At 4-4, the Sixers have been an up and down team so far this season. With wins against the Hornets, Bulls, Magic, and Mavericks, they have taken care of the teams that they should be beating. They’ve fallen victim to the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors.
All of those teams except maybe the Detriot Pistons are better teams than the Sixers at this very moment. Some of those teams made significant upgrades compared to who was on the roster last season like Toronto bringing in Kawhi Leonard, and the Celtics now finally having a healthy roster with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
With these teams upgrading their roster, it is really hard to find where any upgrades were made for the Sixers and it seems like you can only find downgrades. The Sixers were sitting at a disappointing 14-18 heading into the Christmas day game last year with a completely different roster than when they ended the season. The Sixers went onto acquire Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova and spearheaded their way to a 38-12 record the rest of the season and ending it on a 16 game winning streak. What Belinelli and Ilyasova brought was a significant increase in speed and outside shooting, to a team that needed someone outside of J.J. Redick knocking down threes.
With the Sixers currently built roster, they just don’t have nearly the same amount of shooting as last year. Markelle Fultz is playing his first full season in the league and is still working out the kinks in his jump shot, and as a starting shooting guard, is only shooting 39% from the field. If you compare that to last year, J.J. Redick ended the season with a 46% field goal percentage. Yes, Redick is still getting the most minutes off of the Sixers bench, but the team is falling victim to Fultz inability to create space for Ben Simmons to go to work by not having a respected jump shot.
While it seems this team has taken a step back, let’s look at the positives that can still be brought out the rest of the season that in turn could create consistent winning basketball this season. They are still without Wilson Chandler due to a hamstring injury. Chandler will be a significant boost to the team’s bench as he averaged 10 points per game for Denver last season, and nearly 16 ppg the year before. He brings length, an ability to defend multiple positions, and can hit the three-point shot as well. He will provide a significant increase and boost to the team’s bench scoring ability. One other asset that is not nearly spoken enough about is Landry Shamet. The rookie out of Wichita State hasn’t put up crazy numbers this season (6 ppg and 36% from three), but he isn’t afraid to shoot with nearly four threes attempted per game. He is a sneaky good addition that could be a big boost to the bench come playoff time and it will be interesting to see what type of progression he can make throughout the rest of the season.
Sitting where the Sixers are right now at 4-4, they need to find their identity. Joel Embiid has already made his presence well-known having the best season of any big man in the league averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks per game. We have seen Ben Simmons be himself, but we have seen actually fewer jump shots so far this season, and it doesn’t seem like he’s more comfortable shooting the basketball this season. He had 11 turnovers versus the Raptors and that was mainly because of the way they clogged the lanes versus his driving abilities and forced him to make tough passes.
The Sixers are right where we all thought they’d be at this early point in the season, and that’s still trying to figure out how to play as a unit with new starting guard Markelle Fultz and maximizing his ability with the players around him. The Sixers will soon find out if the decision to start him is a sacrifice that was worth taking because right now they look like they have taken a half step back in the ‘process’.