I am a big fan of the 25 game rule, wait till 25 games into the season and then you have a solid sample size to really try to figure out what you have in the team. The 76ers are currently 26 games into their season with a record of 18-8 and currently hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Now we have a much bigger picture of what this team actually is.
After last night’s loss in Portland I started to think about some “takes” about the team: Joel Embiid’s MVP case, the Sixers’ three-point shooting, and what moves can they make by the March 25th deadline to improve the team.
Joel Embiid MVP Case
The MVP talks have been heating up and 76ers’ superstar Joel Embiid is considered a front runner. And he should be talked about as THE frontrunner, in my opinion, he should be the clear cut favorite. Both LeBron James and Nikola Jokic have good cases, and Jokic is putting up historic offensive numbers, but Joel is leading his first-place 76ers and is unequivocally the most important piece for his team.
Joel has taken his game to the next level, he is consistently the best player on the court night in and night out, averaging 29 points per game on 17 shots, 57% from the field, 38% from three, and 85% from the free-throw line. The 76ers are 0-4 without him, 14-4 with him, and are in first place in the Eastern Conference. Not showing up on the offensive stats, is Joel’s recognition of double teams, trust in teammates around him, and his ability to pass out of the doubles making him virtually not guardable. Not even to mention being one of the best defensive players in the league.
Joel is without a doubt the MVP of the season so far, and this team will only go as far as Embiid leads them.
Sixers’ Three-Point Shooting
After last night’s loss, I’m seeing and thinking “the sixers don’t shoot enough threes”. So I looked into it and thought about it and here is how I feel.
Well let’s start with some stats
- Average 29.5 threes per game
- 28th in the league
- The top 10 teams start at 36.5
- Sixers are 19th in three-point percentage at 35.8%
- The Clippers lead the league at 42.2%
The Trail Blazer’s loss really put in perspective how three-point shooting can hurt the 76ers. The Blazers shot 11 and made 11 more threes than the Sixers, outscoring them by 33 points on three-pointers. The final score was 118-114.
So do you the 76ers need to shoot more threes? Yes, and no. The Blazers game was sort of an anomaly, Blazers shot 44% and the Sixers shot 22% from three, if both teams shot their mean, the Sixers win this game. I don’t think this team is a team that needs to chuck threes to win. In fact, I don’t think that is the recipe for this team to win at all. If they can get to 32-33 threes per game at 35%, that’s 34 points from beyond the arc compared to 30, which is what their averages play out now. Right now, the Sixers are eighth in the league at 114 points per game, adding four more points to that would bump them to third in the league.
I don’t think this team has the volume shooters to really raise the attempts per game too much. Outside of Isiah Joe, who averaged 10 three-point attempts per game in college but found himself out of the rotation, for now, they don’t have to throw up a ton of threes.
So how do they increase the amount of three attempts? Maybe a trade? Mike Scott gives them 4.5 per game so that will help if he comes back. Or they can just keep doing what is working and play their style of basketball. After all, they are winning, but ultimately I think trades at the deadline can help that the most.
What does a Sixers trade deadline look like?
Let’s get the big names out the way. Lowry, LaVine, and Beal are all in the rumors, mostly speculative, that they could eventually be moved for various reasons. I don’t know if they are moves that will happen at the deadline, or moves that the Sixers can pull off given their salary situation and assets. Also, historically Morey hasn’t made major moves at the deadline, and the 76ers are a really good team and may not need to overhaul the entire roster. That said, if they can land one of those players I think they should definitely consider it.
There are tweaks or marginal guys that can really help and the Sixers won’t have to give up a ton of assets for. Just recently it was reported by Sam Amic of the Athletic that the 76ers have an interest in Sacramento Kings’ stretch big Nemanja Bjelica.
It’s been an opinion of mine for a while now that the 76ers need a backup ball-handler and a stretch big. Bjelica can fill the stretch big role and fits into their TPE created by the Horford trade, but if they can’t land him they can look into Houston’s PJ Tucker or Oklahoma City’s Mike Muscala. Both of which our great Australian 76ers write Jason Timperley wrote about recently.
As far as a backup ball-handler for the bench we can look at guys like George Hill, Evan Fournier, or even Rajon Rondo, who it’s rumored the Hawks see the signing as a failure. All three would bring experienced ball handler to the second unit, and both Fournier and Hill would bring some added three-point shooting too. Other guards, the team can look at include guys like Eric Gordon or Norman Powell. Both can bring scoring and some shooting to the team, and depending on their team projections and contract situation they could be moved for the right offer.
The 76ers are without a doubt a Finals contender and with some tweaks and minor improvements, I think they can really make some noise in the playoffs. The team is playing good, fun, basketball, Joel Embiid is the league MVP, in my opinion, and Doc Rivers and his staff seem to have everyone buying in and “trusting the system” (as Danny Green called in his post-game press conference). There are some things to be concerned about and things that can still be improved but this team is good and they have a great chance to do some damage come playoff time.