2017-18 Kia Season Preview
One Team, One Stat -- Joel Embiid provides big impact for Philadelphia 76ers
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Philadelphia 76ers, who were a pretty good team when one particular guy was on the floor.
When Joel Embiid was on the floor last season, the Philadelphia 76ers outscored their opponents by 3.2 points per 100 possessions.
Only one team in the Eastern Conference (Toronto) had a NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) better than plus-3.2 last season.
The Sixers were outscored by 467 points over their 82 games, but were a plus-67 with Embiid on the floor. With Embiid anchoring the defense, they allowed just 99.1 points per 100 possessions, a mark better than that of the Spurs’ No. 1-ranked defense (100.9).
The Sixers were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Embiid on the floor than they were with him off the floor. It’s not often that rookies make a positive impact defensively, but Embiid clearly did. Opponents shot 40.8 percent at the rim when he was there to protect, the best rim-protection mark among players who defended at least five shots in 25 or more games. He also led the league with 4.72 steals plus blocks per 36 minutes.
But he played only 786 minutes total. He never played both nights of a back-to-back and his season was over in late January.
Having Embiid in uniform didn’t exactly guarantee a win. The Sixers went 13-18 in games that he played, because he never played more than 29 minutes and because they were so awful when he sat down. His primary back-up was Jahlil Okafor, who had the league’s worst on-court NetRtg (minus-14.5 points per 100 possessions), by a pretty wide margin, among 222 players that played at least 20 minutes per game in 40 games or more. Still, Philly was 12-5 in games in which Embiid had a positive plus-minus.
The Sixers will have better players around (and playing behind) Embiid this season, but his health is still the team’s biggest variable as they try to take another step forward this season. Even with the last two No. 1 picks making their debuts and some veterans added to the roster, Embiid is the transcendent star that gives the Sixers a legit chance to make the playoffs if he’s healthy and making the same impact that he made as a rookie.
SIXERS NOTES – GENERAL
- One of two Eastern Conference teams (Orlando is the other) that hasn’t made the playoffs in the last five years. The Sixers (109) have 23 fewer wins than any other team over that time, with 13 of the 30 teams having at least twice as many.
- Had the league’s biggest win increase, going from 10 wins in 2015-16 to 28 last season. Were the league’s second most improved team statistically, 4.3 points per 100 possessions better than they were in ’15-16.
- Were 21-23 (0.477) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes after going 5-30 (0.143) in those games the season before. That was the league’s biggest improvement in clutch games.
- Have ranked in the top seven in pace in each of Brett Brown‘s four seasons as head coach.
- Grabbed 48.8 percent of available rebounds. That ranked 23rd in the league, but was up from 46.4 percent (30th) in 2015-16. Only the Hawks and Clippers saw bigger increases in total rebounding percentage.
SIXERS NOTES – OFFENSE
- First team (since the league started counting turnovers in 1977) to rank last in offensive efficiency for four straight seasons. Last year, though, was the first time they scored more than a point per possession in the last five.
- Only team that was worse than average in each of the offensive four factors (effective field goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover rate and free throw rate).
- Scored just 1.01 points per possession, the worst mark in the league, in transition.
- Averaged just 7.4 screen assists per game, fewest in the league. Only 12.3 percent of their possessions, the second lowest rate in the league, were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions.
- Only player who had an above-average effective field goal percentage (better than 51.4 percent) on at least 500 shots with the Sixers was Ersan Ilyasova, who was traded at the deadline.
SIXERS NOTES – DEFENSE
- The league-average OffRtg seeing a jump of 2.3 points scored per 100 possessions, the Sixers were one of only four teams who allowed fewer points per 100 possessions last season (106.4) than they did in 2015-16 (106.7).
- Ranked 10th defensively (allowing 108.7 points per 100 possessions in 26 games) against the league’s top 10 offenses last season.
- Have ranked in the bottom four in defensive rebounding percentage each of the last four seasons.
- Allowed 1.00 points per possession, the worst mark in the league, on isolations.
- Allowed their opponents to take 54.7 percent of their shots, the second highest rate in the league, in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock. Only Brooklyn allowed a higher rate.
SIXERS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Most-used lineup – T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, Ilyasova and Embiid – played just 115 minutes together, the fewest of any team’s most-used lineup. Of the league’s other 29 teams, 25 had at least one lineup that played more than twice as many minutes.
- The Sixers allowed just 97.5 points per 100 possessions in 523 minutes with both Covington and Embiid on the floor, 104.8 in 1,859 minutes with one of the two on the floor, and 111.2 in 1,578 minutes with neither on the floor.
- Embiid played just 88 (11 percent) of his minutes with Okafor (80), Nerlens Noel (eight) or Richaun Holmes (less than one).
- Dario Saric played about 90 percent of his minutes at the four, with only one true big man also on the floor.
- Scored just 95.1 points per 100 possessions with Okafor on the floor. That was the lowest on-court OffRtg among players that played at least 20 minutes per game in 40 games or more.
SIXERS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Justin Anderson shot 26.8 percent from outside the paint, the worst mark among 215 players who took at least 200 shots from the outside. Dario Saric had the worst field goal percentage (30.6 percent) from outside the paint among 68 players with at least 500 attempts from the outside.
- Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell took 56.3 percent and 10.7 percent of their shots from 3-point range, respectively. Those marks were down from 67.7 percent and 19.2 percent the season before last. Those were the third and fourth biggest drop-offs in 3PA/FGA among 156 players who attempted at least 250 shots in 2015-16 and at least 500 shots in ’16-17. McConnell was the only player in the league shorter than 6-7 who played at least 25 games and attempted less than one 3-pointer per 36 minutes.
- Covington (33.1 percent) and Saric (31.9 percent) were the only two players who attempted at least 250 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and made less than a third of them.
- Covington led the league with 4.2 deflections per game. Covington (4.8) and McConnell (4.7) ranked first and second in deflections per 36 minutes among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes. Nerlens Noel (who the Sixers traded in February) was tied with McConnell.
- Joel Embiid‘s 11.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes led the league. The only other two players who averaged 10 or more were the top two in MVP voting.
- Embiid and Saric were the only rookies who attempted at least 10 shots per game and the only rookies who played 500 minutes or more and averaged at least 15 points, five rebounds and three assists per 36.
- In nine of the last 10 seasons (2014-15 being the lone exception), Amir Johnson‘s teams have had a better NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) with him on the floor than with him off the floor. Only once in those 10 years (2010-11) has he not had a positive plus-minus, even though five of the 10 teams had losing records.
- Among players who played at least 25 games last season, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell ranked second and third in average speed, behind former teammate Sergio Rodriguez.
- Over the last five years, J.J. Redick ranks fourth in both 3-point percentage (42.3 percent) among players who have taken at least 1,000 threes and in mid-range field goal percentage (47.3 percent) among players who have taken at least 1,000 mid-range shots. No other player ranks in the top 10 in both (though Kevin Durant – 12th and eighth – and C.J. McCollum – sixth and 12th – are close).
- Saric (13.2 percent of the time) and Covington (11.4 percent) were two players most likely to commit a turnover when they drove among 119 players with at least 200 total drives. Nik Stauskas (9.2 percent) was the ninth most likely.
NBA TV’s Sixers preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 7. See the full preview schedule here.
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