Every ten games, we’ll be checking in with how the team has been playing recently, looking at trends in style of play, shifts in the rotation, etc. You can look back at past analyses: first ten games, second ten games, third ten games, fourth ten games.
Another ten games, another winning stretch for the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite all the seemingly constant turmoil surrounding the team, they continue to chug along and win ball games. Philadelphia went 6-4 over their last ten games, now sitting at 32-18, fourth place in the Eastern Conference and 4.5 games back of the first-place Bucks.
The Sixers are five games into the brutal part of their schedule and, thus far, the returns have been pretty good. They have gone 3-2, smoking the Pacers and Rockets, splitting a pair of 2-point affairs against the Thunder and Spurs, and morphing into the Philadelphia White Flags by resting Joel Embiid with Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler already unavailable against Denver.
The NBA trade deadline is on February 7, a mere 11 days away. Reports continue to swirl around Jimmy Butler; for every good game from the star wing, we get some national reporter saying something like he’s on thin ice.
However, the notion of possibly trading away by the deadline, thereby punting on the decision on whether or not to offer him a max deal this summer, seems to be increasingly unlikely given his recent wrist injury. Not only is it another lingering concern that lowers his trade value, but it means Philadelphia has less of a sample size to see how this current group functions together. It’s likely too early to pull the plug on trying to have three players as talented as Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Butler coexist. Don’t be surprised if the Sixers’ big splash already happened back in November.
First things first, though, let’s examine the team-wide numbers (stats are for the last 10 games, compared to the season as a whole, and as of 1/27/2019):
Offensive rating: 117.2 - 4th in NBA (Season: 111.2 - 9th in NBA)
Defensive rating: 110.2 - 15th (108.1 - 12th)
Net rating: +7.0 - 5th (+3.1 - 8th)
Pace: 102.4 - 8th (102.8 - 7th)
eFG%: 57.2% - 2nd (53.8% - 3rd)
FTA rate: 0.293 - 7th (0.315 - 2nd)
TOV%: 16.1% - 28th (15.1% - 24th)
OREB%: 31.7% - 4th (27.4% - 16th)
OPP eFG%: 53.1% - 18th (50.8% - 5th)
OPP FTA rate: 0.275 - 22nd (0.275 - 23rd)
OPP TOV%: 13.5% - 16th (12.9% - 27th)
OPP OREB%: 23.9% - 2nd (25.9% - 6th)
For all the belly-aching about how the Sixers’ pieces fit together (Is Embiid forced to the perimeter too often? Should Butler receive more isolation plays? Is Simmons irrevocably hurting the spacing?), the team is absolutely crushing things on the offensive end. Over the last ten games, the team’s 117.2 offensive rating has flashed as brightly as a sun flare.
Not only is the Sixers’ effective field goal percentage over the last ten games second only to the Warriors, but when they do miss, the Sixers are snagging a high percentage of available offensive rebounds. Embiid has done more damage in this department, upping his offensive rebounding percentage to 9.0 percent over the last 10 games. Simmons has done the same, grabbing 8.0 percent over the same stretch. Our Jackson Frank had a short section in his observations piece this morning discussing Ben’s work on the offensive glass.
Also, though, Brett Brown continues to provide more playing time to rookie big man Jonah Bolden. Bolden’s 6.9 percent mark on the season is third on the team, right behind Embiid (7.3) and Amir Johnson (7.0). Although it’s just a 35-minute sample size, lineups this season featuring Embiid, Bolden, and Simmons all on the floor have grabbed 33.3 percent of available offensive rebounds, a figure that would easily be best among NBA teams. We’ll call that the Midas lineup, routinely turning garbage into gold.
Altered Eastern Conference Landscape
Injuries suck. As a basketball fan, you want to see all NBA players available, performing to the best of their abilities. So Victor Oladipo going out for the year with a ruptured quad tendon is awful, and not just for fans in Indiana.
However, there’s no denying that the injury shakes up the picture in the Eastern Conference. For all the talk about the currently-third-place Pacers still believing in themselves, and they do have plenty of good players aside from Oladipo, what was once a five-team top tier in the East is down to four clubs.
I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that Philadelphia’s first game following Oladipo’s injury is when the team finally decided to rest Joel Embiid. Before, getting a top-three seed was critical. Avoiding the 4-5 matchup in the first round of the playoffs where you would have to face another team in that top tier was huge. Now, it’s likely not as big a deal. Assuming the Pacers fall back a bit, you aren’t nearly as scared about the possibility of going up against them in a series without Oladipo. It’s interesting to think about the possibility that the inflection point changing from top-three at all costs, to something else, leads to beneficial rest for Embiid and others.
The Drunken Dribbler
The Corey Brewer era with the Sixers has certainly been an experience. Now on his second 10-day contract with the team, Brewer has been a shot of adrenaline in the middle of a long NBA season. The 12-year veteran was the team’s spirit animal in the Rockets win, face-guarding James Harden on the ground 85 feet from the hoop, and frustrating him to the point that the reigning MVP both picked up a double technical along with Joel Embiid, and later received an offensive foul for pushing off Brewer in the backcourt. After playing a solid, complementary role in the win over San Antonio, Brewer legitimately put forth the team’s best performance in Denver.
Now, the career 28.4 percent 3-point shooter is not going to keep shooting 44.4 percent from behind the arc. But he defends, which is already more than can be said for close to half of the Sixers roster. Even if Brewer dribbles like a newborn foal still figuring out its coordination, he willingly attacks the basket, another attribute in scarce supply for the team. Additionally, Brewer loves to get out and run in transition, a perfect partner for Ben Simmons in the open court. It seems a fair accompli that we’ll still have Corey Brewer in our lives come springtime.
I’ll be back to check in again after Game 60. The next time we meet like this, the trade deadline will have come and gone. We’ll see if Elton Brand has any significant roster shake-ups planned.
All stats courtesy of stats.NBA.com.