The Philadelphia 76ers aren’t yet playing up to expectations. Naturally, the reactions have been calm and rational.
A brief swim through the murky waters of Sixers Twitter reveals an underlying urgency. Fans expect the Philadelphia 76ers to contend, and any result deviating from the high bar set before the season is enough to induce panic. Truly, for some, it has reached that level.
The Sixers are 7-4, yet some are on the precipice of resignation. Of declaring the 2019-20 Sixers doomed for failure — a roster of poorly fit players not performing up to their abilities. I’m here, as I often find myself nowadays, to implore a more blissful approach to Sixers fandom. One of patience.
THE SIXERS ARE 7-4. In my estimation, that’s a solid winning record. I was never big on math, but I’m pretty sure seven is a higher number than four. A few numbers higher, even.
Also, not to oversaturate this article with high-level calculations, but 7 + 4 = 11. The Sixers have played in 11 regular season basketball games this season. That’s it. There are 82 games on the schedule. 82 is a much larger number than 11.
There is plenty of time between Game 11 and Game 82 for the Sixers to improve, whether it’s adding new players or building chemistry. It’s never wise to panic after 11 games. Save your energy. There’s too much room for change.
Of course, there are valid concerns over Philadelphia’s current state. Ben Simmons still won’t shoot. Tobias Harris has forgotten how to shoot. Joel Embiid is the starting five’s best shooter? The simulation is crashing. *Insert Matrix reference* Etc., etc.
Spacing is not good. It’s quite bad, actually. Simmons and Embiid naturally compress the floor, but Al Horford, Josh Richardson, and Harris have struggled to provide the proper mix of volume and efficiency to balance it out.
On the season, Horford is shooting 32.0 percent from deep. He’s a career 36.6 percent shooter. Richardson is shooting 28.3 percent from deep. He’s a career 36.4 percent shooter. Harris is shooting 20.4 percent from deep (!!!). He’s a career 36.0 percent shooter.
You should look at those numbers and recoil. Yes, they’re bad. Yes, they need to get better. And yes, they will get better. Positive regression. It’s a sports term. One worth familiarizing yourself with, because the Sixers are masters of positive regression.
When traditionally good shooters are laying the foundation for a 19th century stone mansion, odds are they get better at some point. They will move back to the average — to the mean (thanks, statistics course!). For every cold spell, expect a hot streak. At some point, Harris will shoot above 20 percent from the three-point line. I’m confident in that prediction.
The Sixers are not a good three-point shooting team. They are, however, better than the current numbers suggest. Things will move in the right direction at some point, and Harris’ 11 three-point attempts on Wednesday — even though he missed every. single. one — were a sneaky positive. The uptick is volume is important.
In the end, it might behoove the Sixers to search the trade market for a shooter or two off the bench. Maybe even someone who can dribble. Until then, fans are stuck with an elite defense, unmatched size, an two of the brightest 25-and-under stars on the planet.
All this, and I haven’t mentioned health. Due to a combination of injuries, suspensions, and load management, the Sixers have had the entire starting five available for 48 minutes in precisely three games. One could argue two, since Embiid was ejected in the third quarter against Minnesota.
The Sixers have multiple new rotation pieces, and a lot of time to figure it out. There are 71 more games on the schedule. Philadelphia has been proactive with rest for Embiid and Horford, which is a good thing. They don’t need to have everything down pat in November. The spring is more important.
Before the Sixers fandom implodes, it’s wise to take a deep breath, evaluate the situation, and relax. Look at the Orlando game — I’ve never seen such an intense group reaction after a loss on the second night of a back-to-back, especially on the road and without the team’s best player. Twitter was ablaze for little reason.
It will take time. The shooting is a concern. The turnovers are a concern. The questionable fourth quarter efforts aren’t really a concern, but I’ll go with it. Point is, it’s way too early to panic. The Sixers will be just fine. They’re still a good team, and when the dust settles, I still expect Philadelphia to contend for a spot in the Finals.