8 telling Sixers stats (so far)

Jordan Cohn
November 21, 2019 - 12:58 pm

Welp. They’re 9-5.

It hasn’t particularly been the start of the season we’d been hyping and/or hoping for. 9-5 isn’t bad. But it’s just… meh. And sometimes, the losses and close games that this team has experienced this season are just inexplicable on the surface. The same goes for the wins and other high points of this team throughout the year. 

But what happens if you go past the surface, and dig through the stats? Turns out you can find some pretty interesting things.

Let’s get some of the bad stats out of the way first.


1. 93.9%: Percentage of 3-Pt field goals that come off assists
Rank: Highest in the NBA

It may be fairly obvious from the casual viewer that the Sixers don’t have many shot creators. Embiid is too slow, Harris is having an off-year from beyond the arc (see below), and Ben Simmons is Ben Simmons. But the fact that 93.9% of this team’s three-pointers are assisted is pretty staggering. High assist totals usually indicate a good thing, but this stat is more indicative of the fact that the Sixers don’t have a good shot creator more than anything else. The Rockets, with weapons like James Harden and Russell Westbrook, make only 63% of their three pointers off of an assist. Though this doesn’t reveal everything about a team’s success, as many other factors go into what this figure means, it’s still a significant number that we’d probably like to be a little bit lower.


2. 26.7%: Tobias Harris’s 3-Pt. Percentage
Rank: Eighth-lowest of all players with >50 attempts

It was a little troubling last year when Harris dipped from 43.4% in Los Angeles to 32.6% in Philly from deep. That’s a significant enough decline to wonder whether or not it had to do with the new system within which he was being integrated. In the playoffs, it improved slightly up to 35%. But this season he’s been straight-up awful from three-point land, putting up the eighth-lowest 3-Pt. percentage in the NBA among over 100 qualified candidates (min. 50 attempts). It’s especially problematic, too, because he’s the only one of the bottom 15 or 20 that is supposed to be the primary scorer from beyond the arc for his respective team. A 15% differential in just a couple of years is certainly concerning, and he’ll have to turn it around soon.


3. 79 points per 100 possessions: Matisse Thybulle’s offensive rating
Rank: Third-lowest of all players with >100 minutes played

His defense is good. He racks up steals like few others -- he’s second in the NBA with 3.4 per 36 minutes -- and he has more blocks per 36 minutes than any other guard in the game. That’s the reason the Sixers drafted him. But part of the equation of being a successful basketball player is contributing something on the offensive end, and that’s where Thybulle has fallen way, way short. He can’t score efficiently from two (33.3%), he can’t score efficiently from three (32.0% - still better than Harris!), and he can’t score efficiently from the charity stripe (64.3%). He averages more turnovers than assists. The team scores 13.5 more points per 100 possessions when he’s off the court. And the list goes on. A good way to summarize his offensive contribution is that he is dead last in offensive rating among everyone with at least 100 minutes played. Above him are guys like Dennis Smith, who has been outright horrible to start his career as a Knick, and Tim Frazier, the perennially mediocre point guard who is shooting 21.6% from the field in Detroit. 


And some more quick-hitting stats…


4. 17.0: Turnovers per game
Rank: Sixth in the NBA

5. 72.8%: Free throw percentage
Rank: 26th in the NBA


But the Sixers are 9-5! There must be some good in there.


6. 99.0: Home Defensive Rating
Rank: Fourth in the NBA

The Sixers are a much better defensive unit so far while defending their territory at Wells Fargo. They allow 99.0 points per home game as opposed to 110.7 on the road, and while this may result partially from the strength of the teams that they’ve played at home, it’s impressive nonetheless. They’re undefeated in Philly in five games, holding teams such as the 11-2 Celtics and the 8-6 Timberwolves to 93 and 95 points, respectively. The combination of a defensive-minded starting five, a ferocious threat in Matisse Thybulle, and the energy of the fans and the arena has made Philadelphia one of the scariest places to travel in the early goings.


7. +17.9: Sixers’ Starting Five Net Rating
Rank: 4th in the NBA

The immensely talented starting five that the Sixers largely mortgaged their future in order to possess has worked well so far. Simply put, the net rating is how many points a lineup scores per 100 possessions minus how many points that lineup allows. The combination of Simmons, Richardson, Harris, Horford, and Embiid has only appeared in six games together so far due to injuries, rests, and suspensions, but when together they are a formidable group that can match up with any five in the league. It’s not that this wasn’t expected -- I certainly expected it -- but it’s nice to see it coming to fruition.


8. 25.8: Joel Embiid’s PER
Rank: 10th in the NBA

And finally, it’s nice to see that Joel is still performing at a really high level. Despite all the complaints about his health and fatigue -- which are most definitely warranted -- he is still dominating down low on both sides of the floor, shooting well from deep with a much-improved 35% 3-Pt. clip, and continuing to be the most vocal and exciting leader that the Sixers have seen in a long time. Embiid makes the Sixers one of the most fun teams to watch in the entire league both on and off the court, and for all the complaints surrounding him, he’s pretty damn good.


All statistics are from Basketball Reference and NBA.com.