By all accounts, the Philadelphia 76ers are not that bad off. After their win against the New York Knicks Wednesday night, the Sixers are 9-5 and sit just two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. This is where they’re supposed to be right now.
The issue the team is having is trying to figure out what the future holds. It’s not about looking into next season and beyond, this is more of a concern regarding the playoffs. The 76ers are in dire need of bench production. To be fair, the bench has played well. However, they could and should be better.
This team is full of veteran players and that’s considering the less than five years Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have on their resumes. The starting until is solid across the board but what happens when they begin to log heavy minutes or catch foul trouble or God forbid an injury happens?
This offseason, Elton Brand made enough moves to win but did he do enough to win it all?
With Al Horford, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris paired with Simmons and Embiid, they have the correct core to make a title run. But even those players need breathers and will need to be replaced. This is where things could get dicey for the 76ers.
Currently, Brett Brown relies on a rotation of seven reserves to mix and match with his starters. The bench is led by Furkan Korkmaz (8.9), Matisse Thybulle (3.6), Mike Scott (6.7), James, Ennis (6.9), Raul Neto (4.5), Kyle O’Quinn (3.5), and Trey Burke (7.8). That’s a collective and diverse bunch but there is also no real offensive threat.
Defensively, they’re pretty solid but who will do the scoring? This is where Brown will have to be careful regarding load management. No, not the same thing that the Los Angeles Clippers are doing with Kawhi Leonard, but it will come down to who Brown will put in with some of his starters.
The regular season is fast-paced with teams playing at least 3-4 different opponents per week. However, it’s the playoffs where things will get sketchy. Who will Brown pair with Simmons and Embiid or even Simmons and Horford as one of the two big men has to catch a breath? With Simmons still reluctant to shoot from the perimeter and Richardson hitting only .313 percent from three-point territory, they will need a reliable shooter.
As good as Brand was this past offseason in wheeling and dealing, he did not take into account the different scenarios that could play out. The Philadelphia 76ers bench averaged just 16.5 minutes per game (26th) while averaging just 32.1 points per game (25th). There is no way they can win like this especially with the 76ers’ and their history of injuries. But there is still hope.
Before the NBA trade deadline, Brand must think championship and not loyalty. This is how championships are won. He’s already shown that he can make the tough choices by letting JJ Reddick go and making a move to get Jimmy Butler out of town. Now, he will need to find a scorer for the bench. If the 76ers are healthy going in, they have possibly the best chance to come out of the Eastern Conference. But do they have enough offense to offset the defense of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers?
To be honest, I don’t think so and the numbers prove that. 32 points from the bench is getting it slightly done during the regular season but by the time the playoffs roll around, Brown will be forced to shorten his rotation. Now, some teams can make due with little bench production but as we’ve seen so far this season, the 76ers bench has had trouble either holding a lead it building on one. Brand will need to make a trade.
There is no need to pull the trigger for a Devin Booker or Zach LaVine. But missing out on a player like Carmelo Anthony was huge. Depending on where teams are sitting come February, the 76ers could find themselves in great shape. There are players out there such as Jordan Clarkson, Derrick Rose, and Terrance Ross who could be scorers for the second unit.
There will be no need for the team to give up any starters unless the chemistry is just not working. The goal for Brand and the Philadelphia 76ers is simple. It’s all but finding a balance to go with one of the most dangerous starting five’s in the NBA. If Brand can it the lottery during the trade deadline, there is no team that can beat the 76ers.