The Philadelphia 76ers lost their top-two bench scorers from last season in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. How has their departure impacted the second unit early on this season?
The Philadelphia 76ers had a horrible bench last season before they signed Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Belinelli’s 13.6 points and Ilyasova’s 10.8 points per game were big reasons the Sixers were able to win 16 games in a row at the end of the season. The Sixers’ decision to not re-sign them, however, was likely the correct one.
Belinelli signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs and Ilyasova signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, so the Sixers would’ve been using $13 million of their cap space next season on them. Since the Sixers are expected to try to add a third star next offseason, Belinelli and Ilyasova’s contracts could’ve made things more difficult.
But I, and likely many Sixers’ fans, began to question whether the Sixers did enough to build an acceptable bench after the first game of the season. Watching the Sixers’ bench get outscored by the Boston Celtics’ bench 44-26 in their 105-87 loss, the departures of Belinelli and Ilyasova looked worse than expected.
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both played over 36 minutes that game and the Sixers’ starters managed to tie the Celtics starters by scoring 61 points, so that blowout lost was almost entirely the bench’s fault. Luckily the Sixers’ bench play against the Celtics was an outlier, as they managed to score 39.8 points per game, which was good enough to ranked 11th out of 30 teams at the time I’m writing this.
The Sixers’ bench overall points per game is actually misleading when you factoring in J.J. Redick’s career high 21.2 points per game. Redick is basically playing starters’ minutes, by averaging 31.2 minutes per game.
There’s been a lot of controversy over Markelle Fultz starting over Redick, but if Redick was to replace Fultz in the starting lineup, the Sixers would have the second-worst scoring bench in the league.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ bench averages 25.8 points per game and are currently the worst scoring bench in the league. They’re followed by the Golden State Warriors’ bench that averages 27.8 points per game. If you replace Redick’s points per game with Fultz’s 8.6 points per game, the Sixers’ bench would average 27.3 points per game.
Currently Amir Johnson is the Sixers’ second-leading scorer off the bench averaging 6.8 points per game with Mike Muscala third averaging 6.5 points. The best chance for the bench to improve is for Wilson Chandler to be at least as good as last season, when he scored 10 points per game, once he returns from injury.
Unless rookie Landry Shamet (4.2 points per game, while shooting 33.3 percent from the three-point line) quickly becomes the 44.2 percent three-point shooter he was in college, they will need to make a minor trade before the deadline to improve the bench.