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Making the Grade: The Sixers’ Mid-Season Report Card

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After today’s game against the Raptors, the Sixers will be just one game shy of the mid-season mark. With that in mind, we thought it would be worth looking at the team’s performance so far and grading each individual player, and then asking you how you’d rate them.

For the fan vote grade: If 50% of more of the vote on Twitter was for one grade, that’s the grade. If the highest voted letter grade doesn’t have at least 50%, the 2nd highest grade (above or below) determines if it’s a + or -. Fan ratings taken after 5 hours of open voting.

Ben Simmons: A (Fan Vote: A, 65%)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Minnesota Timberwolves Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Leads the team in assists (6th in the NBA), steals (6th), minutes, games played, assist percentage (12th), defensive win shares (7th), defensive box plus-minus (4th), and VORP. 4th in the NBA in loose balls recovered.

Though not a “true rookie,” it seems Ben Simmons will likely run away with the Rookie of the Year award this season. His aggression, vision on the floor, and scoring at the rim were all things that made him last year’s consensus #1 pick, and those are the things we expected. What wasn’t expected, however, is Simmons’ strong defensive play. Many who watched Simmons’ sole season at LSU came away with questions about his work ethic and ability (or desire) to defend. Simmons has shot down all of those concerns so far, using the same vision he employs on offense to diagnose and jump passing lanes, grab loose balls, and deploy his 7’0” wingspan to play tough on-ball defense.

He’s still not much of a jump shooter - and he’s yet to attempt a true three-pointer - but his uncanny ability to get to the rim at will balances the lack of touch on his jumper. The one glaring negative? Simmons’ 55.7% free throw percentage (on 185 attempts), is well below his LSU average (67% on 297 attempts). If Simmons becomes more reliable at the line and works on his jump shooting, he’s going to be unstoppable.

Joel Embiid: A (Fan Vote: A, 81%)

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Leads the team in points (15th), rebounds (7th), blocks (5th), PER (20th), defensive rating (10th), free throw attempt rate, rebound percentage (14th), block percentage (6th), box plus-minus. He’s 2nd in the league in personal fouls drawn, 6th in Player Impact Estimate, and 1st in points from the post. He also has the 7th most turnovers in the league.

Minus one swollen hand, Joel Embiid deserves an A+ on health alone. But he’s not just healthy, he’s Joel Embiid. He’s just one game shy of the 31 he played last season, and his numbers are up across the board. He’s averaging more minutes (he payed 786 all last season, he’s currently at 937), shooting a better percentage from the field (and the line) on more attempts, grabbing 3 more rebounds per contest, dishing out 1.3 more assists, an scoring 3.2 more points. He’s turning the ball over slightly more (though he has a lower turnover %), stealing the ball slightly less, and blocking 0.5 fewer shots, but his impact continues to be enormous. The team’s net rating when Embid is on the court is 9.2. When he’s off? -6.8. The difference of +16 leads the team.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in Joel Embiid’s game has been his inability to replicate the long-range touch he had in the first month and a half of last season.

Last season
October/November: 50% (15-30)
December: 29.7% (11-37)
January: 32.3% (10-31)

This season

October/November: 25.4% (13-51)
December: 37.5% (12-32)
January: 22.2% (2-9)

The Sixers may not have any legitimate superstars yet, but Embiid continues to make his evolution into one.

Robert Covington: B (Fan Vote: B, 62%)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Leads the team in deflections (2nd), third on the team in effective field goal percentage, third in three-point percentage, second in steals (11th), third in blocks, fourth in points.

Outside of Simmons and Embiid, Robert Covington is making the case that he’s the team’s third-best player. His on/off net rating difference is second only to Embiid (+13), and along with Ben and JoJo, he’s the only Sixer that has a higher on-court Offensive Rating and a lower on-court Defensive Rating, making him one of only three players who are a net positive on both sides of the ball. He’s a crucial part of the team’s starting five, which has a Net Rating of 18, scoring 114.8 points per 100 posessions and only allowing 96.8.

Though Covington is currently posting above career-average numbers in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, and effective field goal percentage, those numbers have slipped as the season has gone on. From October to November to December to January, Cov’s three point percentage slipped from 46.% to 39.6% to 35% to now 35.7% in the month of January. The overall FG % has slipped as well, going 45.3%/44.2%/38.4%/38.1% over the months. He’s shooting 38.9% from three on the year.

He’s still shooting an impressive 42% from long range in the first half of the game, but only 35.9% in the second. And he makes his money, literally, behind the arc. Just look at this heat map (from NBA Savant):

65.9% of his shot attempts are threes, and 62.4% of his points come from those shots. 63.8% of his threes are catch and shoots (shooting 39.1%). Consistency is always his struggle, and this year has been no different. Still, I can’t rate someone shooting 38.9% from three on 7.3 attempts per game below a B. There are only 15 players in the NBA shooting at least 38% on at least 6.5 attempts per game, and the Sixers have two of them.

JJ Redick: B+ (Fan Vote: B, 65%)

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Leads the team in 3pt% (40.7%), free throw percentage (2nd in the NBA), is second in effective field goal percentage and points per game.

JJ Redick is doing what he was brought here to do: Shoot threes. He’s currently attempting 6.7 threes per game (a career high), 13.1 field goals a game (also a career high), and 3.1 free throws per game (say it with me: also a career high). He’s scoring 17.4 points per game, a career high. His 2.7 rebounds - though near inconsequential - is also a career high while his 3.3 assists would be his second-best career mark. His average shot distance of 20.2 is the 4th farthest of his career, and 51.4% of his shot attempts are from long-range (3rd highest career mark). The adjustment to playing without Chris Paul is notable but not that noticable. His shots are assisted just 86.5% of the time, lower than all of his Clippers years and half of his Orlando years. JJ is playing the game slightly differently, but he’s still playing it well.

Justin Anderson - Incomplete

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Dallas Mavericks Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

An extended case of the shin splints forced Anderson to miss 23 games, and he’s just returned.

Furkan Korkmaz - Incomplete

NBA: Preseason-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

A lisfranc injury ended Furkan the Second’s season after just 32 minutes of play.

Markelle Fultz - Incomplete

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There is literally nothing more we can say about the Fultz situation we haven’t already said.

Richaun Holmes: C- (Fan Vote: C, 51%)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a little hard to judge Richaun Holmes on his season so far, since a majority of it has been spent in warm-ups. The springy back-up big has only accumulated 361 minutes all season (Trevor Booker, who started the season in Brooklyn, has played 207 minutes). By the numbers, Holmes isn’t doing particularly worse or better than year’s past. His 5.6 fouls per-36 certainly doesn’t help the playing time he does get, and his defensive lapses look bad on their own, worse in comparison to Joel Embiid. He’s undersized and more of a rim-runner than anything else on offense, but there’s something going on where he’s not hitting the floor as much as, say Amir Johnson, the other backup PF/C (Johnson has played in 14 more games than Holmes).

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot: D- (Fan Vote: D+, 44%)

NBA: Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most disappointing non-Fultz development from this season has been the regression of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. It took Timmy a while to find his footing last season, but he seemed to find a rythm in the latter half of the season, as he received an increased minute-share. Before the All-Star Break, TLC was averaging 11.5 minutes per game. After, his average was up to 26.8. Using that same split, his true shooting % jumped up 4%, he increased his FG% by a point and a half, and added 15 percentage points on his free throw shot. In 15.9 minutes per game this season, his true shooting percentage, free throw percentage, three-point percentage, and field goal percentage are all down below his pre-ASB numbers from last season. Not only has he regressed, he’s actually playing worse than he did at the beginning of his rookie year.

Trevor Booker: C (Fan Vote: C-, 49%)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Booker has the bonus of being “not Jahlil Okafor,” and at this point it’s all that really matters. He supplies some hard work and hustle, but he’s only going to be here until the end of the season.

Dario Saric: B (Fan Vote: B, 67%)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

After starting last season off of the bench behind an added Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric made a late run at the Rookie of the Year award, but came up short. The main thing everyone wanted to see going into Dario’s second season was an improved three-point shot - it had previously been pretty flat, often coming up short - and while it’s still a work in progress, it’s coming along.

Using heatmaps again, as we have above, you can see how Saric is not only improving his three-point shot, but using a lot more of the floor to successfully score. Last season on the left, this year on the right:

Dario’s 37.9% from above the break is an impressive 7% bump from last year, and he’s improved at the rim and from mid-range. Saric is also an improved rebounder this year, with his offensive rebound percentage of 8.2 (up from 5.8 last year) coming in third on the team, behind Trevor Booker and Amir Johnson. And while his defensive boards are down this season, a quick look at deferred rebound chances shows that it’s pretty much a wash. Fun fact: 100% of Dario’s three-pointers this year have been assisted.

Jerryd Bayless: D- (Fan Vote: F+, 47%)

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Philadelphia 76ers John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Jerryd Bayless is having a rough time. He’s shooting under 34% on above-the-break threes, though they account for 66.2% of the threes he attempts.

56.9% of Bayless’ field goal attempts are from range (a career high), but only 37.5% are going in. Likely due to a small sample size, Bayless is shooting a career high from two-point range, while attempting a career-low amount of shots from inside the arc. Quite simply, Bayless was brought here to shoot the ball well. Though his role has changed with the vanishing of Markelle Fultz, Bayless isn’t doing what he was supposed to be able to do.

T.J. McConnell: A (Fan Vote: A, 51%)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

What can even be said about T.J. McConnell’s climb from borderline NBA player to legitimate, good backup point guard? There’s the grit, sure. The toughness, of course. But those terms are usually saved for people who try hard and do the small things but might not actually be good. T.J. is good.

Not only is McConnell very much the heart of the team, he’s still improving. There’s of course the ballooned three-point percentage (up to 40.6% from 20% last season), but TJ is also more efficient all over the floor. His 52.7% FG on 6 attempts per game is 1st in the NBA among players shorter than 6’4” attempting at least 5, and he’s shooting 66% at the rim, up 6% from last year. His assist ratio is 5th in the NBA among players playing at least 20 minutes a game. Like I said, he’s good.

Amir Johnson: C+ (Fan Vote: C-, 45%)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Amir Johnson has had the definition of an up and down season. He’s had fewer than 5 rebounds 17 times, yet posted 5+ 19 different times (he averages 4.8). He’s scored 0 points more than he’s scored 10+. He’s posted a -18 twice and -19 once in WINS.

His 16.3% rebound percentage is the best he’s put up since he was 20 years old. His box plus-minus is somewhat surprisingly the third-highest on the team, and his defensive BPM is only behind Ben Simmons. Yet on offense, he’s wholly irrelevant.

Johnson’s signing was a bit of a surprise, and his tenure here (meant to be only one year, and he might even be moved at the deadline) has been intertwined with Richaun Holmes’ lack of playing time. Johnson’s game isn’t the sexiest in the league, but he can get the job done on occasion.