It was a bad game for Harris but emblematic of his struggles on the season. That 0-11 came in the midst of a five game stretch in which Harris didn’t make a three and went 0-23. In 12 games so far, he is shooting 24%. You have to think he will regress to a better number closer to his career average, but the low moments for Harris highlight how flawed the rest of the roster is on offense. The Sixers are relying on Harris to assume a scoring void left by Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick. We’re starting to learn just how much heavy lifting those two players did for the offense.
“Obviously we’re frustrated,” Harris said after Friday’s lost to Oklahoma City. “7-5 is not where we want to be. It’s early in the season and right now we’re going to progress and get better and figure out ways that we can help each other and help our team and go from there.
The Sixers are only 19th in Offensive Rating with 106.6 points per 100 possessions. They are 19th in 3 (33%) point percentage, and 22nd in 3 point rate (34.6). Neither the outside efficiency nor the volume from deep has been good enough. The hope that Ben Simmons would shoot a 3 pointer is pretty much gone.
Simmons injury reflects a frustrating star
To be fair, he has more to worry about than his lack of a jumper, as strange as that is to say. Simmons injured his shoulder on against Utah last week, later diagnosed as a Grade 1 AC Joint sprain. He missed games against Denver and Charlotte. Considering how Simmons plays, it’s surprising how durable he’s been in his two full seasons. He hasn’t a major injury since a broken bone suffered in training camp derailed his rookie year before it began. This recent injury was a brief but ultimately mild scare.
But outside of that Simmons just hasn’t impressed this year in a way the team and fans had hoped. All of his averages except steals (points, rebounds, assists, blocks) are down, and his fouls and turnovers are up.
Speaking of turnovers, the Sixers do that a lot! Quite often. They rank 3rd worst in the NBA, coughing it up over 17 times per night. Brett Brown addressed it recently, and was extremely blunt about it.
Brett Brown addresses the turnover issues:
"Until we can fix this, this is a house built on sand, it is fools gold, we have to find a discipline & a better way to control that…We can’t fool ourselves, this is a problem…players know it, understand it, but we’ve got to fix it.”
Brown is right, and truthfully I’m not sure who shoulders the most blame. Brown is in his seventh year as the head coach, and the Sixers have never took good care of the ball. Whether it’s a byproduct of Brown’s high paced/high pass system or a disregard for instilling turnover discipline, those numbers are a reflection of Brown as a coach.
At the same time, the players are ones actually turning the ball over, and Brown’s best players are pretty careless with the ball. Embiid and Simmons average over 3.5 per game for their careers. At a certain point it falls on the players to improve in that aspect.
Neto and Burke Early Impressions
In Simmons’ brief absence the Sixers turned to their two offseason acquisitions. Raul Neto seems to have more of Brett Brown’s trust so far; he’s played in 11 games while Trey Burke has only played in two. Neto has credited his teammates for the easy transition into the lineup
Neto fills a similar role that TJ McConnell occupied in recent seasons, but he’s actually a willing shooter which is good (second on the team at 50% from deep). Burke has also shown flashes, but it’s hard to judge him having only played two games. Ironically he had the best game between either of the two last week in Denver; 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in 19 minutes. By any indication the minutes should at least be split more evenly to get Burke some playing time in hopes of jump starting some offense.
Embiid 3 Pointers
It’s admittedly a small sample size, but Embiid has been slightly better shooting from deep this year. He’s at 41% right now, nine percent higher than his first three year’s average. Anecdotally the shots he’s taking feel more in flow with the offense. Last season it seemed like he would take them at bad times.
There’s a school of thought that Embiid should be playing closer to the basket and shouldn’t bother taking 3’s. That’s partially true. Embiid is one of the best post scorers in the league. And he should be getting experience in the finer details of playing in the post such as passing out of double teams.
But to ask Embiid to only do that ignores the reality of the team around him and the league at large. Ben Simmons, Al Horford, and Tobias Harris all score points near the basket, and often. The natural division of labor on the offense forces Embiid to the perimeter on some plays. The Sixers may be an unorthodox roster, but you need to be able to create spacing in the half court.
Embiid also has a pretty nice jumper! He’s a career 79% free throw shooter, which is usually the best indication of a good form and having a strong base to improve. It’s smooth too. Look at Embiid take the ball up the court against Cleveland and pull up for 3.
Who doesn’t want to see more of that?
Mariol Shayok making a splash in the G-League
The Sixers’ 2nd round pick from this year likely won’t see much time with the team this year. He will be spending most of his time with the G-League affiliate, Delaware Blue Coats.