February 03, 2020
After three straight winning weeks, the Sixers had their worst showing since late December last week, finishing with back-to-back losses and a 1-2 record overall. And, at least for the most part, the power rankings reflected their struggles.
Sure, the team got Joel Embiid back in Tuesday's win over the Warriors, but they've also been playing without Josh Richardson. Currently, the Sixers (31-19) are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a far cry from where they were expected to be heading into the season.
But a lot could change between now and the next time we post these rankings, mostly due to the fact that the NBA trade deadline will pass on Thursday. The Sixers could theoretically improve their roster in the coming days — or they could see some of their biggest competition in the East make moves and get better while they sit out the deadline.
In the meantime, let's take a look at where the Sixers stand in various national power rankings with a just a few days remaining before the deadline...
Buy or sell? Buyers, big time. The 76ers making a big move here is complicated because so much money is tied up in their starting lineup. Unless Elton Brand wants to be hyper-aggressive by moving Al Horford before the deadline to bring in some depth and flexibility, I just don’t see major moves being made. They also can’t feel great about the buyout market because they’ve struggled with consistency this season and there are plenty of attractive spots around the league for any post-buyout ring-chasers. The Sixers need some guys off the bench though, preferably shooters. Furkan Korkmaz has been a pretty reliable offensive spacer off the bench for them this season. Other than that?
As good as Matisse Thybulle has been as a rookie, his shot-making has been pretty mediocre aside from a couple of 3-point attempts per game. Relying on Mike Scott and James Ennis to make shots can’t be the way to go. Shake Milton has been okay, but Trey Burke has been more reliable. The Sixers can still be a wrecking ball at full strength when they activate their expected starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. But any mixing and matching outside of that lineup (if it can get healthy) has been too unreliable. The Sixers are still looking for their identity, and if they can’t find it, they’re going to need role players to step up. Where are those guys? [Zach Harper, TheAthletic.com]
Breaking it down: Aside from the fact that Zach had the Sixers considerably higher than everyone else — and the fact that he was one of just two writers who had them climbing this week — it's worth noting that The Athletic had a very deadline-centric power rankings today, in which they named each team a buyer or seller. The Sixers, given what they've already invested in this season and where they are in the standings, definitely have the makeup of deadline buyers. But, as Zach points out, it's going to be tough for them to pull off anything big without giving up anything big, and there's already reports out there that the team isn't moving Horford at the deadline. It's seeming more and more likely that if the Sixers do anything, it'll be smaller moves that likely swap role players for what they'll hope will be better role players. It may not be exciting, but it may be what the Sixers have to do if they hope to not only climb their way up the power rankings, but the Eastern Conference standings as well. As for the Sixers climbing two spots after a week in which they went 1-2 with their only win coming over the lowly Warriors? It's certainly a decision, but surprisingly enough, The Athletic isn't the only site that had the Sixers climbing this week...
A Robert Covington return would be ideal for the 76ers, though they may aim lower for a cheaper price tag. Perhaps [Derrick] Rose helps anchor the backcourt, and sharpshooter Davis Bertans would be a match made in heaven. The 76ers are a deeply unconventional Finals contender. A quality shooter could help sand over a jagged (albeit talented) roster. [Michael Shapiro, SI.com]
Breaking it down: Even a one-place jump in the rankings seems high for the Sixers this week, but at least their final spot (10th overall) seems more appropriate. I don't disagree with the assertion that the Sixers need a shooter, but they also need a ball handler. Derrick Rose makes sense in that regard, although it seems like the asking price for him might be a bit much. The same can be said for Covington. Then again, that's just the cost of doing business this time of year. Maybe the Sixers can find a way to pry Bertans away form the Wizards?
Bad losses to the Hawks and Celtics ended the week for the 76ers, after they beat the Warriors. Joel Embiid returned after a nine-game absence in which the team went 6-3. He looked solid in his first two games, nothing over 20 points and 10 rebounds in both games, but struggled mightily against the undersized Celtics, going 1 of 11 from the field with four turnovers. Brett Brown said he liked how Ben Simmons played off the ball when Embiid was out, and that he'll try to put him in similar situations moving forward when Embiid is off the court. [Colin Ward-Henninger, CBSSports.com]
Breaking it down: It's really unfortunate that the Sixers dropped their last two games against the Hawks and Celtics, because their schedule isn't getting any easier this week. They start off on Monday night in Miami and then travel to Milwaukee on Thursday night to face the Bucks. They'll then return home to host Ja Morant and the Grizzlies on the second night of a road-home back-to-back. They'll then cap the week off with a Sunday evening game against the Bulls at The Center. That's a lot of basketball in a short span coming off an extremely difficult start to the week in which they'll visit two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Oh, and the trade deadline will also happen during that stretch. We might know a lot more about this Sixers team by this time next week.
A week after their most impressive home win of the season against the Lakers, the 76ers reverted back to resembling a lottery team on the road. Two losses to Atlanta and Boston have them 9-17 on the road -- the worst of any team above .500. In the loss to Boston, the front court of Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid combined for 30 points on 9-of-34 from the field, with a mere 1-of-11 from Embiid. The road record gives validation to the notion that Philadelphia could be heading toward an early exit come mid-April. [Bobby Marks, ESPN.com]
Breaking it down: While I didn't have much problem with the last rankings (the Sixers falling one spot from 10th to 11th), this one seems juuuuust right.
Joel Embiid returned from a nine-game absence last week, scoring six points and assisting on a Furkan Korkmaz three on the 11-0 run that gave the Sixers (with three starters on the floor to start the fourth quarter) some separation against the Warriors on Tuesday.
But with or without Embiid, the Sixers have not been good away from the Wells Fargo Center. They've lost nine of their last 11 on the road, where they can't seem to keep their opponents off the free throw line. In losses in Atlanta and Boston on Thursday and Saturday, the Hawks and Celtics combined for 78 free throw attempts. Matisse Thybulle is generally a terrific defender (fifth in deflections per 36 minutes), but the rookie committed eight fouls in just 41 minutes over the two games.
Now the Sixers will finish their four-game trip with games against the teams that rank first and eighth in free throw rate. It will be their second game in Miami (where they lost in overtime in late December) and their first in Milwaukee. [John Schuhmann, NBA.com]
Breaking it down: Not only is Monday night's game against the Heat big for the overall standings, it also could have HUGE tiebreaker implications as it will be their fourth and final meeting of the year and the Sixers need a win in order save a season-split against Miami. And then when you look ahead to the Bucks, the Sixers don't have much of a chance at catching them in the standings, but it's hard to imagine Milwaukee won't have revenge on its mind after getting blown out in Philly on Christmas Day.
Initially, Joel Embiid didn't look too bad after nine games off. He put up 24 points and 10 boards in 26 minutes against Golden State on Tuesday. Bruising bigs have run roughshod over the Warriors all year, so his return came in especially favorable conditions.
The rust showed up Thursday in Atlanta as the Sixers fell 127-117 while Embiid moved around as if his shoelaces were tied together.
Cam Reddish's dunk was just one example of him failing to move with urgency, but we should cut him a break since history shows his conditioning can fall off a cliff after even short periods of inaction. The big man's 1-of-11 effort against a Boston team he's dominated when fit was another indicator we may not see the Sixers at full strength for a while.
Its ceiling remains as high as anyone in the East outside of Milwaukee, but Philly went just 1-2 in its first three games with Embiid back... [Grant Hughes, BleacherReport.com]
Breaking it down: It's worth noting that while Embiid was back for those three games, the Sixers haven't had their full complement of starters since prior to his injury back in early January.
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