Five Sixers Land On Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Rankings
Every year before the NBA season begins, Sports Illustrated releases a list of their Top 100 NBA Players. Over the past few days, they've rolled out the list and five Sixers players landed on the Top 100. The Sixers are one of seven teams with five or more players on the Top 100, one behind Golden State and Boston.
Let's take a look at which Philadelphia 76ers players made the rankings:
JJ Redick - 62nd
Redick, 34, averaged a career-high 17 points last season for the Sixers last season, shooting 46 percent from the floor and 42 percent from beyond the arc. He was/is the best pure shooter that the Sixers have had in a while, and despite his misses in the playoffs, they would not have gotten there had it not been for his regular season contributions.
Here's what SI had to say about the Sixers veteran:
It makes perfect sense that Redick would leave the most comfortable fit of his NBA career at age 33 and go on to have his best season yet. Philadelphia made Redick a focal point; he might not have led the Sixers in shot attempts or usage, but Redick’s movement without the ball gave the entire offense its shape. Not many shooters could bear the weight of that kind of role. It works for Redick because of how fluidly he transitions from sprint to shot, making some of the hardest shots in the game look easy.
Dario Saric - 54th
Meanwhile, Saric, in his second season with the Sixers since coming over from Anadolu Efes, saw jumps in his scoring (14.6), rebounds (6.7) and assists (2.6). Dario's shooting percentage went from 41.1 percent to 45.3 percent from his first season to his second and his three-point percentages jumped 42 points from 31.1 percent to 39.3 percent.
SI: For Saric , instinct is a propulsive force. The 24-year-old has a preternatural sense of where to be and when. By the time Ben Simmons commits to making a pass, Saric has already raced through the backdoor on his way to the rim. He has a knack for turning up around any loose ball. If the defense is careless enough to box out without securing the rebound, Saric will be the first to it. Should an opponent get careless with a dribble hand-off, Saric might sniff out their negligence and poke the ball away.
Robert Covington - 48th
Covington, 27, had a forgettable playoff series against Boston, but his regular season accomplishments were recognized by the league as the former Tennessee State product earned First-Team All-Defense honors. Overall last season, Covington averaged 12.6 points, shooting 41.3 percent from the floor and 36.9 percent from beyond the arc. His field-goal percentage was his best since his first season, when he played just seven games in Houston and his three-point percentage was his best since the 2014-15 season, his first with the Sixers.
Covington ranked third overall in the league in defensive real plus-minus and was top among NBA small forwards. Among players that appearaed in at least 15 games, Covington ranked sixth in defensive rating (99.0) and second in defensive win share (0.061). RoCo led the league in deflections per game (3.9) as well.
Covington is one of the most debated about players among Sixers fans due in large part to his streaky shooting. The fact of the matter is, Covington is the team's best perimeter defender and can cover the 1-4 spots on the floor if needed.
SI: Covington warps around the court like a podcast played at double speed, he relishes contact like a middle linebacker, and he shadows scorers feint-for-feint like a professional dancer. With a full season of good health and team success to his name, the 27-year-old Sixers forward has solidified himself as the NBA’s premier 3-and-D wing. His 2018 All-Defensive First Team selection was a no-brainer, as he ranked first in deflections, third in Defensive Real-Plus Minus, fifth in Defensive Win Shares and sixth in steals for the NBA’s third-best defense.
Ben Simmons - 26th
After missing out on a full season to start his NBA career, Simmons had a record-breaking rookie campaign en route to Rookie of the Year honors. Over 81 games, Ben averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He joined Oscar Robertson as the only two rookies to ever average 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game. Ben posted 12 triple-doubles, second all-time by a rookie and third most in the NBA. Simmons was also the second rookie ever to post at least 600 rebounds and 600 assists in a season. He was the lone rookie to post at least 100 steals and 50 blocks this season.
SI: Although Simmons is only 22 years old, he has already provided convincing answers to most of the pre-draft questions that surfaced in 2016. He’s not a point guard? Simmons was the lead ball-handler for one of the league’s most devastating five-man lineups, claiming 2018 Rookie of the Year honors and joining John Wall as the only rookies to average 15+ PPG and 8+ APG during the last 20 years. He has a questionable motor? Simmons came out of the gate as a clear plus defender—ranking 35th league-wide in Real Plus-Minus—while also carrying Philadelphia to eight straight wins without Joel Embiid to close the season. He won’t be able to bully his way to the hoop against NBA-caliber defenders like he did in college and high school? Simmons’s shot distribution chart looks like it belongs to an elite center, as he hit 74.4% of his shots in the basket area and took nearly half of his attempts from within three feet.
Joel Embiid - 9th
After missing two full seasons and playing just 31 games in his debut season due to injury, Joel Embiid showed the league what he's all about last season for the Sixers. If you would have told fans that Embiid would play between 50-55 games, most would be elated. The big man ended up playing in 63 games, leading his team to 52 wins while also appearing in his first All-Star Game. Turnovers aside, Embiid is arguably among top 2-3 best big men in the NBA. Anthony Davis might be the only one ahead of him at this point.
Joel finished the 2017-18 season with averages of 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks, shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc. He was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team and All-Defensive 2nd Team after the 2018-19 season. Embiid ranked third in the NBA in usage percentage (33.4) and defensive rating (100.5), fourth in blocks (1.8) and seventh in rebounds (11.0)
Embiid landed second in NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting, behind Rudy Gobert, and even got a few votes for MVP, finishing 12th in voting for the NBA's biggest individual honor.
SI: It’s rare to see a player already in the running for Defensive Player of the Year developing at such a rapid rate. Embiid is a sponge. The nuances of professional play are still so new to him, yet instinct guides Embiid to positions of particular impact. He has a natural aptitude for rotation, which involves reading the floor and timing out plays as they progress. Opponents are terrified of him, which buys Embiid time; players take such a wide berth around him and use so many pump fakes that Embiid has a longer window than most to get where he needs to go. Even at this stage, he all but guarantees an elite defense. Imagine how good Embiid could be when he actually knows what he’s doing.
Brandon Apter is a Sixers contributor to 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.