| JJ Redick is winning games by himself; Robert Covington is about to become a rich man, and stylistic observations of the Philadelphia reaching .500 |
The Sixers defeated the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 3rd, and in doing so put themselves over .500 for the first time since 2013. Not only did they put together an early winning record, but the team won five straight games for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Unfortunately they proceeded to drop two straight and fall back to 6-6 after 12 games. Short lived, but progress nonetheless! Success like this has been a long time coming. It will be interesting to see how long Philly can maintain a .500 pace. And how high can they get they’re winning percentage? We’ll find out, but for now? Let’s jam out!
Robert Covington’s Hot Start
Covington is about to get paid. The team can officially extend him on Nov. 15th, and they’re expected to do so right away. As a way of saving cap space, the team will raise his salary for this season in order to create space in the future. It’s fitting that Covington will be seeing some of that money this yearl; he is playing out of his mind. So far this year, he’s averaging 15 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 47% shooting, including 49% (!) from deep. His defense, as always, has been stellar. From an anecdotal standpoint, he is showing no hesitation in launching long three pointers. Against the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 9th, he drew fouls on two consecutive shots from deep.
Covington has improved every year that he’s been in the league and this is no different. Last year he started slow in the scoring department but rebounded with some clutch shots late in games and much improved defense, including a 4th place finish for defensive player of the year. His shooting is off to a tremendous start this year, suggesting that his dip to 33% from deep last year was an aberration.
Perhaps what’s so impressive about Covington’s hot start this year is that his increased volume of shots hasn’t hindered his efficiency. He’s taking 11 per game, a career high, but is scoring over three more points per contest. His absurd percentage from deep is also a career high. Is it sustainable? Maybe not to this degree, but it’s encouraging to see him play with such confidence.
Covington has always been emblematic of The Process; he went un-drafted out of Tennessee State and had to spend a lot of time in the D-League before getting a chance with Philadelphia, a team so berfet of talent that they were forced to give unproven players a chance. He’s taken full advantage, and proven to be a truly valuable piece in the modern NBA that values three pointers and defense.
The Sixers have always had a pass happy offense under Brett Brown. The system hasn’t always looked good with dozens of fringe NBA players running it. But this year we’re finally seeing what the offense looks like with better players. A lot of this is fueld by Ben Simmons, whose 8+ assists per game lead the team and rank 6th league wide. He’s been an absolute terror in transition and fuels the team’s high pace with flash and poise unseen from a rookie in quite some time. Passing is infectious, and the team has clearly caught the bug. The Sixers rank second in Assist Percentage with 65% of their buckets coming directly after a pass. That number trails only the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
It’s taken a while for this play style to coalesce, but now that it has we’re seeing the blueprint become a reality. They’re spreading the wealth, now that there’s actually some to go around.
Redick Transforms the Offense
Speaking of beneficiaries, JJ Redick has to be loving his role on this team. He was the big free agent acquisition this summer and it’s clear why the team is so high on him. He basically closed out the Pacers by himself on Nov. 3rd, pouring in 31 points and 6 assists, including an absurd circus shot.
The Sixers haven’t had a shooter like this in quite some time. Redick is a perfect fit on this team; he doesn’t command the ball but capitalizes on his touches. And his range opens up space for Simmons and Embiid to do damage at the rim. Redick and Covington are arguably the two most impact pieces on the team. They’re shooting 51% and 46% on catch and shoot chances this year, respectively. It’s no coincidence that those two are leading the most successful Philly squad in years.
Embiid is particularly susceptible to this; he averages over three per game. Not a huge number, but having your best defender in foul trouble limits how much you can have him on the court. And there’s a stark difference in the team’s defense with him on the court; their defensive rating is nearly 10 points worse without Embiid on the court. If he can limit his fouls and only exit the game for rest, the Sixers can put together much stronger defensive efforts each night.
Still no actual movement on the Jahlil Okafor trade front, but that hasn’t stopped it from coming into the news. Okafor has handled the situation well, but he’s become more open about his frustration.
“This is my live. This is my career and I’m not getting an opportunity here, which is fine,” Okafor told reporters on Nov. 1st. “The team looks great and I’m not a part of that. I want the team to do great things, but at the same time I want to play.”
Other NBA players have spoken about it too. Cavalier’s guard Isaiah Thomas said that he thinks Okafor is getting treated unfairly.
Man they acting like @JahlilOkafor don’t got game. Let the man go and rock out for somebody else! Crazy how they doing him
I’m sure Okafor wants this situation to be resolved more than anyone. Hopefully he can land in a good spot and find some success.
Richaun Holmes Debut
The team’s true backup center finally made his debut against the Pacers. The team was glad to welcome him back, especially Brett Brown.
“There’s just a bounce to Richaun Holmes that makes him different,” Brown said last week. “We have something available to us that is different than all of our bigs…There is sort of tenacity and toughness. He wears his heart on his sleeve that I think adds to what we are trying to do anyways.”
Holmes isn’t stuffing the score sheet quite yet, but his impact can be felt in a few ways. For one, his fierce dunks are sure to inject some energy into the second unit.
More of that, please.
But to categorize Holmes as just a dunker does him a disservice. He’s a better athlete than Amir Johnson, whose been getting the backup center minutes in his absence. As a result the Sixers can do more with Holmes offensively. Their offensive rating is 10 points better with Holmes on the floor, and they commit fewer turnovers. Holmes is still working his way back into the rotation and playing shape, but once he gets rolling it’s sure to help the team in a big way.