By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor
As the All-Star game has come and gone, teams are gearing up for the second of this condensed NBA season. With 36 games in the books now, there is a good sample size to gauge this new look Sixers team.
Despite all the turnover that happened from top to bottom in the short offseason, the Sixers have been able to figure it out on the fly and see success while doing so. At the halfway point they sit atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 24-12.
Here is a full report card for how the team has done through the first half of the regular season.
Daryl Morey: A
Before we get into the players, we have to start at the top. One of the key changes the Sixers made in the offseason was bringing in Daryl Morey to aid Elton Brand in running basketball operations. It didn’t take long for Morey to come in and drastically improve this roster almost overnight during the NBA draft.
Morey hasn’t made many moves since draft night, but based on those trades and picks alone he has earned an A. Getting off of the Al Horford contract and bringing in a veteran with championship experience in Danny Green has worked out well so far. Not to mention his best move of the night, trading away Josh Richardson and acquiring Seth Curry.
The added shooting has fixed the Sixers’ spacing woes and has opened up the floor for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to play their games effectively. Depending on what Morey does in the trade and buyout markets, his grade could be upped to an A+ by the end of the season.
Doc Rivers: A
The other major change within the organization from the coaching staff. After being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Celtics, the organization decided it was time to move on from Brett Brown as head coach.
It is not every day that a Hall of Fame coach becomes available, and the Sixers did not let that opportunity slip past them. The addition of Doc Rivers has paid off well for the Sixers, both on and off the floor.
Players have talked a little season about what Rivers has done for the culture off the floor, mainly his importance of accountability. Seeing the team this year compared to last year, there has been a night and day difference in terms of culture.
Rivers has also impacted the play on the floor. One player in particular is Tobias Harris, who has played at an All-Star level since being reunited with his former coach.
Between his ability to lead this team and continually pushing them to strive for more, Rivers has also earned an A.
Joel Embiid: A+
This was the easiest grade to hand out. Through the first half of this season, Joel Embiid has firmly asserted himself into the upper echelon of NBA superstars, leading the MVP race in the process (pun intended).
Embiid has been nothing short of dominant this season, posting career-highs in multiple categories. Heading into the second half of the season, he is sitting at 30.2 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, and posting over a steal and block per game.
What has been most impressive of his play this season has been his efficiency. Along with putting up those monster averages, Embiid is also just shy of the 50/40/90 mark. Currently, he is shooting 52.1% from the field, 41.6% from three, and 85.6% from the free-throw line. All of those numbers are career-highs.
So far this season Embiid has without a doubt been the most important player on the Sixers. He has been an anchor on both sides of the floor and has put this team on his shoulders on multiple occasions. He without a doubt deserves an A+ for his first-half performance.
Ben Simmons: A
Now here is where it could get polarizing. Some may say Simmons had a rough start to the season based on his averages, but he has been a key piece to the Sixers’ success in the first half.
Despite the dip in averages early on, Simmons is back to his normal stats. He is currently averaging 16.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 7.6 APG. Along with his numbers, Simmons has shown he is arguably the best defender in the league on a nightly basis.
In the last few weeks of the first half, we saw a glimpse of Simmons taking a step in his game. He has shown a newfound aggressiveness as a scorer and has gotten to the line at a great rate. On the year Simmons is posting a career-high 67.1% from the line on 5.4 attempts a game.
It may not show up on the stat sheet every night, but Simmons affects winning on a nightly basis. His elite-level defense and playmaking are crucial for the Sixers, and it has been on full display in the games he has missed. Simmons was deserving of an All-Star selection this season and a first-half grade of an A.
Tobias Harris: A
Another player who was arguably deserving of an All-Star selection is Tobias Harris. He has put up All-Star numbers and has been a great sidekick to Embiid offensively every night.
Harris is currently averaging 20.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 3.4 APG. Similar to Embiid, he is also just outside the 50/40/90 club. Shooting 51.3% from the field, 40.2% from three, and 88.7% from the line.
Playing under Doc Rivers again has greatly impacted Harris. He is back to playing at the All-Star level he did as a member of the Clippers. Along with his stellar play offensively, Harris has also shown improvements on the defensive end.
The area that Harris has stood out in is hitting shots late in games. Many critics have said the Sixers have needed a closer, but Harris and Embiid have done a fine job finishing out games by committee.
Whether it was his game-winner against the Lakers or his scoring outburst in overtime against the Jazz, Harris has been huge for the Sixers down the stretch of games. He has consistently played like an All-Star all year and has well earned a grade of an A.
Seth Curry: B
Seth Curry had a great start to the season for the Sixers but has had some up-and-down play since returning to the lineup after going through health and safety protocols. Despite his lows at times, his outside shooting has been a skill the Sixers have missed.
Currently, Curry is averaging 12.5 PPG and shooting an impressive 44.8% from beyond the arc. His ability to knock down shots at a high rate has been vital to the Sixers fixing their spacing issues on the floor.
Another thing that Curry has brought is ball-handling, which is something that has allowed Doc Rivers to experiment more with Ben Simmons off the ball. His ability to put the ball on the floor and create has been a nice boost in the half-court offense.
Curry is a guy that could easily up his grade in the second half of the season. But for now, he sits at a B.
Danny Green: B-
I think Danny Green has played as advertised this season. He has been a veteran three-and-D wing who has fit nicely on the floor with Simmons and Embiid. His play on both ends has been inconsistent at times, but that is expected for a guy in his 12th season.
Green is a guy who will show his value in the postseason. Having won multiple championships, he understands what it takes to win it all. But until then, he sits at a B-.
The bench unit: C+/B-
The weakness of the second unit became apparent during the Sixers’ west coast swing and has been on display ever since. That being said, they have also put together some impressive performances. This is why they sit between a C+ and a B-.
Most of the second unit’s struggles have come on the offensive end. Since Shake Milton went down with an ankle injury against the Kings, this group struggled to create good looks on offense. Their lack of scoring has cost the team leads and even some games.
This is likely a grade that will improve by the end of the season. As the trade deadline approaches, Daryl Morey is likely to make moves to bolster this second unit. Two areas of improvement would be acquiring a backup point guard and a backup stretch big.
Guys like Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz have all had nice showings throughout the first half to make this second unit look capable. But if the Sixers want to make a deep run into the finals, they should be eyeing a piece or two to fill out the rotation.