It is now the NBA All-Star break and the Philadelphia 76ers currently sit at 34-21 and are the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. There have been highs (destroying the Miami Heat by 27 points and the Christmas day win over the Milwaukee Bucks) and there have been lows (the 31 point loss to the Miami Heat on February 3rd ). In this post I am going to give an analysis of where this team currently stands and how they’ll fare throughout the rest of the season.
As stated the team is currently 5th in the Eastern Conference with a 34-21 record. This is a far cry from where many envisioned this team. If I was asked to describe the first half of the season in one word, inconsistency would be that word. Inconsistent play, inconsistent coaching, and inconsistency from a health perspective. The team is a league best 25-2 at home, however their road record tells an entirely different story. They are an abysmal 9-19 away from Wells Fargo Center, with just one road win out of 12 games against teams with at .500 or better. Before the season one of the goals for Head Coach Brett Brown was the number one seed in the Eastern conference and that goal has all but dwindled away due to the inconsistency of his team. One night this teams has looked like the best team in the league and other nights they’ve looked like a middle of the pack team struggling to find their way.
Issues of spacing and rotation management have plagued this coach. Star center (and crown jewel) Joel Embiid has even spoken up in the media about the spacing and how much of a problem it causes him in trying to find his place within the offense. When Al Horford was signed in July, he was signed to be an insurance policy of sorts to Joel Embiid in case of injury. What he wasn’t signed to do was be a starting power forward and shoot almost eight threes a game. Brown has to find a better way to utilize Horford who is at his best in the post or on the elbow. Staggering he and Embiid’s minutes is the best way to do this in my opinion.
In terms of the rotations, the roster construction has went hand in hand with this. After signing Horford and trading for Josh Richardson, there was very little done to improve the bench besides signing Trey Burke, who’s been waived and resigning James Ennis (who was recently traded), Mike Scott and Furkan Korkmaz. There was no clear cut sixth man who could provide scoring off the bench. With this being the case, the rotations have struggled. General Manager, Elton Brand attempted to rectify his offseason mistakes by acquiring ball handler and Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III from the Golden State Warriors. Burks who is having a career year and averaging 16 ppg will help to stabilize a second unit that has lacked scoring and production for majority of the season. GR-III will also provide shooting as he is shooting 39.5% from 3.
One of the main positives of this team has been defense. Whether it be the exceeding of expectations of rookie Matisse Thybulle, who leads all rookies in steals and leads the NBA (yes, the entire league) in deflections or the development of Ben Simmons into a elite on ball defender, this team’s defense has been a joy to watch. Ranking 4th in the league among total team defense rating, this team will be a team no one wants to play once they get it together on the road.
The Philadelphia 76ers first half of the season was filled with ups and downs, however heading into the all star break they won 3 games in a row and one of those 3, was a game in which Al Horford came off the bench and the team looked as good as they’ve looked all season. I think one thing that desperately needs to improve through the rest of the season is the play of Tobias Harris who is averaging 19 points a game. Specifically his offensive play, at times Harris has looked worthy of the huge $180 Million investment the team made into him and other times, he’s disappeared and been nowhere to be found. Harris looks more natural at the power forward position and he fits better there on offense with Joel Embiid who has more room to operate in the post due to Harris being an outside/mid-range shooting threat. If Harris can move into the 23-24 a game average it would do wonders for this team.
In all, the rest of this season presents the 76ers with an opportunity. An opportunity to make up ground and at least finish in the top 4 of the East and possibly top 3. This team has to show they can win on the road and execute at a high level while doing so. This teams incredible potential and talent has been seen on numerous occasions and judging from the teams home record, its there they just have to translate it to the road. With 27 games left, the opportunity is there, time will tell if this team takes advantage of it.
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