After a pre-Christmas stretch which saw them lose four out of five games, including immensely frustrating losses to very short-handed Miami and Atlanta squads, the Sixers bounced back with a three game winning streak, including one of their most impressive wins of the season against the Brooklyn Nets.
That positive showing doesn't necessarily change the conversation of who the Sixers are or what they need to acquire in order to become the true contenders they fancy themselves as, but it does help buy them a little bit of time to get to the trade deadline in a relative position of strength. We'll touch on that a bit more below.
- Overview of the Sixers' week
- Why they're in an okay spot
- Dan Burke steering the ship
- Required reading
- The week ahead
| Season to date
| Last week
| Season to date
| Last week
| Season to date
Highlights: Joel Embiid continues to destroy worlds, with 36 against the Raptors and 34 in the win against Brooklyn. He's hit the 30-point mark in five of his last six games, and he's now averaging 29.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game since returning from COVID back on November 27th. The Sixers are 9-6 in the games he's played during that span. Tyrese Maxey made six of his 12 3-point attempts during the past two games, and had an enormous 25 point, seven rebound, four assist performance in the win against Brooklyn.
Lowlights: Tobias Harris shot just 7-26 from the field in these two games and didn't make a single 3-point attempt. His overall stat line was kept somewhat respectable because he did get to the free-throw line 14 times against the Raptors, but he's struggling mightily right now. He's eclipsed the 20 point mark just four times in his last 15 games, shooting 41.1% from the field, and 24.5% from 3, over that span.
Trying to describe where the Sixers stand 35 games into the season is a complicated task.
On the one hand, they're not playing the most inspiring basketball you'll see (the Brooklyn game being a very notable exception). The Miami and Atlanta losses in the previous week were infuriating, given how many key players each opponent was missing. Even after this recent three game winning streak, they're still just 9-7 over their last 16 games, which is solid enough to stay afloat, but in no way are they playing in a way that would inspire true confidence.
On the other hand, if the goal of this stretch of the season is to remain afloat until the Ben Simmons situation can be resolved, they're in a pretty good spot, and that's improving by the day.
As things stand today, the Sixers have played the 11th toughest strength of schedule, per Basketball-Reference. Given the high number of absences this season because of COVID that may mean less than it typically does, but if you look at the Sixers' upcoming schedule, it does get significantly easier.
The Sixers' January schedule is very home heavy, playing 9 of 13 at the Wells Fargo Center. The January schedule also features two games each against Houston (10-27), Orlando (7-30) and San Antonio (14-21), a game against the Kings (16-22), along with games against struggling squads like the Wizards (lost 10 of their last 14), Celtics (lost 8 of 12), Lakers (lost 6 of 8).
In addition to that, the Sixers have navigated many of their key players having been in and out of the NBA's health and safety protocols. I hesitate to really mention this, because we don't really know what immunity in the Omicron world looks like, and early signs suggest it evades immunity from vaccinations better than previous variants. But with many teams trying to navigate significant portions of their roster being stuck in the league's health and safety protocols the Sixers, as of now, have most of their key players available to them (Matisse Thybulle is questionable for tonight's game because of health and safety protocols, the only member of the regular rotation in them).
The threat of the Sixers having to trade Simmons before the deadline in order to salvage their season looks to be greatly diminished, and Morey having the leeway to see this thing through to the February 10th trade deadline affords him the chance to maximize his return. The maximum return may still not be what he's (or you're) looking for, but he's in a better position than if he were compelled to make a move now.
In addition to that, teams around the Sixers continue to find themselves in turmoil. The Blazers look like absolute trash defensively, and are starting to fall out of even being in play-in contention. The Celtics go through periods where their players seem more likely to throw teammates passive-aggressive shade through the media than they are a kickout pass to an open shooter. The Cavs – one of the legitimate feel-good stories of the season – just lost Ricky Rubio for the season, and while they made a snap trade to add Rajon Rondo on the cheap, could very well be looking to add a distributor and a floor general in a month if and when Rondo shows that he's washed.
Maybe none of these teams ultimately land Simmons, but the more teams that are desperate for change, the better the Sixers' chances are.
None of this is to say the Sixers are out of the woods. The Sixers are clearly not close to a championship contender as currently constructed, and there's a very real chance the second star they need to elevate them won't become available in the next five weeks. That's all still a very real threat. But the last few weeks have, at the very least, helped shift the odds ever so slightly back in their favor.