The 2019-2020 season has not gone as planned for the Sixers. While the team has the best home record (28-2) in the NBA, their away record (9-2) has negated all the success they have had at home. It doesn’t matter how dominant a team is at home if they’re not successful on the road. In order to make a deep playoff run, teams need to be able to win games on the road, which the 76ers have failed to do this year.
To make matters worse, the Sixers have been without their star point guard Ben Simmons since February 22 after he suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back. Simmons has no set time to return.
Joel Embiid has also been out since February 26 after he suffered a shoulder injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the 76ers expect the star center to return next week after the team gets back from their four-game stint in California.
In the meantime, the 76ers will have to rely on Tobias Harris and Al Horford. After signing a massive $180 million contract extension with Philadelphia in the off-season, Harris has shown mixed results.
There are times where he looks like a bonafide star — his February 27 game against the New York Knicks in which he led the Sixers to victory with 34 points, 7 rebounds, and seven assists is a perfect example. Other times, Harris looks like a below-average and overpaid player.
One game prior to his breakout against the Knicks, the Sixers were on the road facing one of the worst teams in the league, the Cavaliers. Harris failed to lead his team in the game that needed him, as Ben Simmons wasn’t playing and Embiid had to leave early due to injury. Harris responded by shooting 30 percent from his field goal attempts and having negative 10 when he was on the court, contributing to the Sixer’s loss.
While Harris hasn’t performed at the all-star level that fans hoped very, he has had enough good games to not be considered a bust signing. On the other hand, Al Horford has been a major bust for the 76ers since signing his four year $109 million contract.
While his numbers are good with just Simmons on the floor, the Sixers offense as a whole takes a step back when Horford, Embiid, and Simmons are on the court together.
According to The Athletic, the Sixers offense has a rating of 98.8 when Horford, Embiid and Simmons share the floor, which ranks in the bottom five of the NBA.
This isn’t entirely Horford’s fault. Some of the blame should go to General Manager Elton Brand who put the roster together this summer. Instead of going for a pure shooter such as Malcolm Brogdon, who signed with the Pacers for less money than Horford, the 76ers decided to sign a starting center when they already have one.
Currently, the 76ers sit at sixth place in the Eastern Conference Standings. If the season ended today the 76ers would go on the road to face the Boston Celtics. This season the 76ers have beat the Celtics in three out of their four meetings. However, given that the series would start in Boston and considering the 76ers struggle away from home, the Celtics would likely be favored to win the series.
If the 76ers fail to get past the second round in this year’s playoffs, then it’s likely that the first move made in the offseason would be getting rid of Brett Brown. If this occurs, many will vouch for Villanova’s Jay Wright to get the job, even though he has said numerous times that he has no desire to leave Villanova.
For Brett Brown to keep his job, he’s going to need his players to step up in big games, especially on the road.
The effort that has been shown over the course of the second half of the season has not been enough. To change, the 76ers need to play with more purpose and have better gameplans.