Evaluations Of Every Sixers Player
Let’s talk about all the Sixers.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He has been legally banned from covering the team in person, and when that ban was set to be lifted, Covid-19 struck. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
If on opening night you asked me how the first few weeks of Sixers basketball goes, I certainly would not have guessed that they’d have the best record in the NBA (as of this writing). And yet, here we are!
With the team coming off a (predictable) loss to Brooklyn in the second half of a back-to-back, this feels like a good time to take a step back and evaluate what we have seen so far and might see in the future.
To switch things up, let’s go player by player.
Before that, though, I would like to acknowledge that last week I surpassed one full year with The Ricky. Working here has been a thrill and I look forward to continuing. Thank you to Spike and Mike for seeing something in me, and to everyone else here. From AU and MOC to Abbie, Zo, CJ and everyone in between, thanks a ton. In what has been a very tough year, working with all of you has been a true joy.
Now to basketball!
We have to start out with the Big Fella, who is playing the best basketball of his career. Embiid has been his typical self on defense, terrorizing opposing drivers and shutting down action after action.
More importantly, he is performing on offense at a level that is unprecedented for him. Not only are his shooting splits better than they’ve ever been, but his handling of double-teams has been nothing short of excellent. He’s been able to make all of the right reads as the double comes, and now has the shooting around him that he needs to be effective as the epicenter of an offense.
The “Ben Simmons needs to be more aggressive going to the rim and getting fouled” talking point has been run into the ground by myself and others. So today I’ll focus on what is slightly less important but more fun to talk about: his defense.
Many Sixers universe folks clamored for Ben to win Defensive Player of the Year last season. While he was excellent, it was a bit far-fetched to me — as good and versatile as Ben is, he was prone to too many lapses in attention away from the ball.
This year, Ben has continued to cause terror as an on-ball defender while providing the incredible versatility he has become known for. The only trend from last year that’s dissipating is his being prone to off-ball lapses. Ben has been entirely locked in on defense, somehow topping last year’s performance somehow.
The last couple of games have been less encouraging as far as Tobias goes, but to be truthful, that doesn’t matter to me. The version of Tobias we’ve seen over the last several games has been everything Tobias was not up to that point. Instead of a ball-stopper who takes bad shots, he has looked like a decisive tough shot-maker who is ready to pull the trigger from three-point range.
Before his positive COVID-19 test, boy oh boy was Seth Curry shooting the hell out of the ball in his first handful of games as a Sixer. Curry leads the entire NBA in true shooting percentage. He’s paired hilariously efficient three-point shooting with bits and pieces of shot creation and closeout-attacking. It will be interesting to see how the team’s offense performs without their most versatile shooter.
After a brutal start to the year, Green has stepped up and made a surge offensively, now having made over 39 percent of his triples on more than five attempts per game. His defense, however, has lots of room for improvement. He’s often seemed to lack the foot speed to contain elite guards (see: Bradley Beal). There is no doubt in my mind that he is a positive-impact defender. But his ability to take on elite ball-handlers is very much in question.
If you take a look at Shake’s statistical profile so far this year, you’ll be surprised on several occasions. For instance: Shake is taking 4.4 threes per game and only making 27.5 percent of them. But he also has an above-average 57.2 true shooting percentage. His intermediate game inside the arc has been almost stunningly good -- Shake continues to be able to get to the rim, play at his unique pace and finish on floaters or against contact. When his three-point shooting improves -- which it most definitely will -- he will have quite the excellent offensive season.
Howard has been predictably helpful, first as rebounder and second as a rim protector. The team has performed well on defense in his minutes. But while he occasionally saves offensive possessions thanks to his catch radius as a lob threat, the lineups featuring he and Ben Simmons have not performed well at all on the offensive end. This was my biggest concern when Howard was signed: he’s clearly an excellent backup center, but how does a pure lob threat without the threat of a shot coexist with Simmons? So as far as Dwight goes, I’ll be watching for lineups with both Howard and Simmons to see if they can figure each other out.
How fun is Tyrese Maxey? The rookie guard has successfully inherited the backup point guard role, fully entrusted to take care of the ball and initiate offense. He’s shown little cause for concern -- the only issue that jumped out to me early on was Maxey’s lack of three-point attempts. But Maxey has publicly commented that he is focused on improving that aspect of his game as he adjusts his tendencies. And guess what? He took four threes against Brooklyn. There you go! No yips. No ambidexterity (or lack of dexterity at all). Just a normal rookie guard taking normal shots.
It was nice to see Thybulle make a few highlight defensive plays this past week, especially considering how poor his offense has been. He’s shot 21.4 percent from three, and if you remove the game in Orlando from his game log, he has nine points in eight games. If Thybulle isn’t playable on offense, his defense doesn’t matter much.
Scott entered training camp an unknown; his rotation status a mystery. But he opened the season coming off the bench and played well enough to continue doing so. Since he started missing time with a knee injury, his stock may have actually grown: without Scott, the Sixers are starved for power forward production, now needing to rigidly stagger Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Scott’s eventual return will make Doc Rivers’ life easier.
Similarly, Korkmaz has only seemed more valuable in his absence. The Sixers could desperately use a microwave offense player on the wing. Even if he isn’t exactly Vinnie Johnson, he is a rock-solid offensive player who should return to the rotation with open arms.
Tony Bradley, Isaiah Joe
Bradley seems pretty firmly entrenched as the third-string center right now. He played quite a bit in the one game where Joel Embiid sat. He has not played a single second in any other game. Given Embiid’s stardom and Howard’s reliability, it’s hard to see Bradley as part of the rotation barring an injury.
Similarly, Joe has barely seen any time on the floor, and looks more than raw. His time in the rotation seems far away right now.
Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Poirier
These two are grouped together because in my eyes, they have the same purpose: to help facilitate a future trade. The team clearly has no role planned for Ferguson or Poirier. But at $3.9 million and $2.6 million, they are both on salaries above the veteran’s minimum, possibly useful in a trade to make salaries match. Mark me down with the following prediction: next time Daryl Morey swings a trade, at least one of Ferguson and Poirier will be in it.