NBA

Trust the Process? Embiid? Simmons? – the issues facing 76ers and new coach in STATS data

By Sports Desk September 06, 2020

"Trust the Process" but where to now for the Philadelphia 76ers?

That mantra has become synonymous with the team's culture and identity since former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie started a drastic rebuild of Philadelphia's roster and psyche in 2013.

The long-term vision, in pursuit of a first NBA championship since 1983, has delivered stars Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and two trips to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

However, the 76ers find themselves looking for a head coach after Brett Brown – who was at the helm as Philadelphia tanked out and started from the bottom seven years ago – was sacked following a first-ever series sweep at the hands of rivals the Boston Celtics.

While the 76ers were forced to face the Celtics without Simmons due to injury, Philadelphia's failure has only raised further questions as to whether they should trade the Australian or Embiid amid ongoing doubts over the All-Star pair's compatibility.

Jimmy Butler also came and went, while the Al Horford experiment has proved to be an expensive mistake so far.

As GM Elton Brand tries to get the 76ers back on track, with the likes of Tyronn Lue and Jason Kidd linked to the coaching vacancy, we look at the issues facing the team heading into 2020-21 using STATS data.

 

Keeping Embiid and Simmons fit

One of the main issues for the 76ers has been the health of big man Embiid and guard Simmons – franchise pillars.

While much has been made of Embiid and Simmons' chemistry, with spacing the floor a problem for Brown, their fitness issues mean they have only played in 184 of 345 games since the latter was drafted first by the 76ers in 2016.

When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid's physicality in the paint and Simmons' superior defensive skills vital in Philadelphia.

The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game – 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.

Philadelphia also have a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 per cent. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and three-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).

 

Simmons and his shooting woes

Simmons is an elite defender and creator with unrivalled pace, but his shooting struggles have left him stuck between a star and superstar.

There have been signs of a shooter behind all of his usual brilliance, however Simmons' jump-shot is too few and far between.

Previously compared to LeBron James, Simmons does not shoot threes or free throws well – his career free-throw percentage of 59.3 is the worst in NBA history by a guard with at least 1,000 attempts.

And his career three-point percentage (two-for-24, 8.3) is the lowest among all guards who debuted in the NBA in 2000 or later (minimum 20 attempts).

Simmons, 24, also signed a five-year, $170million max contract prior to the 2019-20 campaign.

 

Embiid not so clutch?

The third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid has established himself as one of the best big men in the league but he has still been criticised for his lack of consistency and poor fitness at times. Nicknamed 'The Process', the 26-year-old knows there is room for improvement.

Embiid wanted to carry the 76ers in the absence of Simmons and while averaging 30.0 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in the playoffs – an increase on his regular-season averages of 23.0 points and 11.6 rebounds, which were a dip on his 2018-19 numbers – and he looked worn out.

There could be some concern that he does not play well at the end of close games. In his career – regular season and playoffs – Embiid has had 17 potential game-tying or go-ahead shots in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime, and he is just one-for-17.

The only shot he made was a dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers in November 2019.

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