it might not be this season.
Here’s Ben’s shot chart through five games:
No three point attempts and 0-7 on the 10.1% of shots he’s tried outside of the immediate rim area. Defensively Ben has been fantastic, and he’s been just as good as he was last year overall, but there are obvious forward steps to take in this department.
4. Raul Neto off the bench
He really changed the game the other night, sparking the Sixers to a run that pulled them within striking distance.
I understand that Brett Brown likes point-Josh Richardson in order to keep his rotation defensively sound, and perhaps in the playoffs we’ll get a lot of J-Rich ball handling when things get tight, but having Neto out there just encourages more movement and turns the gears a bit. It converts stale offense into the organic basketball that Brett craves, and I’d like to see more of Neto through the early part of the season, which in turn keeps Richardson at the two and gives him more opportunity to develop his off-ball game as he continues to adapt to new surroundings.
5. Joel Embiid, showing patience
Embiid is Embiid. If he stays healthy and dialed-in, the Sixers to go the NBA finals.
There still seem to be some moments where he shows a lack of patience, which manifests itself in bad turnovers or a lack of recognizing digs and double teams. There is, however, evidence out there that Joel does possess the situational awareness that moves him from “elite” status into “consistently elite” status.
Example one is a play I shared last week, but I’ll share it again, and this is Joel nicely sensing the double team and passing out of it:
Good off-ball movement to help Joel out as well. He can’t pass out of a double if everybody is standing around, which was sometimes the case last year.
Here’s another play I liked from Embiid, one I didn’t share until today:
The 2-for-1 isn’t there, and Embiid starts dribbling on the perimeter before wisely just pulling the ball back and resetting the offense. Then he sets up a pick and roll with Richardson, flips the screen, and they end up getting Mike Scott on a baseline cut.
That’s what you want to see from Joel, just more awareness from him and higher-IQ plays that limit his dribbling on the perimeter and his penchant for coughing the ball up.
- 18.8 turnovers per game is 27th in the NBA.
- 16.6 opponent points off turnovers is only 9th.
That’s an incredible disparity there, which tells me two things:
- the Sixers are doing a good job of getting back in defense when committing live ball turnovers
- they are committing a lot of dead ball turnovers (offensive fouls, etc)
Again they are a terrible turnover team but are 5-0 largely because they’ve been able to mitigate the damage. It’s a formula that you can live with when you are able to make up lost possessions via…
7. Rebounding and forcing your own turnovers
The Sixers are #1 in the league in scoring points off turnovers (23.8) and #2 in second chance points (17.2).
They pull down the third-most offensive rebounds per game (11.8) and the sixth-most defensive rebounds (38.4), which helps them reach 98.1 field goal attempts per game while opponents are only averaging 81.8, which is the fewest in the entire league.
This team is just crushing it right now when it comes to ancillary statistics, and if you’re choking out opponent possessions while masking your turnover issues simultaneously, then you’re going to be able to limit how other teams can game plan against you.
8. Matisse Thybulle
2.8 steals per game is #1 in the NBA. Ben Simmons is actually #2.
Thybulle looks the part so far, getting his hands on everything and junking up passing lanes. He’s shooting only 26.3% from three, but if he can get that number in the 30% range, then he’ll start to find himself in upper-level “3 and D” NBA conversations. He’s on pace to put up Robert Covington and Otto Porter numbers relatively early in his NBA career, and seems to be on a much faster trajectory.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 29, 2019
9. Bench +/-
The Sixers are finally getting decent contribution from the bench.
- Mike Scott: +7.2
- James Ennis: +4.8
- Raul Neto: +3.3
- Shake Milton: +2.0
Nice numbers for that crew. Korkmaz is at -0.6 right now as a result of his poor first three games.
So far, so good however, especially when you go back to last year and the year prior and look at the bench situation. They still need a bit more juice offensively, but Kyle O’Quinn is giving them positive center minutes and there’s little liability on the defensive end.
10. Random stats
A few more things that stood out to me after a few minutes on the NBA stats page:
- They’re still not shooting very well from three, just 31.5%, which is 24th in the league
- Team free throw shooting is only 74.8%, which is 17th
- 26.2 free throw attempts per game is 10th, so there’s a bit of a gap in foul shooting quality vs. the frequency with which they get to the line
- Seven blocked shots per game is third in the NBA
- 99.6 defensive rating is 6th best
- 107.3 offensive rating is 12th best
- 106 possessions per game is 5th
- 59.6 points in the paint is #1 by a LARGE margin; Memphis is #2 at 54.4
- 44.4 opponent points in the paint is 10th best for the Sixers
- 11.4 team steals per game is #1 in the league
This team is a defensive and rebounding juggernaut. If they can improve their offense and shooting throughout the season, you should feel very, very good about their potential.