Despite being a lucky bounce away from possibly winning the NBA championship, the Philadelphia 76ers were like a beautiful, but deeply flawed diamond. This offseason, have all the problems now been fixed? Are the Sixers now a flawless gem?
On the surface, the Philadelphia 76ers had a powerhouse of a team last season. They went 51-31 during the regular season, crushed the Brooklyn Nets, 4-1, in the first round of the playoffs and took the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors to seven games, and only lost on a four-bounce shot at the buzzer in Toronto.
But if you dig below the surface, and you do not have to dig too deeply, the Sixers as a team and as an organization had a bunch of flaws. When you think of all the problems the team had to struggle through, it’s amazing the Sixers came as close as they did to having a parade down Broad Street.
Let us run down some of the major flaws in the team’s structure and see if they have been corrected and are now flawless in that area.
‘Defense wins games’ is one of the oldest sports lines around. Unfortunately for the Sixers, playing ‘D’ was not one of their better characteristics.
How many times did you hear during the season ‘(Insert player you have never heard of) scored a career-high (lots of points)’. For a team with title hopes, it got pretty ridiculous after a while that they were totally flabbergasted on how to stop Ish Smith.
In the final NBA stats, the Sixers were 24th out of 30 teams in opposition points in the paint. Since you know Embiid was doing his job, most of those were scored on driving layups off of pick-and-rolls or simply blowing by the human turnstiles in Sixers uniforms supposedly guarding them.
The Sixers were overall 14th in defensive rating, just behind that defensive juggernaut the Los Angeles Lakers . They were even worse, 19th, in total points allowed.
The Sixers did up their defensive intensity in the postseason, as their rating was fifth out of the 16 playoff teams. But coach Brett Brown had to basically chuck half his roster to accomplish that.
Fixing the flaw:
Brown used to talk how the first thing he looked for in a player was defense but he had a lot of players last year who were defensive liabilities.
Maybe former general manager Bryan Colangelo was too busy arguing with people on Twitter or deciding why he wanted to draft Anžejs Pasečņiks and Timothe Luwawu-Carbarrot instead of Kyle Kuzma and Derrick White.
But new GM Elton Brand apparently listened, as he made a pointed effort this offseason to add defenders. Gone were defensive liabilities J.J. Redick, T.J. McConnell, Boban Marjanovic, Greg Monroe, Amir Johnson and Furkan Korkmaz (who was later brought back on a dirt cheap contract as a future investment).
The two subs who could play defense, James Ennis and Mike Scott, were resigned and Brand was able to add veteran defensive aces Josh Richardson, Kyle O’Quinn and Al Horford. Brand also drafted Matisse Thybulle, rated the top defensive player in the NBA Draft and welcomes last year’s first-round pick, Zhaire Smith, after his rookie season was virtually lost due to injuries and illness. He is also known for his defense.
Remembering how the Sixers had five centers on the roster last year and Embiid was the only one they could actually put in a playoff game, Brand signed rim-runner Norvell Pelle to a two-way contract and 7-foot-4 Christ Komadje to an Exhibit 10. They both should be mainly with the Sixers’ G-League team but available if needed. Neither is a polished player but they can present problems defensively.
The shortest wingspan in the Sixers’ potential starting lineup of Embiid, Horford, Richardson, Tobias Harrris and Ben Simmons is 6-foot-10, with a bunch of athletic wings who can play defense coming off the bench.
The only players on the projected 15-man roster who could be considered not good on defense are Korkmaz, probably the third or fourth forward off the bench, and Trey Burke, who is might be the third-string point guard.
Verdict: Flaw fixed
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