Jimmy Butler dropped 38 points as the Heat wiped the floor with Philadelphia on Monday night, winning by 31 points in a game that was not very competitive.
That means your team, your town, your 76ers are now 9-18 on the road, just 31-20 overall and 12 games behind Milwaukee as we kick off February. It’s not where anybody expected this squad to be, and it’s truly disappointing. It’s really bad, another three-game losing streak with the Bucks on tap Thursday night and the trade deadline fast approaching.
In lieu of a traditional recap right now, since nobody would read that garbage, here are 30 problems with the Sixers as of February 4th, 2020:
- The pieces don’t fit. The starting lineup is essentially two centers, two power forwards, and a shooting guard.
- They aren’t a good three point shooting team (34.9%, tied for 19th in the NBA).
- They need more dynamic guard play, somebody who can put the ball on the floor and create off the dribble.
- Tobias Harris is not impacting the game like a guy on a five year, $180 million contract.
- Al Horford is completely out of place and is shooting too many threes. Last year in Boston, he took 203 threes in 68 games. This year, he’s already up to 199 in 46 games (and only hitting at 32.2%).
- Josh Richardson’s absence isn’t helping anything.
- Brett Brown is quickly approaching Mark Jackson territory, which is to say that it feels like this team needs a change just for the sake of a change. Sometimes things get stale and you need a clean break, somebody to come in and challenge players who have seemingly tuned out their coach or need a kick in the ass.
- Brett’s “pace and space” philosophy worked much better with previous iterations of the roster (JJ Redick and a true stretch four). You can’t play his motion offense with this team.
- There’s no true offensive identity. they aren’t a tempo team and they aren’t a three point shooting team. They’re definitely not playing bully ball.
- Joel Embiid still really struggles with double teams.
- Ben Simmons exacerbates the problem due an unwillingness and/or inability to shoot.
- There isn’t enough near side flashing to help Embiid outlet without making risky cross-court passes.
- Furkan Korkmaz, James Ennis, and Mike Scott are inconsistent off the bench.
- Trey Burke and Raul Neto are in and out of the lineup for wonky periods of time, to the point where neither guy is really contributing enough on a regular basis.
- Matisse Thybulle is young and still raw, especially on the offensive side, where he shot 22% from three during the month of January.
- Zhaire Smith is raw on both ends, still an uber-athletic guy with upside, but needs time.
- Kyle O’Quinn is barely playing, and not doing much when he actually is on the floor.
- Shake Milton is not an NBA starter at this point in his career. Nice young player who can certainly contribute, but not a starter.
- This team fouls too much, especially on the road, where they rank dead last in the NBA.
- When left to their own devices, the Sixers simply try to post up, post up, and post up. They had a good thing going for a little while with Brown slowing things down and dialing up more plays. It helped the turnover numbers and added some structure to the offense (also helped that Embiid was out).
- Redick was a very good complement for Joel, who is a smart DHO screener. His traditional pick and roll screening, flipping, rolling, and popping is nascent.
- The youngest players on the team are the longest tenured. The older veterans have been here for five seconds. That makes for a funky leadership and locker room ecosystem, actually the total opposite of what you’d typical find in a locker room.
- There’s been too much turnover year to year. Embiid and Simmons have played on 4-5 different teams already. The lack of continuity also puts a lot of stress on the coaching staff, who barely get any practice time in Camden during the season (there’s not enough practice time overall, because the 82-game schedule is too clustered).
- This is a poor free-throw shooting team.
- They still look awkward and uncomfortable playing against zone defense.
- I don’t know if these guys have championship DNA. Simmons plays hard pretty much every night but disappears in the fourth quarter from time to time while being a half court liability. Embiid is up and down with his commitment and desire to win and his body language looks bad at times. Not sure there’s enough “dog” in this team.
- Does Joel really truly love the game of basketball? I’m not sure he does. The Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal episode I thought may have changed that, but Embiid has sort of gone back and forth with various quotes this year regarding the topic of “how much do you want it?”.
- Sometimes this team struggles with the concept of optics. Going to the Super Bowl and chilling at a Miami pool alongside a supermodel might not have any tangible effect on your on-court performance whatsoever, but older fans particularly will say things like, “well here they are, out and about the night before a game!” It’s kind of a dumb thing, but it’s a ‘thing’ nonetheless, so don’t make it a thing if you can help it.
- If the Process era was progressing too slowly, then the post-Process era is progressing too quickly. I understand that ownership and fans were getting antsy and wanted to start winning, but we jumped into a basketball wormhole, which raised expectations on Simmons and Embiid almost right out of the gate. Elton Brand started burning through assets in order to “win now” and correct Bryan Colangelo errors. Now the well is drying out with only two second-round exits to show for it (and perhaps a third coming soon).
- As such, I get the sense that even the most ardent Hinkie and Brett Brown supporters, that younger-trending demographic of Sixers fans, are starting to wobble a bit. I don’t see as much blind defense of the team on social media as I used to see.
Other than those items I listed, it’s all good right now! We’ll see what Elton can do at the deadline, which is a few hours before Thursday’s tip off in Milwaukee. The Bucks are likely looking to avenge that Christmas Day loss and bury a team that’s supposed to be their biggest matchup challenge en route to the finals. Could get pretty ugly if this squad continues the run they’re on.
Ben Simmons: "We were soft.”
“Soft is just don’t get bullied, fight over screens, get through screens. If you gotta knock somebody down, knock 'em over. If you gotta hit somebody in the face, knock 'em down to make sure they don’t score, hit 'em in the face.” pic.twitter.com/wd01bqbFlC
— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) February 4, 2020