Philadelphia 76ers: 12 games, 6 thoughts

12 games are in the books and we're going to examine what has been a somewhat unexpected start to the season.

We knew the schedule was going to be brutal for the first month and a half and for a young team with new pieces on the roster. It was going to take some time, but the team is 6-6 after losing/giving away some close games, winning 5 in a row before losing a stinker in the Sacramento --a game I was in attendance for-- and then getting Warrior'd on Saturday. It's a bit unexpected and there are some interesting developments. There are some things I noted during the first twelve games of the season.

1. Ben Simmons is really good

Hot take, I know. But truth be told I didn't expect Ben Simmons to be this good already, especially in the scoring department. Same thing happened with Joel Embiid last year, everyone had a certain stat line in mind and maybe he would show flashes, but then JoJo blew everyone's expectations out of the water no matter how wild they were.

Simmons might not just win Rookie of the Year, which is already locked up barring health.... or someone playing more games because there is a made up number now.... but he might secure a spot on the Eastern Conference all-star team.

He is producing a stat-line that puts himself with historical company, averaging 17.4 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists a game while shooting 49% from the floor. Although he hasn't been scoring at the normal clip he has been in the last three games, his scoring has probably been a little bit unexpected considering he has a lot of questions about not only shooting the ball but whether or not he is shooting with the correct hand. He has also impacted the game as a play-maker and attacking the glass.

More importantly, he has been a plus defender which is something that was somewhat of a surprise. Brett Brown said that Simmons was the best defender in last year's training camp before he broke his foot, and it was met with skepticism considering Simmons hardly got into a defensive stance at LSU. We all knew Simmons had the tools to be a versatile impact defender and as it turns out when you're not getting pimped by the college system, you have the incentive to try harder on defense.

2. Good players = An Improved offense

It's funny how adding talent and getting players back from injury can do wonders for an offense. Brett Brown's coaching philosophy has had three staples he has always repeated since he was hired. Pacing. Spacing. Defense. He has installed those principles over the years despite not having the proper talent to run that system, and now, through development, a key free agent signing, and getting key players back from injury, the Sixers offense has looked crisper than it has in the last four years.

First, the three-point shot has always been a staple in Brown's system and while they ranked in the top half of the league in attempts and makes, they always ranked near the bottom in percentage. Add in 5 players who are shooting over 40% from three on more than 3 attempts -- with JJ Redick and RoCo taking 6.5 and 7.3 attempts respectively-- and the three-point shot turns into a deadly weapon. Look at the stark difference in percentage.

Sixers' Three-Point Shooting.

 Season 3pt Att. 3pt Made 3pt %
2013-14 22.5 (13th) 7 (19th) 31.2% (30th)
2014-15 26.3 (6th) 8.4 (11th) 32.0% (29th)
2015-16 33.9 (8th) 9.3 (9th) 33.9% (24th)
2016-17 29.8 (7th) 10.1 (10th) 34.0% (25th)
2017-18 31.1 (7th) 12.5 (3rd) 40.2% (3rd)

The Sixers have also become one of the best passing teams in the NBA, ranking second in assists per game (26.3) behind the Warriors who are in a whole other class by themselves historically when it comes to passing the ball (31 assists per game). They ranked in the middle of the pack in Browns first year but the passing has improved drastically over the last three seasons.

2013-14: 15th

2014-15: 24th

2015-16: 20th

2016-17: 8th

 

This play featured some of the best ball movement I have seen in a long time.