Sat. Jul 11th, 2020

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Sixers Struggles This Season Go Beyond Injuries

3 min read
Nerlens Noel Philadelphia 76ers

Sebum Im/USA Today Sports

The first eighth or so of the Sixers’ season can be characterized by the countless injuries that have plagued the team. Kendall Marshall, Tony Wroten, and Carl Landry, who are all capable of being key parts of the rotation, have been out for every single minute thus far. Robert Covington and Nerlens Noel, two of the three best players on the team, have also missed games here and there. A narrative has emerged among some Sixers fans that injuries are to blame for the team’s incredibly slow start. While no one is necessarily claiming the team could be competing for a playoff spot even with a full squad, it is worth noting just how bleak the outlook for this season is.

The Sixers offense this year has been a real slog. The team has focused on getting post touches for Jahlil Okafor, a smart strategy for the long term, but one that has not proven to be effective yet. Okafor has 83 post-ups thus far (not including last night’s game against Dallas), but he is in about the 30th percentile of all post-up players leaguewide in terms of scoring efficiency. A factor to consider is the high number of hard double teams Jah has faced – something rarely seen for a player this early on in his rookie season.

The Sixers have not shot well at all, but even more concerning to me are their turnover numbers. Per ESPN.com, Philly currently possesses a turnover ratio of 15.6, the worst mark in the league. Kendall Marshall, once he returns, will presumably provide a steady hand in this regard. However, T.J. McConnell has done a fine job of taking care of the ball relative to how many opportunities he has created for his teammates. Most of the improvement in this regard needs to come from Noel, Okafor, and the wings.

Last season the Sixers had an above-average defense, and it has been disappointing to see such a heavy regression this season. It is difficult for young players to grasp the nuances of NBA defenses, but the Sixers have struggled with even basic guarding. Nik Stauskas and Isaiah Canaan have routinely gotten blown by, and Okafor has been predictably bad defending in space. As players get healthy and continue learning from coach Brett Brown, the defense should begin to improve, but for the time being it will continue to be tough on that end of the court.

Like Coach Brown, I am excited for when Marshall and Wroten make their respective returns. It is better for development to have a full complement of players, and it will be nice to be able to evaluate Wroten before his contract negotiations unfold this upcoming summer. I just think our desire to see the team finally start winning after two pitiful seasons occasionally leads us to get too excited and think they are already capable of winning 30-plus games. While getting everybody healthy will surely help somewhat, the Sixers are poised for another campaign in which they do not sniff the playoffs.

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