January 03, 2017
After a week hiatus, we’re back and rounding up the NHL and NBA power rankings that various outlets have recently published. In that time, the Flyers have come back to Earth and that is reflected in the rankings.
As for the Sixers? Well, even with their low team ranking, at least people can’t seem to stop talking about Joel Embiid.
It wasn't that long ago that the Flyers were the toast of the NHL as they reeled off 10 wins in a row. Oops. The Flyers have gone 1-4-2 since that streak. They've dropped to the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and are in danger of falling out of the playoff picture altogether.
After winning 10 straight, the Flyers are struggling with six losses in their last seven games.
Hit: The Flyers have gotten a League-high 91 points (22 goals, 69 assists) from their defensemen, including at least a point in 32 of 36 games.
Miss: Brayden Schenn's goal in the third period against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday ended an 0-for-17 stretch on the power play over six-plus games.
Holding breath about Mason's hand injury Friday in San Jose.
Rich’s Take: A couple of bad weeks and a little bad luck in Anaheim means that you drop fast in the NHL pecking order. The Flyers will try to right the ship in an important game Wednesday night against the New York Rangers.
In 80 minutes this season with both Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on the floor, Philadelphia has been outscored by 21.5 points per 100 possessions. In Embiid's 467 minutes this season without Okafor at his side, Philadelphia actually (albeit narrowly) sports a positive overall efficiency per 100 possessions at plus-0.5. But because we already knew those two had issues as a tag team, let's dig into something fresh: Does Embiid have an actual All-Star case in the East despite the fact he's only averaging 24.8 minutes per game due to his well-chronicled PT restrictions? He really might.
The Sixers were competitive on their four-game trip out west, with three of the four games (the ones Joel Embiid played) going down to the wire. Dario Saric has been coming off the bench for the last month and a half, but has played more consistently lately, has been part of the Sixers' closing lineup, and has been their best shooter in the clutch. Even with some recent injuries, guys are still playing out of position, as that closing lineup has had Saric at the three and Robert Covington at the two. It finished the trip with a win in Denver on Friday where the Sixers shot 14-for-15 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Philly is a respectable 4–6 over its last 10 games, and 5–6 on the year when Joel Embiid scores 20-plus.
Here's a stat that shocked me: The Sixers are sixth in 3-pointers made, and 10th in percentage. They have a dominant big man in Joel Embiid, and shooters. But they're 30th in offensive rating because they are 28th in non-restricted area shots in the paint, and 28th in free throw rate. What I'm trying to say is that there's a good team hiding underneath this team.
The Sixers, who closed out 2016 on a high note with a 124-122 win over the Nuggets in Denver, will open up the New Year with a game against the Timberwolves, where all eyes will be on the marquee big-man battle between Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns. The first time they met, Towns had the upper hand.
Rich’s Take: Huge game in Tankapalooza 2017 coming up on Sunday, when the Sixers travel to a Brooklyn team that is actually 0.5 games behind them in the standings. It should be noted that the Nets, who will hand their first-round pick over to Boston, have nothing to lose for.
That game should also have serious implications in next week’s NBA power rankings.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann