5 Positive Takeaways from Sixers First 16 Games
The Philadelphia 76ers have had an exciting start to their season. Fans should take pride in what the team has been able to do.
The start to the season for the Philadelphia 76ers was a bit rough. On the road against the Indiana Pacers, the Sixers fell in overtime to lose their seventh straight game of the season. The Sixers had several close calls in many games, with three of their six games leading up to that being decided by six points or less.
Just a few games later, and the tone around the team has really changed. While fans were really negative after those seven straight losses because of how the team was letting games slip away in the final seconds, the team is doing better. At first, it looked like it was going to be yet another year of disappointing basketball. That no longer feels like it’s the case.
In the game that followed the overtime loss to the Pacers, the Sixers won in overtime again, and it really felt like a giant breath of relief came out of the Wells Fargo Center.
That win was followed by two losses, but through the team’s Monday night double overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sixers had won three of their last five games.
That game was the Sixers’ 15th of the season, which means the Sixers were just under 20 percent of the way done with their season.
A loss to the Chicago Bulls was their 16th game, which rounds up to 20 percent of the season being completed.
With the Sixers having had some time to set the tone of the season, here are some positive takeaways from the first portion of the season.
The team is winning
The most positive implication with the beginning of the season so far is that the Sixers are finally winning games. Looking at last year’s start, the Sixers are already leaps and bounds ahead of where they were. The Sixers’ first win last year didn’t even come until December 1st, and the Sixers’ first win this season came on November 11th.
Philly will have three chances between now and December to get another win. So far this year, however, the Sixers have already notched four wins to their record, which is 40 percent of their win total for the entire year last year, and the Sixers — as stated earlier — are just about 20 percent done with their season. Their fourth win last season didn’t come until January 4th last season. They are well over a month ahead of schedule — although the schedule from last season is almost at an all-time low in win pace.
Part of the reasoning for the success that the Sixers have experienced this season is that they have an incredible amount of home games to start this season. Through 15 games, the Sixers have only played five on the road. This has allowed them and the home crowd to get in a groove. With a significantly higher amount of fans attending so far this season, the home court advantage has been real for the Sixers this year. They are 4-7 at home so far this year.
The wins are encouraging, and it’s clear that the whole team, as well as the fan base, is incredibly motivated because of the wins.
Nik Stauskas looks great
Aside from the obvious narratives regarding players like Joel Embiid and Sergio Rodriguez coming into their first years playing with the Sixers doing well, Nik Stauskas is doing really great so far this year. Stauskas, who was a sophomore player last year who was traded to the Sixers in the offseason, did not have much of a positive season last year, and his rookie year was no better.
Many thought that Stauskas was never going to be able to live up to the expectations that were set for him as he came in as a rookie, but others thought he just needed to find a way to spark his confidence. In previous years, even when Stauskas got really good looks, he was not shooting with confidence, and because of that, his shot just looked off.
Stauskas, over the offseason, saw a sports psychologist and aimed to get his mind right just like any player aims to get all facets of their game ready to go for game time. It’s clearly worked this season, as Stauskas started the year attacking the rim in a confident, dominant fashion, and has since also been able to his some longer 3-point shots as well.
Stauskas is shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc, and 51 percent from the field. His 65.8 percent true shooting percentage is sixth in the league, tied with the Golden State Warriors’ high-accuracy Stephen Curry.
The second unit is always blessed by the presence of Stauskas, and him and Dario Saric are laying the foundation for a really good bench for the Sixers moving forward.
Injuries will pass
The beginning of the season can plainly be seen as a positive start for the Sixers. Sill, every night it seems like the Sixers submit a grocery list of players who are injured or who are being monitored for injuries throughout the night. It’s been tough for Brett Brown and the coaching staff to prepare a game strategy that works when you’re never quite sure who will be healthy and ready to go.
These complications are there with any team, but with the Sixers, it does seem excessive at times.
The positive here is that the cluster of the short-term injuries that the Sixers have to keep watching should pass at some point, and the team will be able to move on and know more permanently which players they can put on the floor.
In the long-term, too, the Sixers can bet that they are going to be made better as some key players bounce back from injury.
Jerryd Bayless played his second game of the season against the Grizzlies, and made some considerable leaps of improvement from game one to game two. As he gets back in the flow and the team starts to get used to him running point, he’s going to improve the team. He was their marquee free agent signing this summer, after all.
Oh, and of course, let’s not forget Ben Simmons, who was perhaps the player who had the most hype surrounding him coming into the season before he suffered from a Jones fracture before preseason. Simmons will likely play this season, and his elite passing ability and all-around ability to play the game at such a high level already is going to be impactful for the Sixers in a really good way.
The injury bug will pass.
Still plenty of time to fix mistakes
There is a lot of positive to talk about regarding the team, but by no means does that imply that there’s nothing negative going on with the team. The Sixers are far from perfect, and their 4-12 record after the first 16 games should make that plainly visible.
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Robert Covington has been awful on the offensive end, Jahlil Okafor still looks like he just doesn’t want to try at all on defense or on the boards, and the team has struggled to perform well late in most of the games they’ve been closely competing in.
What’s good news about this, though, is that the Sixers still have over 80 percent of the season left to tweak, adjust, and work on their deficiencies. While the team has, of course, had three years to work with some of these players and adjust and work with them to put the best possible product on the floor, it’s a bit different when you’re actually out there and being competitive with other teams.
The approach to practices now will be a bit different. With the Sixers being a team that is winning games now, they will be thinking more about winning and a bit more in the short term than in the long term. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Nik Stauskas talked about in a recent podcast how the team’s practices are a bit different and more upbeat in days following wins.
“When you’re continuously losing, you go into film session the next day and it’s like looking at all the bad things you did. Instead of on a day like today, you can, not celebrate, but just be thankful that you played well, you played better than the other team.”
The implied bright future
What we should take from this overall start to the season is that there is a lot of positive to grasp onto for the Sixers. The first few weeks have been incredible, and that’s a foreshadowing of what is to come for the team not only for the rest of the season, but also in the coming years.
Joel Embiid and Dario Saric are the leaders of the new generation, and Ben Simmons is likely to follow. The Sixers also have some solid young pieces like Nik Stauskas and Richaun Holmes that can slip in there somewhere. And with the Sixers likely to trade either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel at some point, they will be able to get something good in return.
Again, let’s not forget that I didn’t even mention the injured Ben Simmons in all of that.
Let’s also remember this — the days of the draft aren’t quite over for the Sixers either. They will still likely be a lottery team this year (although at this rate they may be a late lottery team, but they could always jump up) and they have the opportunity to swap with the Sacramento Kings, and also own the Los Angeles Lakers’ first round pick if it is fourth overall or worse. Not bad, eh?
Add in to all of that the fact that the Sixers actually are starting to look like a fun place to play, and they may be able to attract some solid free agents because of that. The roster is really going to start coming together.
With those draft picks, the Sixers are likely going to get one or two more really solid players to add onto their already solid roster. The future is coming, and the first 15 games have proven that it’s a bright one.
Here’s hoping that there are even more good things to make out of the next 16 games for the Sixers.