I, for one, am relieved that Markelle Fultz has been ruled out indefinitely due to whatever shoulder issues may or may not be hampering or not remotely hampering his ability to no longer shoot the basketball from any distance greater than ten feet. The all-encompassing PR debacle and media circus surrounding the 2017 #1 pick has distracted from an all-time rookie start from the Sixers’ other first overall selection. With Fultz out of the picture for the foreseeable future— hopefully working out whatever bizarre hijinks have subsumed his early basketball career— we can step back and appreciate the two other insane talents we have on this basketball team.
Joel Embiid’s presence still transforms this Sixers’ team from also-rans to a Top 4 playoff seed:
VERY early, but Embiid’s on/off stats remain similar to last year: PHI playing like 52 win team with him on court, 10 win team with him off. pic.twitter.com/l10T7sPWXM— Ben Falk (@bencfalk) October 30, 2017
(I’m sure the Toronto miscue has no impact on those numbers whatsoever...)
And Simmons’ production in his first six games could be a Blake Griffin clone... if Blake Griffin quadrupled his passing output.
Ben Simmons vs. Blake Griffin crazy similar early on. Ben's assists/TO ratio pops out.— Andrew Porter (@And_Porter) October 30, 2017
(h/t reddit/r/sixers) pic.twitter.com/psm9PazKfl
If it weren’t for Fultz, these two developments would be major national stories, and they deserve to be. Now we get to focus on them in full, and to enjoy the growth of two of the players for which the entire Process was built.
We also have a chance to avenge a brutal loss to this same Rockets team from last week.
Chris Paul is still out with a knee issue, meaning the team the Sixers are up against tonight is likely to be very similar to last season’s crew. According to Rotoworld, Eric Gordon may also miss time from an illness contracted over the weekend.
With those two out, a heavy creation burden will fall on James Harden’s shoulders. We’ve seen him handle it before, but it means that any period of play in which he sits will be a ripe opportunity for the Sixers to take advantage of tonight. D’Antoni has also kept a tight rotation in the early games, with only 7 players seeing 20 minutes of action in at least five games. With Gordon potentially out, that will put extra stress on the team, and the Sixers could exploit it down the stretch.
Look for Embiid and Simmons to potentially put the Rockets’ bigger players into foul trouble as well. Embiid has been a foul-drawing machine since his debut, and neither Clint Capela nor PJ Tucker have the size to bang with him on the block or the strength to contain him on the move. If he can limit his turnovers, the Rockets may be in trouble.
Of course, they were a 56-win team last year and have started 5-2 for a reason: They’re really good! The Rockets will shoot the 3 like crazy, and James Harden continues to be a PnR maestro.
Game starts at 8:00 EST and can be seen on NBC Sports Philadelphia +.