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Night is darkest just before the dawn? Maybe?

The Sixers went 0-3 last week, have the league's 4th worst offense over the last 13 games and had Sunday's game postponed because they didn't have 8 available players. Is this the low point of the season?

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Could we, as Sixers fans, take a bit of advice from good friend Harvey Dent (or, before him, Thomas Fuller)?

Probably not, as doing so would suggest that there's a remedy for the Sixers' problems right around the corner. I'm not one to say that this is a lost season, as that will largely depend on what happens when the Ben Simmons situation is resolved, but my hunch is it's more likely that we're looking at a January or February timeline if a trade does actually come to fruition.

But this week certainly felt like a low point in this saga, and one of the lower points since, well, since Joel Embiid made his NBA debut for the Sixers, with the second half of the Year of the Power Forwards being the only comparably frustrating stretch.

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Covered in this post: 
  • Overview of the Sixers week
  • Emerging trends (Offensive decline)
  • Reasons for hope (shooting variance)
  • COVID updates, rule changes, postponed Pelicans game notes
  • Who is Myles Powell?
  • ICYMI
  • The week ahead

Overview

Record: 0-3

  • 91-126 loss @ Memphis
  • 96-101 loss to Miami
  • 105-114 loss @ Brooklyn
Overview
Overview Off Rtg
Def Rtg
Net Rtg
 Last week
 103.7 (28th)
118.0 (25th)
-14.2 (30th)
 Season to date
 110.5 (15th)
110.2 (18th)
+0.3 (15th)
Offense
Offense
eFG%
TOV%
ORB%
FTR
 Last week
51.7% (22nd)
12.7% (9th)
15.4% (28th)
17.4% (16th)
 Season to date
52.8% (17th)
13.1% (5th)
22.5% (30th)
19.5% (5th)
Defense
Defense
eFG%
TOV%
DRB%
FTR
 Last week
58.2% (28th)
15.0% (11th)
76.2% (11th)
19.3% (19th)
 Season to date
52.4% (15th)
14.2% (18th)
73.0% (24th)
17.7% (12th)

You can find player stats for the week here.

Highlights: Joel Embiid averaged 24.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in the two games he played last week, highlighted by his monster performance against the Nets. Tyrese Maxey averaged 25 points and 6.0 assists, shooting 62.5% from the field and 40% from 3 in his two games. Seth Curry averaged 18 points, and shot 57.1% overall, despite making just 4 of his 13 three-point attempts.

Lowlights: Tobias Harris shot 36.2% from the field during this three game stretch, requiring 15.7 shots to get his 15.7 points, while adding in just 3.7 assists per game. The Sixers were outscored by 44 points in the 99 minutes he was on the floor this week. Matisse Thybulle (30.8% shooting) and Danny Green (29.4%) gave the Sixers nothing from the wings, and the bench as a whole was either bad or unavailable.


Emerging trends

After starting the season off with the league's top-ranked offense through the first 10 games of the season, the Sixers' offense has been in a sharp downward spiral ever since.

The first 10 games were fueled largely by three factors: unsustainably great 3-point shooting (the Sixers shot 39.4% from deep over the first 10 games, and have shot just 32.1% since), a very easy early season schedule and the Sixers' important players being mostly available to start the year, with Embiid appearing in 9 of the first 10 games being the obvious key.

The offense has consistently slid down the league rankings ever since that hot start. By November 21st they had fallen down to 3rd in the league, fell all the way down to 12th on December 5th two weeks later, and have now hit their low point of the season, with the league's 15th ranked offense.

Since November 21st, the Sixers (6-7) have averaged just 105.9 points per 100 possessions, the 4th worst offense in the league over that stretch. That's especially concerning since Joel Embiid has only missed three games during that run.


Reasons for hope

They can't shoot this poorly forever, right?

Over that 13 game stretch, we have the following performances from deep:

  • Tobias Harris: 23.8% on 4.2 attempts per game (ick)
  • Tyrese Maxey: 28.1% on 2.9 attempts
  • Georges Niang: 32.6% on 4.2 attempts
  • Furkan Korkmaz: 18.8% on 2.9 attempts
  • Joel Embiid: 34.4% on 3.2 attempts
  • Seth Curry: 32.8% on 5.5 attempts
  • Danny Green: 35% on 5.0 attempts
  • Matisse Thybulle: 27.8% on 2.8 attempts (okay, maybe this one is representative)

There are some legitimately good shooters in that group who can't throw the ball into the ocean right now, and nearly all of them (save for Thybulle) are shooting well below their career norms. That can't continue forever. It just can't.

That doesn't mean that this team is without faults and that their current struggles are solely because of bad luck, it's more saying that this is a team that just isn't good enough to win when their shot isn't falling.  They don't play lockdown defense, don't create a ton of opportunities in transition, don't gain extra posssessions on the glass and don't have many reliable ways to generate offense outside of Embiid.

This is all generally well-established, which is why nailing the Ben Simmons trade is so important if the team is actually going to be relevant in the playoffs. The goal, at this point of the season, is that they can remain competitive long enough to get to that point in the calendar. If shots start to fall once again it won't magically change whether this team has legitimate championship potential as currently constructed, but it might help them tread water a little bit more effectively.


A quick rundown of the COVID situation & rule changes

The latest surge of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many teams around the league struggling to find enough active players to field a team, with more and more players entering health and safety protocols during the last week. That reached a tipping point on Sunday, when the flood of absences forced the NBA to postpone five games, including the Sixers vs Pelicans game that was scheduled for Sunday night.

Related: NBA COVID tracker

After going through a major bout in November, the Sixers are now hitting a second wave. Georges Niang entered the league's health and safety protocols last Wednesday, with Shake Milton and Andre Drummond going in on Sunday.

The COVID absences, combined with traditional injuries from Joel Embiid (questionable, ankle soreness), Danny Green (questionable, hip soreness), Furkan Korkmaz (out, non-COVID illness), Tyrese Maxey (questionable, left quad contusion), Grant Riller (out, prior to being cut, right shoulder soreness), Jaden Springer (out, concussion protocol), Paul Reed (out, G-League showcase), Aaron Henry (out, G-League showcase) and Ben Simmons (out, personal reasons) meant the Sixers didn't have the eight available players necessary to play, and last night's game against the Pelicans was postponed.

If you had tickets to last night's game, I'm told those tickets will be honored whenever the game is rescheduled. We don't yet have a date for when that will be.

The Sixers recalled Paul Reed from the G-League, and transferred Aaron Henry to the team as well. They then waived Grant Riller and signed Myles Powell to Riller's now-vacant two-way slot, and transferred him to the 76ers. All three will be available when the Sixers play the Celtics in Boston tonight.

(If you're curious about the difference: players under NBA contracts are sent to the G-League on assignment, then recalled back to the NBA team when they're brought back up. Players under two-way deals are transferred back and forth between the G-League team and parent NBA club. All that really matters to you is whether they're with the 76ers or the Blue Coats, but that's why the wording is different).

Given the surge in COVID cases and COVID-related absences, the NBA has instituted a series of changes to help teams field the requisite eight players needed for a game.

First, they are allowed to sign one replacement player for each player who tests positive for COVID, and are required to sign one replacement player when they have two players test positive for COVID. That then scales up: they're required to sign two replacement players when they have three players test positive, and are required to sign three replacement players when they have four or more players test positive. This new hardship exception rule will run through January 19th, per Shams Charania.

Second, players under two-way contracts, who were previously capped at appearing in 50 regular season games, now no longer have a games restriction.


Who is Myles Powell?

Myles Powell, 24, is a 6-foot-1 scorer who spent four years at Seton Hall, where he averaged 22.1 points and 2.9 assists during his final two years with Pirates. Powell was voted to the AP All-America first team during his final year at Seton Hall.

After going undrafted in the 2020 draft Powell made an appearance in the preseason with the Knicks, then signed with the G-League after being a training camp cut by New York. He spent the 2020-21 season with the Westchester Knicks, where he averaged 17.8 points and 3.8 assists in 13 appearances. Crucially, Powell shot 44.6% from 3-point range for Westchester in 2020-21, after being a mid-30s 3-point shooter in college. Obviously, the sample size (83 attempts) is something to keep in mind, but given his size Powell's going to need that perimeter shot to have a chance.

You're not looking at Powell to do anything other than potentially get a few buckets here and there. He's a blackhole, with no real playmaking juice (he had more turnovers than assists during his final two years at Seton Hall). He's got a solid build and long arms for his height, which help him overcome his short height a little bit on the defensive end, but he's still going to be a negative on defense.

The shot is crucial, given how short he is, along with the fact that he's not the kind of explosive leaper that can make up for it. He was a pretty good tough shot maker in college, and had some shot diversity too. He's comfortable both flying off of a screen and taking a step-back off the dribble, and I think a lot of people viewed him as a better shooter than his college numbers indicated, with a transition to being less of a focal point being something that should help him up those percentages.

He should be a capable shooter off the catch when he has time and space, but will his size and athleticism prevent the stuff he does off of screens and off the dribble from translating? Can he get those shots off in the NBA, even a little bit? I'm skeptical. But if he's given any playing time he will get shots up, so he could at least be entertaining.


In case you missed it


The week ahead

  • Monday: @ Boston, 7:30 pm
  • Thursday: vs Hawks, 7 pm
  • Sunday: @ Wizards, 7 pm

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