Didn’t take long for us to revert right back to #TeamPanic mode, huh? After entering a season with expectations for the first time since 2012-13, the Sixers blew their first three games, barely looked competitive against the Raptors, and now are entering tonight’s game against the Pistons with a disappointed city apprehensive to tune in, lest we all be disappointed again.
On the one hand, we should relax. We knew that (a) The Sixers have a difficult schedule to start the season, (b) the team needs to to gel and get up to speed, (c) JoJo is not in shape, and (c) two rookie ballhandlers are being put into large roles. None of that has changed, and the ramifications have been largely as expected.
Ben Simmons has played better than could have reasonably been expected thus far, putting up a gaudy per 36 statline of 16.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. Only 4 other players in NBA history have put up those types of numbers before. The Sixers’ offense has completely relied on Ben through these games, dropping from a 104.1 Net Rtg with Simmons on the floor to a putrid 80.0 without him.
On the other hand, we have no idea what the fuck is going on with Markelle Fultz. (Seriously. I had a minor Twitter freakout about it this morning.) Simmons has put up incredible volume stats, but he hasn’t scored remotely efficiently, and he continuously fades away from the hoop when he finishes. Amir Johnson has looked to be on the wrong side of 30. Bayless is a turnstile.
So, a little bit of freaking out is justified. But remember that it’s still early, and the team has plenty of time to come together.
Plus we get the next month without another back-to-back, which means Joel should be able to work himself into shape while playing (nearly) every game.
The Pistons welcome the Sixers as winners of two of their first three games, along with titleholders of “The Most Boring Team to Watch in Basketball.” Reggie Jackson was a disaster after returning from his injury woes, and he has picked up largely where he left off last year. Tobias Harris leads the team in scoring, having shot an absurd 47.1% from 3 so far, and Andre Drummond remains a mammoth big man.
The biggest changes from last year have been Avery Bradley’s insertion into the starting SG slot and a starting role for Stanley Johnson, who is again being given a chance to live up to his Top 10 selection in the 2015 Draft. In Johnson and Harris, the Pistons have two sizable wings who should be able to body up Ben, so this will be a good test for him.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: Bayless - Redick - Covington - Simmons - Embiid
Pistons: Jackson - Bradley - Johnson - Harris - Drummond
Game starts at 7:00pm.