A Look at the Sixers First Month of the Season
The Sixers opened on Oct 16 with a loss in Boston. Since then its been up-and-down start to their season at 9-7 and have already made a major trade, to shake some things up, realizing that they were behind their Eastern Conference rivals.
While there have definitely been some questions about the Sixers’ start to the year, the is adding Butler has them again in contention for a top three seed in the East and a shot to represent the conference in the NBA Finals.
A strong start at home, and defensively playing at a very high level, has the Sixers situated with the firth most wins in the NBA after a month. However, the team has struggled on the road, turnovers continue to be an issue and the team is still having trouble holding on to big leads, like the one they had in Orlando on Wednesday night.
Here are some other takeaways from the Sixers’ first month of the season.
Joel Embiid is an Early MVP Candidate
The scoring output has been there, and it’s really been needed, from Joel Embiid.
That alone would have Embiid on most MVP ballots and certainly in the conversation for an All-NBA team.
But Embiid’s game in his third season with the Sixers has taken a step forward in just about every area.
His numbers are up in every category across the board.
The 27.6 points per game is third in the NBA, but he’s also averaging 13.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 blocks per game, while his turnovers are down from last season.
For the Sixers to take a step forward this season, Embiid had to do that individually, too.
So far, so good.
It's Been an Underwhelming Start For Ben Simmons
Let’s start with the good from Ben Simmons: He is one of the NBA’s best open-court players and has elevated his defensive game this season. His court vision among the very best in the league and when he is playing his game at a high-level he is one of the leagues best, and most fun players to watch.
But he has not developed on the offensive end of the floor as much as you would have like to have seen.
His averages are lower across the board, except in rebounding, averaging 7.6 assists per game vs 8.2 last season, and his points per game 14.5 vs 15.8 last season has also dropped, while shooting .534 from the field, down from .545 a year ago.
One major issue has been the way teams are now playing him, with his unwillingness to shoot, teams have been sagging off him to defend Embiid and are running out to defend the three-point line, daring Simmons to shoot. Many times Simmons is giving up his dribble around the free-throw line and now his options, which were there last season, aren't there now.
With how the Sixers are currently built, they have to have more offensive production from Simmons to achieve what many thought was possible before the season started---advancing in the playoffs.
J.J. Redick Playing Like A Starter
One of the Sixers most productive scorers has been coming off the bench for the team, but now J.J. Redick is the starting lineup. Now in his 13th season, Redick is scoring a career-high 18.2 points per game, and with the trade for Jimmy Butler has moved from the sixth-man role to a starting spot, giving the Sixers more spacing on the floor.
Redick was easily the Sixers’ most consistent scorer, behind Embiid, but with the arival of Butler may drop his average down a bit.
Even though he wasn't starting games early on, he was closing them out, and starting the second half of games with Markelle Fultz starting the third quarter on the bench.
Who is Markelle Fultz
The 2017 No. 1 overall pick has been somewhat of an enigma so far this season, showing flashes of why the Sixers traded up to pick him, but at the same time he has been held back by an unwillingness to shoot.
On the defensive end he has made strides and has become a pretty good on-ball defender, but at other times he appears to be lost.
He hasn't attempted a three-point shot since Oct 30 and in a game earlier this week we saw Fultz revert back to a hitch at the foul-line that we saw from time-to-time last season.
Fultz appears to be a competent back-up point guard at this moment, but it also appears that the team doesn't have enough confidence in him to play him in key spots.
Need More From Starters
Joel Embiid needs more help from his fellow starters in the scoring department. and that should happen with the addition of Butler according to NBC Philadelphia Sixers analyst Marc Jackson.
“I do see Jimmy creating more off the belts, so some of those looks RoCo would shoot for three, look for Jimmy to put his shoulder out and get to the basket and draw some fouls.”
Also, adding Redick to the lineup will give them more spacing and more of a variety of ways to score and should help create some more room for Ben Simmons, who teams have been daring to shoot in the early going and running to the three-point lines to defender and sagging on Embiid.
With Butler ability to create his own shot, that might change.
Finding Roles For Furkan Kormaz, Landry Shamet
Like you would expect early in the season, the Sixers are still trying to figure out their rotations and playing time.
With Fultz going to the bench to run the second unit, it will be interesting to see how Coach Brett Brown uses rookie Landry Shamet and Forkan Kormaz, two players who have displayed the ability to shoot the ball from three-point range.
Shamet is connecting on 33-percent of triples, while Korkmaz is hitting on 42-percent of his three's in limited time.
A second-unit of Fultz, Shamet, Korkmaz, Mike Muscala and Amir Johnson is going to experience some growing pains with three very young players on the floor together.
While Shamet and Korkmaz have had really promising moments early on, they are still finding their way as the season continues.