Sixers Performance Review


Whether you are a student in school or a business person at a corporation, you should expect an evaluation every year. The results of the evaluation is not supposed to be a surprise. Ideally, there should be conversations during the year to discuss performance, leaving time to make the necessary corrections before the year-end review. Normally you’d do this at mid-season, but due to the timing of the All-Star Game, we will make that a natural break to see where the SIxers stand in terms of expectations.


Let’s start with the coach, Brett Brown. Coach Brown has been flying under the radar with an incomplete the last few years. He got hired to maintain the ashes from a dumpster fire, and gradually try to figure out what can be salvaged for the future. The future is now.

Say what you want about him, but you have to admire how he kept a positive attitude, and built a pretty good culture. He’s been put in some unfair situations, especially due to general managers that disappear when somebody needs to address difficult topics.  It appears that the punch line that was once the Sixers is now a destination for players. He deserves credit for that. He also deserves credit for working behind the scenes on team skills that are starting to show up as wins.

At the beginning of the year, he had to figure out how the pieces would fit. Could Simmons really play point guard? How would he handle Embiid’s minute restrictions? Could Saric fit with this group? Brown has seemingly successfully managed all of these potential hurdles, and, to this point in the season, it’s working. They blew some big leads early in the season, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that he was handed a miserable bench.

Now the leads are being held, even a 20+ Point comeback before the break to win. This Sixers, as you can see below, have been outstanding since Christmas. Coach Brown gets an exceeds expectations, and probably should get some Coach-of-the-Year votes.

Trusting The Process Paid Off

Also getting exceeds expectations are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The former lottery picks tried the patience of a fan base that was told to simply “Trust the Process”.  Well, that process has paid off. Embiid and Simmons are everything Philly could have hoped for, and then some. Both are transcendent stars. Both should have been All Stars. And, barring an unforeseen slide over the next two months, both stars will lead the Sixers back to the playoffs.

Embiid deserves much of the credit for the culture shift in Philadelphia. His uber-charismatic personality, winning smile, and social media savvy all helped to rejuvenate an organization that desperately needed some positive energy to help fans survive the rebuild.  But even besides that, the guy is one of the best players in the world! He also might be a leading candidate for Defensive-Player-of-the-Year. He’s been able to stay on the court (knock on wood), and has been well worth the wait.

Simmons is on the cusp of a triple-double every night. While some ask, “why can’t he shoot from the outside?” Bigger questions is why can’t people stop him on the inside if they know he won’t shoot from the outside! Simmons is a great defender, tremendous passer, and is getting better and better. Note: he hit a 21-foot shot before the All-Star break. It’s not that he can’t shoot, but he hasn’t really tried to shoot much from outside the paint. He is working on it, and when it comes, he will be one of the great ones.  The fact that he is already elite as a rookie, without an outside shot, should be terrifying to opposing teams.

More Than Just Stars

Dario Saric, or as he’s known in Philly, the “homie” will also get an exceeds expectation rating. Dario started the season not shooting well, had poor shot selection, and seemed lost on the floor with Embiid and Simmons. But, I’d have to say, he has developed into the stretch four the Sixers were hoping he would. He’s averaging almost 39% from 3, provides grit, is an outstanding passer and works hard every second on the court. Saric is a good basketball player, and has become a very valuable member of this team.

Everybody’s favorite underdog T.J. McConnell has absolutely exceeded expectations, as well. The Rudy of the team proved he could run the point for a bad team, make some plays and provide some energy. But can he provide value to a good team? This season, McConnell has drastically improved his shooting, over 50% from the 3-point line. He is a bothersome defender, and a total spark plug for the team. McConnell even had a triple-double off the bench the week before the break. McConnell has become an invaluable sixth man.

You’d have to say J.J. Redick has met expectations. He signed a lofty 23-million dollar contract for one year, so his expectations were pretty high. He has opened things up for the big men, and has been an excellent veteran presence with this young team. Redick has been inconsistent at times, but all shooters are. When his shot is on, and Embiid is on the floor with Simmons, the Sixers are tough to beat. As a matter of fact, the starting five is among the top units in basketball by the metrics.

That brings us to the toughest player to grade, Robert Covington. He’s been the fans whipping boy this season. RoCo signed a 4-year, 62-million dollar extension back in November. At that time, he was averaging 17-points a game, and shooting better than 50% from long distance. Almost coinciding with the extension, his shot has become incredibly inconsistent. RoCo’s averaging about 13 points and 5.6 rebounds a game, for the season. He’s still shooting a slightly-above average 37% from 3, but you would expect Covington to be more consistent. He’s getting paid like he should, though. One thing that has been consistent is Covington’s defense. He does get beat from time to time one-on-one, but plays hard and causes deflections. RoCo squeezes by with a meets expectations, but barely.

Room To Improve, Still

Not meeting expectations? The bench – aside from T.J. McConnell.

Trevor Booker, who came over in the Okafor deal, has shown flashes, and has had some good games. He’s been inconsistent and at times doesn’t look like he fits. Jerryd Bayless has not been good at all. He’s shot poorly, turns the ball over a lot, and can’t finish at the rim. Justin Anderson missed a lot of time this season with injuries. He’s been pretty good at times, but needs to improve his shot to be effective. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has been incredibly inconsistent and has not been the shooting threat Philadelphia hoped he’d be, however, has potential. Amir Johnson is overmatched when Embiid comes out, and Richaun Holmes hasn’t won the confidence of the coaches.

Marco Belinelli has played one game, and was sensational. We can’t give him a grade yet. Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz and James Young don’t qualify for a grade.

How will this end up at the end of the year? Trust the Process. It’s working.





About Mike Small

Married for 23 years, and a father of four. Currently a Pharmaceutical Sales Leader, and contributor for TLSportsMedia, covering the Philadelphia 76ers and other relevant NBA topics. Previously worked as a television sports anchor in Eastern North Carolina, radio talk show host in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also served as the producer of "The Dean Smith Show", a weekly television show on The University of North Carolina basketball team, and "The Mack Brown Show", a weekly television show on the UNC football team-while doing all of the player features. Wrote a weekly column and articles for Carolina Blue Newspaper. Was also a contributor to, "A Season of Dreams", a book on the 1993 National Champion North Carolina Basketball Team.

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