How do Sixers have No. 1 offense without Ben Simmons?

Furkan Korkmaz, Seth Curry, Georges Niang, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Furkan Korkmaz, Seth Curry, Georges Niang, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

On the surface, the current landscape of the Sixers doesn’t invoke much confidence that they’d be sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a 8-3 record.  Ben Simmons has yet to suit up for them, Tobias Harris and Danny Green have both missed multiple games, and Joel Embiid is averaging his lowest field percentage of his career and lowest points per game since his rookie year.

So what gives?  How have the Sixers managed to have the best record in the East along with the highest offensive efficiency and offensive rating in the entire NBA?  A collection of factors from tactical coaching decisions to internal player improvement to new faces filling important holes all have lead to the Sixers have the No. 1 offense in the NBA.

Sixers’ schematic changes without Ben Simmons

From the moment reality set in that Ben Simmons wasn’t going to rejoin the Sixers on the court, alterations to the way in which Philly handles their offense became a top priority.  Per John Hollinger’s Team Statistics via ESPN, the Sixers were a borderline top 10 team in pace last year, in large part because of Simmons’ ability to punish team on the fast break and in transition.  Fast forward to this year and Philadelphia is in the bottom third of the league in terms of pace, a testament to their roster construction not having any grab and go style players.  While lacking in pace is a major red flag in todays’ style of NBA, Philly has managed to maintain their offensive dominance off of elite halfcourt offense.

They’ve achieved this by having a multitude of positive decision makers on the court, high feel guys that are aware of the space they generate and can make the connective pass necessary to find the best shot.  The upside of lineups without Ben in them is the free flowing nature with which guys move without the ball.  While Simmons is a master initiator, far too often do we see him not try and expand a play or work into secondary actions if the initial plan doesn’t result in a shot.  Simmons doesn’t garner proper attention when he isn’t involved in a play, an issue no one in the current Sixers rotation seems to have.

So without an elite offensive creator in the fold, the Sixers have managed to do a good enough job by committee creating looks for each other.  Important play starters have seen their assist percentage go up a significant margin from last year such as Joel Embiid (15.6 to 21.2), Tobias Harris (17.6 to 22.1), Shake Milton (20.2 to 24.7), and Furkan Korkmaz (10.9 to 17.5) per Cleaning the Glass.  The Sixers’ play finishers have also seen a significant rise in efficiency as the point per shot attempt of Seth Curry (122.8 to 147.8) and Tyrese Maxey (106.1 to 120.7) have gone up significantly from last year to now, per CTG.

Whether most of these numbers are sustainable remains to be seen but they are a testament to how well this group has grown together and how all of them have answered the call when needed.