If anything happens frequently enough, human beings adapt to it. It is one of the reasons the species has been able to dominate Earth. Adaptation allows humans to survive through just about anything. This huge biological and macro advantage has become a micro and social disadvantage and leaks into everyday life.
Norms are quickly abandoned for what is new. In 2014, triple doubles were impossible to come by and Lance Stephenson was praised as a triple-double king when he led the league in triple-doubles with just five. Russell Westbrook doubled that in the last 26 days alone. Just last season, the player with the most 40 point games had only 11. James Harden has already doubled that this year.
Players are doing things that most thought would be impossible just a few years ago but now we critique them as if their feats are common because they are, to us at least. In the grand scheme of things, these conquests will surely be seen as outliers but in the moment we often ignore the grand scheme in favor of the now.
There is now a similar mindset surrounding super teams. Players joining forces has become normal and when NBA titans team up, it is now only newsworthy for a short while. This normalization has affected how this Philadelphia 76ers team is viewed. The 76ers currently have five amazing basketball players and yet there is little noise surrounding them.
This is due to five All-Stars residing on the West Coast all on one team, the Heatles mini-dynasty, and whatever happened in Cleveland. This Sixers team does not have the stereotypical star power of those units but they have just as much, if not more talent.
Every single player in their starting lineup has TS% of 58.7% or better. There are only 25 players in the entire league that average 31 or more minutes per game on 58.7 TS% or better and the Sixers have five of them, that is absolutely unheard of.
The teams that make it the farthest in the playoffs usually have the most options. Playoff series’ are all about constant moves and counter moves. The team that runs out of moves the quickest is usually the team that loses. This Sixers team now has a lot of options.
First and foremost, they still have a lot of star power. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler are all bonafide stars and make-up 3 of the top 25 best players in the league. Embiid’s star is by far the brightest and he alone gives the 76ers plenty of choices.
First and foremost he is the best post-up player in the league. He has the most moves on the block than anyone else in the league and he does them all at a proficient rate. He also is an elite foul drawer down low which has allowed him to score more points in the post than Karl-Anthony Towns despite having 128 fewer post-up possessions than him. This incredible skill may just force teams to go big against Philadelphia which is an unnatural move for teams in 2019.
With the acquisition of Tobias Harris, they also have two of the most prolific shooters in basketball. JJ Redick and Harris may both be incredible shooters but they offer different options. JJ Redick is an almost impossible off-ball mover who shoots off screens, in the corners, and on the run with the ball in his hands for .7 seconds better than almost any other player on the planet.
Tobias Harris, on the other hand, has a complete repertoire. He can Take pull-up jumpers off a pick and roll, he can nail pull-up threes in ISO situations, his TS% almost matches Redick’s on spot-up attempts, and he almost never takes a bad shot. Ben Simmons may be a shooting concern but these two almost more than makeup for him.
Aside from shooting, Will Smith’s home now has plenty of defense. Simmons, Embiid, and Butler are all phenomenal defenders but again, all in many different ways. Simmons is the consummate roamer, he plays smart defense and has an eye for what is about to unfold next. Embiid is the rim protector and fastbreak extinguisher. Butler is the one on one, take every matchup personal, rabid dog who you sick on the opposing team’s best player. These three will need to make up for Harris and Redick’s limitations as defenders.
Harris at least allows for some size at the four with switchability but he is not nearly as good of a defender as many in Phila hope.
I honestly have preferred Gallo to Tobi this season because Gallo has proven to be a much better defender pic.twitter.com/sVGN3JzW2g
— Justin Jett (@JustinJett_) February 1, 2019
The Sixers also now have four players who can be trusted with the basketball. Simmons is passing savant who can blow by unprepared defenders. Harris can run pick and rolls, work on the block and produce in isolations while Butler can do much of the same at a much lower efficiency. Embiid, as mentioned, is the best player on this team and thus the player most likely to find the ball in his hands.
Sharing the ball with all of these players used to handling the rock should not be a problem. Aside from Joel Embiid, the Sixers starting lineup has a shockingly similar usage percentage. Harris and Redick are both players that are used to having the ball in their hands less, Simmons has acknowledged limitations which allow him to share the rock, and Butler has never been a high volume shooter. Embiid is the best player on this team and deserves the basketball more while it is barely noticeable that he gets the lion’s share.
This team is incredible and the organization has managed to organize a team that makes almost perfect sense. The bench is still an issue, Simmons’ lack of shooting will be a problem as teams sag off, and Butler’s unpredictable personality is a threat but this team should have no major reason to not be the Eastern Conference favorites.
Rotations shrink in the playoffs and James Ennis, Boban Marjanovich, and TJ McConnell should provide just enough value while there will always be two the three starters on the court. Simmons has also developed a very real turnaround fadeaway jumper which increases his range just a bit but it is his floater that will need to be his weapon of choice as teams defend him in the restricted area. He is shooting 45 percent on these attempts which is around the same clip he will need to hit in the playoffs.
The NBA world has grown accustomed to teams having multiple stars. The Sixers seem just like another unit with multiple great players having to collide with other teams with multiple great players. This is simply not the case. This team has a perfect fit, plenty of options, and a real chance to make a legitimate run at the title. The Philadelphia 76ers are anything but normal.