The Sixers were taking on water faster than they could get fitted for life jackets when they traded for Buddy Hield on deadline day.

From the day after Joel Embiid departed a loss to the Warriors with a knee injury and the day of the trade deadline, Philadelphia scored a 25th-ranked 112 points per 100 possessions and gave up a 29th-ranked 127.6 points per 100 possessions. Outscored by 15.6 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning The Glass (CTG). They were sitting at the kids' table with the Wizards, Hornets, and Spurs. A heroic 51-point night from Tyrese Maxey in Utah was the only thing separating the Sixers from an eight-game losing streak.

Embiid was just one of the many bodies the Sixers were missing, but the fashion in which they were losing was the exact opposite of the tone you want to set when you know you're going to be without your best player for the foreseeable future.

In comes the veteran Hield, and suddenly the Sixers started to resemble an actual basketball team. It has not been a fix-all to the Sixers' issues on either end. But, Philadelphia cobbled together enough good moments to swim up to the ocean's surface right as the All-Star break arrived.

From the day of the deadline to the end of the final game before the break, the Sixers were plus-0.1 per 100 possessions, according to CTG. Good for 14th in the league over that span.

Respectable; nothing more, nothing less. For the Sixers as they currently are and how they looked before the trade, plus-0.1 per 100 might as well have been a scientific breakthrough to hangover prevention.

They still have a ways to go - scoring 119.2 points per 100 possessions after acquiring Hield ranked only 12th in the NBA over that span, per CTG.

Over that period of time, the defense (119.1 points allowed per 100 possessions ranked 22nd) was the problem. You're probably not finding a sustainable fix to that without Embiid and with Maxey and Hield as two of your top three players.

There is room for growth on offense, and that might be the ticket to cobbling together enough victories to stay afloat without Embiid.

There is work to be done - the Sixers were outscored by 12.75 points per 100 possessions with Maxey and Hield on the court before the All-Star break, per PBP Stats. Lineups featuring the duo scored only 115.6 points per 100 possessions, per PBP. A few notches below league average.

But, the outputs were relatively large positives over the three games when one of Maxey and Hield was not on the court.

The key will be getting that partnership to function at a higher level. It's already evolved quite a bit.

Hield standing idly in the corners while Maxey ran the show up top lasted less than one quarter. They had chemistry within two minutes of taking the floor together, roasting the Wizards with a quick-pitch DHO:

Jordan Poole goes under the hand-off, which is a sin in its own right here. But, he then compounds the error by not stepping higher to the ball. Hield has space to walk into the three, and Poole might as well get a head start down the floor.

If they need a quick-hitter to take advantage of a disengaged defense, this does the trick.

By the second quarter of that first game together, they were running a two-read Floppy action:

Shooting coupled with lightning speed or slippery off-ball movement coupled with dead-eye shooting. Take your pick, and wish the Wizards luck.

By their second game together, Maxey and Hield were running Wide action, a Sixers staple, with ease:

The screener's goal is to make the defender go over the screen. Maxey makes the pass to Hield, who then reads the defense and makes a decision. If Jarrett Allen is playing towards the level, Hield can put the ball on the floor and attack. If Allen is back, Hield can curl into an open three.

He could've taken the three here, but opts to snake the screen and take Allen in isolation. Ridiculous angle off the glass.

When it came time to pull off the upset in Cleveland, the Sixers got a little more creative and tricky. Philadelphia pulled out Spain pick-and-roll to get the ball to Hield:

Cleveland's communication on this back screen from Hield is bad on numerous levels.  Frankly, the Cavaliers might've been lucky Hield didn't just take the open three. Max Strus momentarily thinks he's switching to Mo Bamba. Allen always stays with Bamba, forcing Strus to recover late and heavy. That empowers Hield to drive the close-out and make a play off the bounce.

Mind you, all of that could've been prevented if Donovan Mitchell played the odds of KJ Martin hitting a corner three and made the low-man rotation to Bamba until Allen got back to the rim. If that happens and is communicated well, Strus sticks with Hield and there's no opening out of the back screen.

Of all the actions that have gotten utility through the first handful of games in this partnership, Hield ghost-screening for Maxey has been the clear go-to. Hield set a million ghost screens for Tyrese Haliburton in Indiana, and he's brought the action with him to Philadelphia:

This is probably the very best of a basic ghost screen between these two. The ghost, which is essentially a fake ball screen and veer away (often to the perimeter) to create separation from the screener's defender, induces Miami to switch. Tyler Herro takes Maxey and Caleb Martin takes Hield. All the play has done thus far is essentially re-arrange deck chairs. But, it's created an advantage for Philadelphia.

The Heat clearly don't like Herro guarding Maxey on an island, as evidenced by Martin shading towards the ball after the ghost screen. The over-shading to help Herro leaves Hield open one pass away. A quick hesitation after the pass from Maxey gets Martin closing without control, and Hield resets for an open three.

It's perfect, but not every play will go like that. There are shortcomings.

Sure, the duo has enough talent to generate scores out of that basic action frequently enough to kill some opposing lineups. But, defenses can counter it by playing below the level and stepping up after the screen, marrying themselves to switching, or sitting in zone.

It works if the ball-handler has incredible foot speed and makes quick decisions. It's built to create and capitalize on confusion.

The other pitfall of relying on ghost screens is that Hield is the shooting guard in most of the lineups he's in with Maxey. It's easy for defenses to switch without creating disadvantages when there isn't a great deal of physical difference between the two offensive players in the action. The player defending the point guard and the player defending the shooting guard can theoretically switch without spoon-feeding a mismatch.

That concern is why it could be beneficial for Nick Nurse to toy with small-ball lineups that have Hield at small forward. Perhaps it wouldn't last long because of the defensive issues at center, but there should be interest in a lineup of Maxey, De'Anthony Melton (or Kyle Lowry), Hield, Tobias Harris, and Nico Batum.

Moving Hield to small forward still probably isn't far enough down the positional spectrum to draw out the desired mismatches on ghost screens all the time, but that group has enough shooting and secondary ball-handling to be a headache for opposing defenses.

While the Sixers iron out what they want to do with their new pieces, there are already opportunities to enhance the Maxey-Hield duo.

Spacing will get better as everyone gets more comfortable with one another. But, there are times when Hield will inexplicably come to the ball to ghost screen when Maxey isn't looking for it. So, he's effectively drawing a second or third defender to Maxey, depending on how the play is unfolding.

There are plays on which Hield will curl around a pick and receive the pass from Maxey, but commit to a drive that isn't there. Nothing wrong with pulling up for a midrange jumper if your defender is out of the play and the big is dropped.

Oh, and it would be great if Maxey would set a ball screen for Hield from time to time. Just to see how the defense reacts.

This duo hasn't come close to hitting its ceiling yet. The question is, how high is the ceiling given the personnel the Sixers have right now?

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