3 Takeaways from 76ers' November Performance

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 2, 2021

3 Takeaways from 76ers' November Performance

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    The Philadelphia 76ers have played the entire 2021-22 NBA season with a hand tied behind their back, due to Ben Simmons' trade request and subsequent absence.

    When Joel Embiid's scary bout with COVID-19 effectively tied up the club's other hand for three weeks, the Sixers predictably struggled to put up a fight.

    Philly went 4-1 during November when Embiid played and 3-7 when he didn't. His importance to the team, as if that was ever in question, was crystal clear during the month, as were two other top takeaways we'll dissect.

Ben Simmons' Absence Is Glaring

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    For three weeks it seemed like the Sixers might enjoy enough success to survive their lengthy staredown with Simmons and his potential trade suitors.

    Turns out, being without a 25-year-old All-Star is kind of a big deal. After opening the month with four consecutive wins to make its record 8-2, Philadelphia closed it with a 3-8 mark that saw breakdown on both ends of the court.

    Breakdowns which Simmons or whatever he would bring back in a trade could help hide.

    His shooting woes are well-documented, but he is a difference-making defender and distributor. He was the squad's second-best player just last season, when it paced the Eastern Conference in wins and posted its highest winning percentage since Allen Iverson was leading the charge.

    If the 76ers have any desire to significantly compete this season, something needs to happen with Simmons. While that obviously doesn't mean panic-trading him for 50 cents on the dollar, reasonable offers should all be considered, even if they fall short of the franchise's biggest dreams.

Sixers Need All of the Heavy Lifting Joel Embiid Can Handle

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The night Embiid returned from a three-week absence, the 76ers tasked him with 45 minutes and seven more field-goal attempts than any of his teammates in a double-overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    The message was clear: This team will go as far as Embiid can take it.

    That was true even before Simmons removed himself from the blueprint, but it's painfully obvious with the Sixers now operating as a one-star squad. Despite Embiid failing to match his shooting success from last season, he still makes this team 8.5 points better per 100 possessions than it plays without him.

    Some Embiid protection would be nice, given his injury history and the conditioning hurdles he now needs to clear. That's where a Simmons swap could really help. Even then, though, Philly won't roster a better player than its superstar center, so Embiid will continue carrying this club on his back.

Tyrese Maxey Is Making a Leap

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    While there are no silver linings in the ongoing Simmons saga, the closest thing to one is the way sophomore guard Tyrese Maxey has answered opportunity's knock.

    A starter—and 20-point scorer—on opening night, he has already exceeded all reasonable expectations for his second NBA go-round. Even with his shooting cooling off late in the month, he finished November averaging 19.4 points on 47.3/40.0/87.7 shooting with 5.7 assists against 1.0 turnovers.

    For a point-guard-in-training, he has done a capable job of running the offense. That's more effusive praise than it sounds, because reprogramming a scoring guard into a floor general is among the tallest tasks in basketball.

    Maxey still has a long way to go, but given his age, experience and new role, he is clearly ahead of the curve.


    Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.