Yesterday, AU went over the ways in which this Sixers team is different from last year's. All of his points were right — they don't run as much, actually win close games, shoot more from three, get greater production from their starters and have room to improve. That last one is the real key.
All that said, while the Sixers' means of production have certainly changed, their end results look eerily similar.
The Sixers don't score in the paint and don't get to the free-throw line. Worse, they don't shoot a high percentage from the floor. Thus, you probably won't be surprised to learn they don't put up many points either. Any of that sound familiar?
First thing's first, without Andrew Bynum, the Sixers lack a back-to-the-basket big. Thad Young gets into dirty areas, but Spencer Hawes likes to play face up and Lavoy Allen is out of position at center. As for the perimeter, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will penetrate and Nick Young will put on some type of goddamn magic show every now and then, but the rest of the team is content to shoot further from the basket. Consequently, the Sixers are 27th in the league in points in the paint per game, with 35.5.
Of course, when you don't score in the paint, you don't get to the free throw line, because if you don't play in the lane, you don't get fouled. The Sixers are 28th in the league with 18.9 free throw attempts per game.
If you're not scoring from close to the basket, you better be shooting the ball well, right? Nope, not the Sixers. Their team field goal percentage of 43.1 is 24th in the league.
Add it all up, and the Sixers are averaging 93.1 points per game. That numbers ties Orlando for 25th in the NBA.
So, how do those numbers stack up compared to 2011-12?
2011-12: 38.2 PIP / 18.2 FTA / 44.8 FG% / 93.6 PPG
2012-13: 35.5 PIP / 18.9 FTA / 43.1 FG% / 93.1 PPG
The one key difference we mentioned at the top was the three-point shooting. The Sixers are launching roughly two more makes from range on four more attempts for a two-percent better average:
2011-12: 5.3 3PM / 14.6 3PA / 36.2 3P%
2012-12: 7.1 3PM / 18.4 3PA / 38.2 3P%
In short, the Sixers have traded 2.7 points in the paint per game for 2.8 more makes from three, but score a half-point less each game. That's a wash.
To some extent, it's still early, and this team wasn't supposed to play most, if not all of its season without Andrew Bynum. But his absence is a reality the Sixers must live with, and 17 games is a long enough stretch of time to get a read on a team, even if it still has growing to do.
So right now, through 17 games, even after bringing in eight new faces — excluding Bynum — the Sixers' offense may operate just a little differently, but it produces exactly the same results.
The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.
Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.
Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.
Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.
The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.
The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).
The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).
Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.
ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
So does the manager.
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holiday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.