The Philadelphia 76ers had championship aspirations coming into this season. After replacing the losses of Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick with Josh Richardson and Al Horford, many were speculating that the 76ers wouldn’t miss a beat after last season, and possibly even be the favorites to win the East. Unfortunately for Philly, that has not been the case. The 38-25 76ers are currently holding the #6 seed in the weak Eastern Conference. Although they suffered through some injuries, the 76ers have shown that their team is not championship material, even when fully healthy. Their roster looks like this:
Note: Bold = Rookie
* = All-Star
^ = Two-Way Contract
Italicize = injured for season
- PG: Ben Simmons* (23)
- SG: Josh Richardson (26)
- SF: Tobias Harris (27)
- PF: Al Horford (33)
- C: Joel Embiid* (25)
- Alec Burks (28)
- Furkan Korkmaz (22)
- Shake Milton (23)
- Glen Robinson III (26)
- Mike Scott (31)
- Matisse Thybulle (23)
- Raul Neto (27)
- Kyle O’Quinn (29)
- Norvel Pelle (27)
- Zhaire Smith (20)
- Marial Shayok^ (24)
The 76ers have one of the most compelling rosters in the NBA. They have the one veteran and then they have several players who have (hopefully) yet to reach their physical prime in the starting lineup.
Ben Simmons should get the award for Least Improved Player this season.
Rookie of the Year? Check! All-Star Game? Check! Guess he’ll stop there. Simmons looks like the exact same player he did last year, possibly even a bit worse. Being just 23 years old, that’s a horrible sign. Simmons is averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists, and 7.1 rebounds. Last year, he averaged 16.9, 7.7, and 8.8. He’s shooting 58.5% this year as opposed to 56.3% last year. You could say he did improve a little bit, mainly on defense where he went from 1.4 steals to 2.1, but the NBA was bracing for Simmons to be the next Magic Johnson. (Obviously not as good as him, but his style is similar) That did not turn out to be the case as he seemingly can’t get past that 17-point mark on the season. He still has plenty of time to get his act together, but this is now the second season where he failed to break out into a superstar.
Simmons is also currently recovering from a lower back injury and will be re-evaluated in two weeks’ time.
Josh Richardson is not a suitable replacement for JJ Redick.
That’s not to say that Richardson is a bad player, or even worse than JJ, but he’s not the fit that Redick was on the team. He is a great defender and a solid offensive player, but the one thing that Philly desperately needs is a good three-point shooter. Richardson is not that. He shoots just 32.5% from deep on 4.5 attempts. The majority of his 13.9 points per game come from inside the arc, which clogs the lane on offense as only one starter is a suitable three-point shooter. Redick, meanwhile is shooting 45.2% from deep on 6.4 attempts. Richardson would be a serviceable player on any other team. Just not the 76ers.
He is also day-to-day with his concussion.
Tobias Harris is the only outside shooter on this team.
Harris is the only reason that the 76ers are able to have any flexibility on offense, but even he has been struggling from beyond the arc. He has dropped from 39.7% to 36.7% in just one year, and that’s on near identical attempts. 36.7% is beyond passable from the arc, but when that’s the best of the starters, there’s a real problem. Harris doesn’t need the three-point shot to be effective, though. He’s scoring 19.4 points per game as the third option and on 47.4% from the field. He’s a great offensive player who also dished out 3.1 assists and he pulls in 6.8 rebounds. He has a killer mid-range shot and has been an offensive catalyst for the team. If the 76ers have any hope of hitting their ceiling this year, (making the second round) then Tobias is going to be a huge part of it.
Al Horford’s contract can now be considered one of the worst in the NBA.
During the off-season, Al Horford declined his $30.1 million player option with the Boston Celtics in order to chase one last contract before he gets too old. The 76ers jumped on the opportunity and offered him a four-year, $109 million contract. This move made NBA fans ecstatic over the defensive promise of having both Embiid and Horford in the paint. This move sparked the speculation that the 76ers may be the team to beat in the East this year. A few analysts, however, weren’t sold on the 76ers as their lack of floor spacing would become a problem. Horford shot pretty well from deep in Boston, but he wasn’t anything special. His consistency massively dropped since joining the 76ers, going from 42.9% from deep in 2018, to just 32.9% this year. His scoring has also been excruciating this season, scoring just 11.9 points on 43.7% from the field. Horford is still owed roughly $80 million over the next three years and it appears that father time has already caught up with the 33-year-old.
Joel Embiid is the front-runner for Mos Regressed Player.
Just one year ago, Embiid was leading the 76ers with a near MVP season. Scoring 27.5 points per game with 13.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, Embiid was looking like he was going to be the Center of the decade. They had taken the eventual Champions, the Toronto Raptors, to a seven-game series where they lost on a mere buzzer-beater. Many were hoping that that loss would light a fire inside Embiid. Well, long story short: it didn’t. Embiid is now averaging just 23.3 points per game, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks. His consistency has also gone down from 48.4% to 47.2%. Some of it may just be the fact that four of the five defenders don’t need to worry about the perimeter, but some of it is that Embiid seems to lack the will to be the best; He doesn’t have that Mamba Mentality. His work ethic is severely flawed and unless he can change his mentality, he’s likely stuck as an All-Star, and nothing more for his career.
The bench is highlighted by Matisse Thybulle and a couple of veterans.
Matisse Thybulle has been quite the player to watch. He’s a solid 3-and-D player who excels in his role off the bench. Thybulle could honestly make a case for starting over Josh Richardson, as he is shooting 35% from deep, and the 76ers are desperate for floor spacing. His defense is very solid, so the 76ers wouldn’t be losing much on that end. He’s averaging 4.6 points and 1.4 steals in just 19.5 minutes per game. Along with Thyublle are veterans Mike Scott and Kyle O’Quinn. Scott has always been a solid role player and a great stretch-four. He’s shooting 36% from deep on 3.3 attempts. O’Quinn is a solid backup Center, but he’s not a player that can help a team with championship aspirations.
Trade Deadline Moves:
The 76ers made a few moves at the deadline:
The first move was to trade James Ennis III for a 2020 second-round pick. Ennis was shipped off to the Magic and the 76ers simply got the pick.
Their second move was to bolster their bench and get some scorers. The 76ers traded three second-round picks for Alec Burks and Glen Robinson III. Both players are great scorers that were quite serviceable for the Golden State Warriors.
There was talk of the 76ers trading Ben Simmons, but it never happened. We’ll have to wait until the offseason to see if the 76ers shake up their roster.
Right now, the 76ers hold the #6 seed. They’re currently set to play the Boston Celtics in the first round. If that were the case, the 76ers would likely fall in five games.
The 76ers have Joel Embiid over Daniel Theis, but nowhere else do they hold an advantage. Simmons vs Walker would be an interesting matchup, but Walker is a superior scorer. Brown would demolish Richardson, Hayward is better than Harris and Tatum is too fast for Horford. The 76ers wouldn’t stand a chance.
Unless the 76ers shake up their roster, it is very unlikely they ever get past the second round of the playoffs; Ever. Embiid and Simmons both seemed to have hit their cielings last year and Horford’s contract is not friendly, giving them little flexibility.
Their one saving grace in Matisse Thybulle, who has proven to be a steal in the draft. With their lack of cap flexibility, their future may end up in his hands if he’s able to break out.
The 76ers are going to have to trade Ben Simmons if they want to be a real contender. Simmons doesn’t fit with the team and if they could get a good shooter for him. If can get the right package for him, they may be back in the conversation for a championship again.