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Interesting Sixers Stats, Vol. 1: JJ Redick’s struggles, Joel Embiid’s turnovers, and more

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Because a statistic is a terrible thing to waste

NBA: New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Volume 1 of Interesting Sixers Stats! In each edition moving forward, I will provide you with...you guessed it, some interesting Sixers stats. These numbers could really be anything that I find interesting enough to be featured in an article.

A quick note before we begin: if you have any suggestions for types of statistics to look out for, or ways you want me to go about this series, please share them in the comments section.

Alright, let’s get started.

JJ Redick’s Offensive Production (stats via Synergy Sports, Basketball Reference)

Statistic 2015-2016 LAC 2016-17 LAC 2017-18 PHI 2018-19 PHI
Statistic 2015-2016 LAC 2016-17 LAC 2017-18 PHI 2018-19 PHI
Spot Up Frequency 16.6% 18.9% 18.0% 12.6%
Spot Up PPP 1.52 1.213 1.2 0.787
Hand Off Frequency 18.5% 19.0% 24.1% 32.2%
Hand Off PPP 0.959 0.995 0.984 1.058
Off Screen Frequency 38.7% 31.8% 17.3% 17.5%
Off Screen PPP 1.124 1.032 1.158 1.135
PTS/36min 21.0 19.2 20.4 21.3
3PA/36min 7.2 7.7 7.8 8.9
3P% 47.5% 42.9% 42.0% 37.1%
3PAr .478 .526 .523 .545
FTr .233 .227 .248 .232
USG% 22.6% 22.0% 21.7% 23.1%
TS% 63.2% 59.9% 61.4% 58.9%
eFG% 59.3% 55.8% 56.9% 54.5%
PER 17.5 14.8 15.9 15.0
OBPM 3.5 2.0 2.6 2.4
ORtg 113.2 117.7 111.6 112.6
ORtg Swing 10.6 12.2 4.5 3.4

It’s no secret that JJ Redick hasn’t quite been himself this season. His struggles on the defensive end have been obvious, and on offense, his shooting just hasn't been at the level of years past. While his gravitational value to the Sixers’ offense remains intact, his actual production has slipped. Simply put, he isn’t making as many shots as he has in recent memory. Now, why is this? Both context and the data can lead to reasonable hypotheses worthy of consideration:

  1. Redick is a 34-year-old player with both limited athleticism and bad size, and what is happening to him right now is what happens to most athletes as they get older: when age increases, production decreases. What we’re seeing right now with JJ Redick is exactly that.
  2. Redick is just in the midst of an elongated, unlucky slump that he will soon break out of. The numbers say he has gone from an elite spot-up shooter (average of 1.31 points per possession from 2015-2017) to a bad one (just 0.787 this year), and that will definitely even out over the course of the regular season. No need to worry, JJ will be just fine.
  3. JJ Redick can be hyper-efficient on substantial volume, but can’t quite handle the amount he’s being featured this season. While his usage rate and 3-point attempt rate are higher than they’ve ever been over the last four years, his true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage and 3-point percentage are all at the lowest they’ve been during that time frame. The Sixers need to cut back on how much of their offense is reliant on using Redick, so he can get back to being one of the most productive shooters in league history.

In due time, we’ll likely be able to figure out which of these conclusions was the correct one, or if it’s some combination of them. But for now, it’s worth monitoring if Redick’s offensive output begins to improve in the coming weeks.

Joel Embiid’s Turnovers

type total %
type total %
miscommunication 3 0.02608695652
pass stolen 15 0.1304347826
bad pass 16 0.1391304348
illegal screen 8 0.06956521739
offensive foul 13 0.1130434783
travel 11 0.09565217391
ball / dribble stolen 28 0.2434782609
lost / dropped ball 18 0.1565217391
three-second violation 2 0.01739130435
stepped out of bounds 1 0.008695652174
TOTAL: 115
*5 uncharted turnovers*

I spent around an hour watching and charting every Joel Embiid turnover provided on NBA.com from this season (which was not a fun experience!), and this is what I found. A few things stand out:

  • Joel Embiid ends up losing control of the ball or flat out dropping a pass far more than you would expect an NBA player to do, especially someone with hands the size of Embiid’s. He’s had lingering hand injuries for a long time. Could this be an example of a side effect of those injuries?
  • I was surprised to only find three miscommunications all season. If I had to guess, that number was likely much higher at this time last season. It’s definitely encouraging that Embiid is cutting down on his easily preventable turnovers. While his best and worst passes are typically the most common topics of conversation when it comes to his turnovers, he can reduce his turnovers quite significantly by just cutting out the laziest ones.
  • The 13 percent of Embiid’s turnovers that were categorized as stolen passes seemed to me to be primarily passes that were stolen because of a bad decision by Embiid. Brett Brown often speaks about “quarterbacking the gym”, i.e. a player being able to survey what’s going on around him, make the right read, and execute the pass well. Embiid has shown flashes of being able to do this, but still needs some work to be able to perfect it. Which, for a player in his second full season, is normal and acceptable.

Sixers Defensive Position Frequencies

Player Total Possessions PG% SG% SF% PF% C%
Player Total Possessions PG% SG% SF% PF% C%
Amir Johnson 607 3.13% 4.61% 5.27% 14.83% 72.16%
Ben Simmons 2,126 13.73% 21.26% 28.41% 23.42% 13.17%
Furkan Korkmaz 731 17.37% 40.77% 32.15% 6.98% 2.74%
Jimmy Butler 1,724 18.62% 41.18% 21.98% 12.53% 5.68%
JJ Redick 2,013 26.13% 51.27% 15.80% 4.22% 2.58%
Joel Embiid 2,130 5.12% 4.79% 5.21% 11.13% 73.76%
Landry Shamet 1,362 31.50% 44.27% 16.30% 5.51% 2.42%
Markelle Fultz 850 49.53% 29.65% 11.53% 5.18% 4.12%
Mike Muscala 1,276 8.54% 11.76% 18.89% 25.63% 35.19%
TJ McConnell 1,038 58.86% 23.99% 8.86% 5.68% 2.60%
Wilson Chandler 1,030 12.04% 29.90% 30.29% 21.55% 6.21%

Note: these numbers were last updated around a week ago, and they are courtesy of a tremendous table that is available for all, by Krishna Narsu.

I found some of these numbers to be fascinating. Here is a handful of takeaways I had:

  • We talk a ton about Ben Simmons on offense and how his shooting (or lack thereof) hurts the team. There are even discussions taking place about if they should trade him. And while offense is more important to take into account when building a superstar, look at how well-rounded Simmons is as a defender. This is year two of his career, and he is already capable of guarding five different positions, and he does so with regularity. That is...not a normal thing. It’s something that should be appreciated just as much as the highlight dunks and flashy passes.
  • Aside from T.J. McConnell, who has had a very tough time on the defensive end this season, and Markelle Fultz, whose absence from the team will almost certainly continue for multiple weeks, the Sixers don’t have anyone who has spent a significant amount of time defending point guards, who as we all know, have been torching the Sixers all season long. It would really behoove the Sixers to find someone well-versed in defending smaller guards on the trade market sooner rather than later. With Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, and Victor Oladipo all looming as potential playoff opponents, the Sixers need a reliable counter to those stars.
  • Despite the fact that he is actually good at defending on the perimeter compared to other guys his size, the Sixers remain committed to keeping Joel Embiid down low as much as they can, likely in order to preserve his stamina throughout the long season. But in the playoffs, I’d imagine the Sixers will make the change from their dropping scheme against pick-and-rolls, where the big man stays parked down low and the ball-handler’s defender must quickly fight through the screen, into a more switch-heavy scheme that will make for many more times when Joel Embiid must defend outside of the paint.

That’s it for the first edition of Interesting Sixers Stats! Let us know what you liked, what you didn’t like, and what you’d like to see moving forward as we get this series underway.