Sixers struggling vs top teams
Christmas is a time of joy, a time to watch the top teams battle it out over a massive dinner. Unfortunately for Sixers fans, the only present under the tree this Christmas was a giant L from Boston.
The Celtics looked poised, defeating the Sixers 121-114 in an intense overtime game. Although this story might be different if Philly pulled out the W, the team looked gassed towards the last stretch of the game.
Despite a monster performance from Joel Embiid with 34 points, Philly could not make the stops needed to close out the game. If Kyrie Irving is going to drop 40 points, how can the team expect to stop anybody else?
While the offensive intensity is there, the defense looks like a shell of what it was before the Jimmy Butler trade. Butler seems to focused on making the offense work and it has definitely hurt the defense.
There is no reason 86 total points should come from three players on any given team, besides maybe Golden State. The top teams in the Eastern Conference continue to be an issue for Philly, even with the addition of Butler.
Twitter erupted after Embiid’s post game comments:
Why can’t the Sixers compete with top teams in the Eastern Conference?
There are two answers as to why Philly looks incompetent against their biggest opponents. The first is that the team is still finding its identity with Butler.
Even the legendary Miami Heat team with LeBron James got off to a slow start. It is natural for a team full of stars to take more time figuring out their rhythm.
The second answer is that the team lacks seriously in the depth department. Shipping off Dario Saric and Robert Covington has proved to be a more difficult decision than previously thought.
It also doesn’t help that Embiid is openly complaining about the amount of touches he has received. A team is only as good as its best player and a disgruntled Embiid doesn’t help the team chemistry.
Philly should be further along with Butler, especially since he was begging to get out his situation in Minnesota. If the Sixers keep losing to the top teams in their conference, what was the point of trading for Butler?
Now it isn’t just the Butler trade that has ruined the depth of the team. An injured Zhaire Smith has definitely left a hole on the bench.
Former first overall pick Markelle Fultz hasn’t played any meaningful minutes this season either. In retrospect, Philly probably wishes they had production from two more players coming off the bench.
Philly could really use some of this firepower against the top teams in the league:
Can Elton Brand save this sinking ship?
Obviously, the Sixers are not a bottom feeder in the east, or anywhere near that. However, the team was only a few games form the Eastern Conference championship last year.
If the team falls short of that mark, especially with Butler, then the process has been a complete failure. Brand needs to make a move sooner or later, so Philly can be competitive with the top teams in the league again.
Of all the possible moves on the table, the safest option would be to give the team some time. Not every superstar can play together but in the case of Butler, there isn’t an option.
Butler has caused problems everywhere he’s gone and isn’t really in a place to find his way out of Philly. If the team is going to return to form, fans can bet it will be behind the relationship of Butler/Embiid/Simmons.
The riskier option is to move some of the injured pieces that are clogging up space on the roster. Zhaire Smith hasn’t seen a single NBA minute but that doesn’t bode well for a team looking to win right now.
Fultz would be the key piece to any potential trade, but in his current state, he might not be worth all that much. Brand is in a difficult situation because, on one hand, he has to choose winning right now, and the other is the longevity of the team past this season.
Wait it out
Whatever move the team makes needs to be the right one, the chemistry of the players, and the championship itself hangs in the balance of a few decisions.
If the Sixers can end up making the fans and the players happy, expect the top teams in the league to be asking why they can’t beat Philly.
It looks like help is on the way for Sixers big man Embiid: