It was a rough week for the Sixers, who beat the Pistons Monday then dropped two straight games with Jimmy Butler out. They did get a nice win on the road in Cleveland Sunday with Butler back in the lineup.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons played at a high level but the team’s depth continues to be a huge issue.
Here’s this week’s stock watch.
After a tough three-game stretch, Embiid has looked like the MVP-caliber player we saw to start the season. The rest appeared to do Embiid well as the All-Star center averaged 30.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game over the last four.
It was clear Embiid was fatigued. Even before the game last Monday, Embiid said he was dealing with “a migraine and diarrhea” and he got off to a sluggish start. Over the last three games, he’s been pretty much unstoppable … without a double team at least.
That has to be the biggest concern for Embiid, who did have back-to-back games with six turnovers. In losses to the Nets and Pacers, Embiid was a monster in the first half but faced more double teams in the second. I’m not blaming the turnovers completely on Embiid. Brett Brown has to find ways to combat the doubles and the rest of the team needs to make shots.
Speaking of …
The Sixers’ bench
In fairness, most of the players coming off the bench are in positions nobody thought they’d be in.
T.J. McConnell is playing big-time minutes after being relegated to third-string point guard behind Markelle Fultz to start the season. Nobody expected Landry Shamet to contribute as much as he has after being a late first-round pick. Furkan Korkmaz couldn’t crack the rotation and his option for next season wasn’t picked up.
McConnell is the team’s spark plug, but, as mentioned on this site many times, he gets exposed when asked to play too many minutes. Shamet has been a bright spot, but he’s still so young and not physically strong enough to handle that aspect of the NBA game. The same can be said for Korkmaz.
Mike Muscala has been solid at times but he’s dealt with two injuries and, more recently, an illness. He should continue to be a part of the rotation, but it’s pretty clear the Sixers need at least two more pieces.
Last year, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova gave the Sixers’ bench a huge boost, both signing after being bought out by the Hawks (for the record, I believe the Sixers were right to not give either player the multi-year deals they both received this past offseason).
Will Elton Brand be able to find this year’s version of Belinelli and Ilyasova? Tough to say, but if he wants his team to compete with the East’s elite, he’ll have to make something happen.
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