The Sixers need some holiday cheer this year.
Losers of seven of their past eight games, the Sixers (14-16) are looking more like the Sixers of old with each passing game, rather than the promising team that was set to take the league by storm this season.
Although Joel Embiid (24.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG) and Ben Simmons (17.2 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 7.9 APG) have had very promising seasons and have flashed their superstar potential on a nightly basis, the team itself isn’t living up to their expectations. They fell again on Tuesday night, 101-95, at the hands of the Sacramento Kings.
Changes will need to be made to right the ship, but at least they can look forward to playing in their first game on Christmas since 2001 against the New York Knicks on Monday. With that, here are 5 troubling storylines that could leave the Sixers with a lump of coal on Christmas day.
1. Joel Embiid’s back
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that Embiid is suffering from a sore back, which will sideline him in the Sixers’ next two games against the Raptors on Thursday and Saturday. It’s unknown if he’ll be healthy enough to play on Christmas day against the Knicks.
Embiid hasn’t been afraid to play physical this season. He’s taken some hard crashes to the court following dunk and block attempts all year. He played a career-high 49 minutes in a three-overtime thriller against the Oklahoma City Thunder last week and has been sidelined since. It seems like the wear and tear is catching up to him.
2. No go-to scorer
The Sixers have lost seven games this season by two possessions or less. A lot have attributed this to the lack of a go-to scorer.
The Sixers have had plenty of games this season where they’ve been able to establish a large lead, only to let it slip away in the second half. In a 117-115 loss to the Bulls on Monday, the Sixers had a 105-96 lead with just 5:51 left in the game. They were outscored 21-10 to close the game.
For as good as Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are, neither have proven to serve as players that can close out a game offensively. The Sixers are hoping No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz can be that guy upon his return.
3. Brett Brown’s rotations
Should 33-year-old J.J. Redick be getting 33.7 minutes per game? Should point guard Jerryd Bayless be playing more minutes than T.J. McConnell? Should forward Amir Johnson be seeing the court at all?
These are all concerning questions regarding Brett Brown’s rotations this season. Many have been left scratching their heads with every Redick turnover in crunch time, every Bayless missed three-pointer or every Johnson defensive lapse when the game is in the balance.
4. Ben Simmons’ jump shot
Not having a jump shot in today’s NBA is very concerning – see Turner, Evan. The three-point shot especially has become a main focal point for the best teams in the NBA. The Rockets (462), Cavs (400), Celtics (379) and Warriors (367) lead the NBA in three-pointers made. They also happen to have the four best records in the league.
The Sixers have made 322 three-pointers on the season. Ben Simmons has made none of them.
Simmons has been trying hard to establish a shot this offseason, but it hasn’t translated to in-game action just yet. It might just be the difference to how good the Sixers can become as a team.
5. Markelle Fultz’s return
Fultz hasn’t played a game for the Sixers since the end of October. The last update from the Sixers on December 8th was that he was no longer experiencing pain in his injured right shoulder and he could resume normal on-court basketball activities.
He’ll be re-evaluated by team doctors at the end of the year. Fultz being back on the court would serve as a late Christmas present to Sixers fans, but that present may not come until mid-January.