We’re a week into the NBA season now and the Philadelphia 76ers currently sit at 3-0. It’s been a very strong start for this team, which even weathered a Joel Embiid absence in beating the Pistons on Saturday.
It’s still pretty early if we’re trying to draw significant conclusions about this start, but I’m a big fan of making way too much of small samples, so we’re going to do that!
Here are seven thoughts about six players on the Philadelphia 76ers.
1. Furkan Korkmaz has gotten a lot of run, hasn’t he?
So, Korkmaz has played at least eight minutes in each Sixers game, a decision that has been...questionable.
Remember last year when Philadelphia didn’t end pick up Korkmaz’s option and it looked like his only chance of continuing his basketball career would be to go play internationally? And then this Summer came and the Sixers were all “sure, sure, let’s bring him back” and it seemed like it would be a depth signing and then he, uhh, somehow ended up playing key minutes to start the year?
Yeah, all that.
It’s still too early for sample sizes to mean much, but so far the Sixers have a net rating of -19.6 when Korkmaz is on the floor. That is...yikes.
2. Joel Embiid’s defensive impact
I, umm, saw this on Twitter:
Sixers' defensive rating with Embiid off the court is 101 (2019 Bucks led league with 104.9 DRtg). With Jo on the court, it's...— Ben Detrick (@bdetrick) October 29, 2019
As expected, Joel Embiid is playing well defensively and having him on the floor makes this team so good on that end of the floor.
I think it’s very, very easy to envision a future in which the Sixers are the NBA’s best defensive team if Embiid ends up playing 70 or so games.
3. Speaking of defense, Matisse Thybulle!
Before I talk about Thybulle, let’s address the elephant in the room. Offensively, Thybulle is shooting 18.8% from the field. 25% from three. 0-for-3 from inside of 10-feet.
We knew Thybulle would take some time to bring it all together offensively, but what he has brought so far is the defensive that he was expected to bring. He leads the NBA in deflections per game and deflections per 36 minutes
In three games Thybulle has eight steals and four blocks. He’s able to do things like this, which is cool and good:
Gets in there, disrupts the pass, and helps get the ball to Tobias Harris, who turns up the floor. Thybulle’s ability to get into the passing lanes and force turnovers that can help start fast breaks is a decent way of making up for his offensive shortcomings, right?
And look, I think the law of averages and all that mean that his offense will come along, and when it does, his defense is already there for him.
4. Raul Neto should play more, but maybe not always at point?
Trey Burke and Raul Neto joined this team in the offseason and one of those guys was supposed to get backup point guard minutes, right?
Well, no. Turns out Josh Richardson and even Shake Milton might be the guy getting those minutes, with neither Neto or Burke playing at all against the Hawks.
Neto played six minutes against the Pistons. He was 2-for-3 from the floor with four points and two assists. He looked fine and reliable, which is what I want to see from whoever would theoretically back up Ben Simmons, yeah?
Per Synergy, Neto was an 81st percentile spot up shooter last year, but he was horrible in transition. That’s the opposite of Simmons, so for the sake of consistency, maybe you want your backup point guard to be a little more Simmons-esque?
But there’s got to be some role for Neto. Stick him at the two and let him work as another catch-and-shoot guy!
5. I’m very happy that Al Horford exists
That’s it. That’s the point. Horford is good and the Sixers are better when he’s on the floor. This was a good signing.
6. Ben Simmons is struggling a little on drives
Simmons is 12th in the league in drives per game at 15.3 per game. He’s shooting 40% on those drives, worse than all 11 players above him in drive frequency. Simmons has yet to turn a drive into a free throw attempt — James Harden is 4.7 free throw attempts per game off drives, to put that into perspective — and only 26% of Simmons points come off drives despite how often he is driving.
The good part of that is that he’s fourth in the NBA in passes out of drives. That hasn’t necessarily converted into assists yet, but if Simmons can make the right passes to the perimeter from his drives, it should.
Still, definitely reason to be concerned about his scoring out of drives right now. Not, like, too too concerned, but a little concerned!
7. I love Joel Embiid’s pump fake
Let’s look at Joel Embiid do a thing.
Joel Embiid's pump fake is so obvious & also one of my favorite things in basketball. pic.twitter.com/i8X8TdXQaR— Justin Carter (@juscarts) October 30, 2019
I was thinking about doing a whole post about Embiid’s pump fake — and maybe one day I will — but for now, let’s just briefly talk about it.
I love Embiid’s pump fake. It’s ugly. It’s obvious. No one should ever, ever fall for it, and then they just keep falling for it. I love it. If I had to rank my favorite basketball things, it would be up there near the top.
On this play, Embiid has the ball at the perimeter and he has enough room to take an open three, so this is a play where this pump fake move makes sense. Alex Len should probably just say “okay, Embiid is going to take a three, whatever” and not run up to contest it, but he does, and Embiid pulls the ball down, puts it on the floor, dribbles past Len, and jams it in. This is one of those moments when this kind of play works exactly as you want it to, and it’s one of the reasons that Embiid will keep employing this ugly, ugly, absolutely beautiful pump fake.