This past offseason was supposed to position the Sixers into true finals contenders in the Eastern Conference. The opposite seems to be true through four games in the 2018-19 NBA season.
There’s no doubting that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have been great. Embiid is averaging 29.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in the early going. Simmons is averaging 12 points, 7.7 assists and 9.3 rebounds. But this type of production was to be expected from the pair.
However, what’s concerning is the team’s lack of depth. Outside of J.J. Redick, who is second on the team in scoring at 21.8 points per game, the Sixers haven’t had much help anywhere else.
Throw in a Simmons back injury that has kept him out of the majority of the Sixers’ past two games and the team sits at just 2-2 and are playing far from the team that finished third in the Eastern Conference at 52-30 a season ago.
“[Ben] didn’t feel as comfortable as we would’ve wanted,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s just one of those things that with a back-to-back game and giving him the best chance we could give him to possibly play (Wednesday), we felt like it was wise to sit him tonight.”
The Sixers have a much tougher matchup on paper against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, but even a limited Simmons on Tuesday could have made a huge difference. Unsurprisingly, the Sixers instead decided to sit the young star, a trend made popular in recent years by their medical and coaching staff.
But, they could have avoided this problem by simply loading up their bench in the offseason when it was clear they had lost production from Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli’s departures.
Going off of their 4-1 playoff series win over the Miami Heat last season, their bench had accounted for 180 of the team’s 571 points through five playoff games or 32 percent. In all five games, the bench accounted for 26 or more points, including one game with 54 points.
Not including Redick, who has played starter-type minutes off the bench at 30.8 minutes per game in the early going, the likes of Landry Shamet, T.J. McConnell, Amir Johnson, and Mike Muscala have combined for just 81 of the team’s 462 points so far this season, or just 18 percent. The foursome had a high of 29 points in the win over the Bulls in the early going. In the three other games, they’ve scored 21 points or less.
Wilson Chandler’s return from injury should help, and reports say he’s getting close, but overall this unit has not inspired much hope for the fan base. It’s up to Elton Brand and Brett Brown to search for solutions before the hole starts getting deeper.