Fanatic Producer Dylan Mackinnon took some time to break down some Sixers numbers…and what they mean for our high expectations.
Through six games, the Sixers are 5-1, and with the exception of Ben not showing a jump shot yet, hopes are generally high in the city for this team. The expectations are that they will win the East, and compete with either the Clippers or the Lakers in the finals. But are they as good as the 5-1 start says. When they get to the playoffs, will this team be different than the past two seasons where they couldn’t get past the best teams in the East? Will they be able to compete with the Lakers or Clippers? For those last two questions, we will probably have to wait until they play them. But as for the first question, there are many reasons to think this team is on another level from the past two years. Here are five stats, and why they should make you excited for the potential of this team.
That is the winning percentage of the six teams they played. And it is more deceiving than it looks. They played the Hawks with Trae Young healthy, and the Hawks have not won without him, and won every game before the Sixers with Young. They played the Wolves with Karl Anthony Towns, and the two losses are to the Sixers, and then in a game where KAt was serving his suspension. And then you have a team like Portland who is obviously better than their record. They made the Celtics look bad, and then the Celtics won every game since, including games against the Bucks and Raptors.
The point is, they are not playing scrubs, with the exception of maybe the Pistons. It is not like they are beating up on the Knicks or Bulls. It is obviously a small sample size, but its a good start to showing they can hang with the best teams, especially considering the Celtics and Blazers win, who they were 1-5 against last year.
Josh Richardson so far is shooting only 22.2% percent from 3. Now that may seem like a bad thing, and it is. In fact it is so bad it can’t continue to be that bad. That is the silver lining. Richardson is by no means a killer from 3, but his averages 36.5% for his career, was 35.2% last year in a high usage role, and has never finished a season shooting below 33%. Even compared to his worst year, he is over 10 points below his average. The 3’s will start to fall for him. Harris has been inconsistent from 3 as well.
|Player||3 pointers for Career Before this Year||3 pointers This Year|
|Josh Richardson||419-1138 (36.8%)||6-27 (22.2%)|
|Al Horford||365-992 (36.8%)||11-30 (36.7)|
|Tobias Harris||687- 1887 (36.9%)||10-31 (36.0%)|
|Joel Embiid||181-575 (31.5%)||4-11 (36.4)|
|Ben Simmons||0-17 (0%)||0-0 (0%)|
|Total||1652-4602 (35.9%)||31-99 (31.3)|
Also of note, before the Suns game, Horford was also around 10 points below his career average. Going into the Suns game he was shooting 27.3% from 3, despite averaging 36.8 in his career. But then one good game where he went 5 for 8 got him back up to his average. It just goes to show that an early shooting slump will get corrected. The Sixers are not going to be great 3pt shooting team, but they are better than they have been. Players like Richardson struggling out the gate are proof of that.
Their rebound differential, with Embiid not playing, is 14. Last season when Embiid was not on the court, they struggled with the rebounds, with a rebound differential of -15. They only out-rebounded teams in 9 of the games that Embiid missed. And that number is very padded by one game without Embiid where they out-rebounded the Hawks 70-49, on the back of 16 by Ben Simmons. The fact was, when Embiid was not on the court, they lacked the dominant rebounder inside, and often found themselves getting killed on the offensive boards because of that. The two Trailblazers games are great examples of this, where they could not get anything done because they were getting bullied inside.
This year, the obvious difference is Al Horford. Having that second big, who can slide into the center role should Embiid miss a game, is a game changer. Even when they went up against Andre Drummond, who is probably the best rebounder in the league, they still out-rebounded the Pistons. While obviously it is still ideal to have Embiid play, they will no longer be at a disadvantage when he has to miss a game, at least on the boards.
The combined shooting % of Damian Lillard and Devin Book is 74.3%. They both had insane games. Dame was shooting it from 30ft out, and nailing it. Every time the ball left Booker’s hands he hit his shot. Players are not going to do that every time out. The Trailblazers and the Suns were easily the Sixers two toughest games. They didn’t have Embiid, and they had to contend with players having unreal games. And it is not that they can’t guard players like that. We saw Matisse Thybulle and Josh Richardson shut Kemba Walker down, who killed the Sixers all last year.
If teams need to rely on their best players to have other worldly games to beat or compete with the Sixers, we will all take that.
In 18.2 minutes per game, Matisse Thybulle is averaging 2.33 steals per game. He is 3rd in the league with that number, as a rookie. The Sixers couldn’t really count on anyone off their bench last year for defense. Bench defense was actually a major problem at times last year. It certainly was the year before when their bench defense was routinely exposed in the Celtics playoff series.
It is deflating for a team to build up a lead, only for a 5 minute run by one player off the bench to ruin it. The Sixers bench in the Raptors series had a plus/minus of -149, as opposed to the Raptors who were -17. With 5 starters who will all get around 35 minutes per game, maybe more in a playoff series, you won’t need an amazing bench, but having a good on ball defender like Thybulle out there can make a difference. If Richardson has to get some rest in a playoff game against the Celtics, you have a guy you can put on Kemba and not worry he will put up 10 points in the 3 minutes Richardson comes off the court. Thybulle is still a rookie and getting better. He has had some foul trouble early. But he already seems like the best on ball defender they have had coming off their bench in this era of Sixers basketball.