Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Nets
Pros and Cons after Philly vs. Brooklyn.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
Welcome back to Pros and Cons. After a frustrating loss to the undermanned Miami Heat in Philadelphia last night, the Sixers finished off their back-to-back tonight in Brooklyn as they faced off against another short-handed team in the Nets. Here’s what’s on my mind as the back-to-back comes to a close:
Pro: Joel Embiid, table-setter
The evolution of Embiid’s ability to counter-attack double-teams has been an often-discussed topic around these parts. Tonight, he continued to show the significant progress he has made since the team acquired adequate floor spacers.
Once a bull in a China shop when the opposing defense sent a second man in his direction, tonight Embiid showed what he has become: composed, methodical and calculated.
To steal an old Brett Brown adage, Embiid has learned to “quarterback the gym,” often directing his teammates where to move without the ball to optimize his chance of generating a good look for himself or someone else.
Embiid has gradually improved throughout his career, but the biggest leaps have come in the last two years. This season, he’s averaging career-lows in turnovers per game and turnover percentage while also easily averaging career-highs in assists per game and assist percentage.
Whether you want to use numbers or the eye test, it’s clear that Embiid has become a far better low-post operator than he once was. On a night where not a lot went the Sixers’ way, Embiid’s playmaking was a bright spot.
Con: Tobias Harris struggles… again
Harris missed the final two games of last month’s west coast trip. In nine games since the team arrived back home, Harris is shooting just 43.8 percent from the field and 27 percent from beyond the arc.
Tonight, his issues were exacerbated against a Brooklyn defense that should have been easily-exploitable given their lack of healthy bodies. For whatever reason, Harris is having an extremely rough season as a three-point shooter, which is the one place that it is just about imperative that he performs well. Harris has made more than two three-pointers in a game just three times all year.
Harris has never been, and will never be, a perfect player. And I hate to even bring it up, but when you look at the quality of players in his salary range, it’s hard not to think about just how extreme of an overpay his five-year, $180 million contract is. Harris is the 13th-highest-paid player in the NBA this season, and he’s just giving the Sixers decent and unremarkable production.
Let me be clear: nobody should be upset with Harris because he happens to be paid handsomely. But you have to factor his enormous cap hit into any discussion regarding his value to the Sixers. The unpleasant truth is that he is nowhere close to being qualified to be a number two guy, and likely not even to be a number three guy on a true championship contender.
Con: Isaiah Joe failing to leave his mark
I’ve used this column as a platform to promote Joe’s case to be a full-time rotation player pretty frequently.
I still believe that playing him is the right thing to do, especially as the Ben Simmons situation continues to drag on. Right now, given this team’s personnel, playing someone with Joe’s skills and mindset is prudent. The high-volume three-point shooter is a very valuable archetype in today’s NBA, even more so when you have a superstar like Embiid in need of floor spacers.
With all of that being said, though, Joe simply isn’t making shots right now. Joe entered tonight shooting just 34.1 percent from three-point range, and failed to record a single point tonight.
Joe should be empowered to keep shooting. But at some point, he has to actually make the shots, or else Doc Rivers will be forced to look elsewhere.