With 26 games remaining in the season, the Philadelphia 76ers are 22-34, twelve games below .500. It’s safe to say that this season is a lost cause after a loss Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic, post J.J. Redick era. After going years without a star since the Allen Iverson trade to Denver, the Sixers finally brought in a star! Or so we thought. Andrew Bynum has had another setback after all Sixers’ fans got their hopes up. Bynum had completed his first 5-on-5 scrimmage earlier in the week, before announcing he was unsure if he would play this season due to extra swelling he experienced in his knee. After being disappointed once again, it got me thinking about the teams in the association that are succeeding without a true superstar.
Of course, there’s there’s the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder that can run almost any team out of the gym with their superstars in the open court. LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Durant, and Westbrook will always have their teams in contention, but there’s teams with well-rounded teams excelling in the NBA this year.
I hope Tony DiLeo has his notebook out and is taking a look at what teams like the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Chicago Bulls are doing. The Bulls are going through a similar dilemma that the Sixers are, except they’re winning. Chicago’s superstar Derrick Rose has yet to play this season after tearing his ACL in the postseason last year. All of these teams should be the model for the 76ers, and they all have a lot in common.
Here’s just a few things:
1. Defense – The Grizzlies, Pacers, and Bulls rank first, second, and third in points allowed per game respectively. Indiana ranks first in opponents’ field goal attempts from 16-23 feet and second from 10-15 feet. Clearly, consistently shooting mid-range jump shots isn’t a formula for success. The Sixers should know that first hand, they rank first in field goal attempts from 16-23 feet in the NBA and the fifth most from 10-15 feet.
2. Rebounding - Indiana, Memphis, and Denver make up the top-three in Total Rebounding Rate according to HoopData, while Chicago ranks seventh. Those four teams also rank in the top-six in offensive rebounding rate, Memphis at the top of that category. And the Sixers? They rank 23rd in total rebounding rate and 24th on the offensive glass.
3. Shot Selection - The Sixers offense has been awful this year. To prove exactly how awful, they rank 28th in the NBA in Offensive Efficiency and 29th in points per game with 92.3. They are 29th in the league in Free Throw Rate, and when they do get to the line, they shoot just 71.8%, which ranks them at a less than spectacular 25th. The Nuggets rank 3rd in Offensive Efficiency and first in field goal attempts at the rim. Indiana ranks 3rd in attempts from 3-9 feet, and Lionel Hollins’ squad is 5th in the same category. As I said earlier, the Sixers love contested mid-range jump shots. Any correlation with their putrid offensive numbers? I’ll leave that assumption to you.
So the blueprint is laid, Tony DiLeo. Protect the rim, hit the glass, and take good shots are all keys to success. With players like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, J.J. Hickson, and Josh Smith all becoming unrestricted free agents this summer, and just over $46 million committed to player salaries next year, there is no excuse that the Sixers can’t be one of the best eight teams in the Eastern Conference next season. Regardless of whether or not Bynum is back, other changes need to be made to the roster to turn this team into a formidable one.