(All stats and records through Jan. 14; for report cards for all 30 teams click here.)
Offense: 104.4, 16th Overall
Defense: 103.4, 6th Overall
W-L | Pct. | GB
19-20 | .487 | 12.5
The increase in Joel Embiid's availability has been the biggest reason the Sixers are the league's most improved team. The continued development of Robert Covington and Dario Saric have made a difference as well.
Ben Simmons has made it work without jump shot. The league's biggest point guard could be the Rookie of the Year. J.J. Redick has made it work with a jump shot. His movement opens up things inside.
The Sixers rank as a top-10 defense, top five in both 3-point defense and preventing shots near the basket, though not very good at keeping opponents off the line and not very good with Embiid off the floor.
The Sixers' starting lineup has outscored its opponents by 18 points per 100 possessions, and they rank as the league's third best first-quarter team. But their reserves have not been good enough to hold onto leads.
Brett Brown has been building a foundation -- a pace-and-space offense and a defense that prevents the most efficient shots -- for four years. Now, he's got the talent to make it work and the added pressure that comes with playoff expectations.
OVERALL GRADE: B-
After four years, "The Process" has begun to bear fruit. The Sixers have been the most improved team in the league statistically, 6.7 points per 100 possessions better than they were last season.
There have been some misses along the way and the absence of No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz remains troubling. But the last four years have not only yielded the picks that became Embiid, Simmons and Saric, but also the development of Covington, an undrafted player signed by Sam Hinkie in 2014. That's four fifths of what has been one of the league's best lineups this season.
Embiid remains the transcendent star that the Sixers' success depends on. They've been 16 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than they've been with him off it. He has yet to play in both games of a back-to-back, but has already played more minutes than he did as a rookie.
His availability over the second half of the season will be the biggest factor in his team's ability to make the playoffs. The opportunity is there. In regard to opponent strength, the second half of the Sixers' schedule will be much easier than the first half was.
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