Ranking 76ers' Biggest Weaknesses Through 2 Months

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 16, 2021

Ranking 76ers' Biggest Weaknesses Through 2 Months

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Save for an early six-game winning streak, the Philadelphia 76ers have struggled to gain traction in the 2021-22 NBA season.

    Something is always holding them back. It's almost like they had an in-prime All-Star erased from their plans as quick as a snap from Thanos.

    Oh, right. They do.

    Two months into the campaign, the Sixers seem no closer to solving the Ben Simmons dilemma, a situation that has done serious damage to the defense and placed a heavy burden on Joel Embiid as a solo star.

    That's just one of the issues for this group, though, so let's spotlight the biggest weaknesses seen to date and rank them by significance.

3. Low 3-Point Volume

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    Spacing isn't quite the same concern without Simmons, but it's close since the aim is to give Embiid as much room to operate in as possible.

    That's the first area where this roster falls short.

    There are 77 players across the Association averaging at least two triples per night; the Sixers have just one of them (Seth Curry, 2.1). Collectively, Philly averages 11.1 as a team, which ranks 13th in the Eastern Conference and 26th overall.

    There is a little room for internal growth, as both Furkan Korkmaz and Tobias Harris are better shooters than they have shown, but there aren't many lights-out snipers who seriously worry opponents.

2. Limited Playmaking

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    While Simmons could be passive to a fault, watching him made it obvious you were seeing a natural floor general in action.

    This season, it's just as clear that skill set isn't present on the roster.

    Tyrese Maxey has done an admiral job of molding his combo guard skills into a point guard role, and he's been excellent about not giving the ball away (1.4 turnovers in 34.6 minutes). But he's a pedestrian passer for a point guard (4.7 assists) because this isn't his natural position.

    "He's not a point guard," 76ers coach Doc Rivers said, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He's a scorer at the point position."

    No one averages five assists, and only Maxey and Embiid clear 3.5. Philly has enough skilled scorers to sort of make it work, but the offense could take a big jump forward if it had a table-setter who elevated the players around him.

1. Defensive Decline

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The Sixers' plan with Embiid and Simmons at the helm was simple: play elite defense and hope the offense is good enough to not hold them back. It almost worked last season when they snagged the East's top seed and posted their highest winning percentage in 20 years.

    The equation doesn't add up without Simmons.

    Philly wasn't swimming in stoppers. Rather it followed the lead of a few elites. It still has a couple in Embiid and Matisse Thybulle, but it's hard not to notice the void left behind by Simmons, a 6'11", five-position defender and All-Defensive first-team honoree in each of the past two seasons.

    Last season, the Sixers had the league's second-best defense. They have tumbled all the way to 20th this term. The offense isn't good enough to support such a leaky defense, but it's hard to tell how they can increase their firepower or decrease their defensive generosity. Resolving the Simmons situation should help at least one of those areas, but it's impossible to know which, when or to what degree.