A few Sixers observations as they continue their West Coast swing …
Embiid is learning on the job
Given his outsized talent, his outsized personality, and outsized contract, it is easy to forget how little basketball Joel Embiid has played in his life. We're talking 41 games in the NBA, 28 games in college, and a couple of seasons in high school. So it probably should not come as a surprise that Embiid sometimes looks as if he is figuring things out on the fly.
Take, for instance, the last couple of games, when Embiid shot a combined 11-for-31 with 12 turnovers in a pair of losses to the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings. Against the Warriors, Embiid's struggles probably did not make much of a difference, given the way Kevin Durant asserted himself in a 135-114 win. Against the Kings, though, his miscues had a very real impact in what ended up as a last-possession loss.
You can chalk most of this stuff up to things that the Sixers will simply have to learn to live with as Embiid continues to develop as a player. There have been plenty of positive aspects to note regarding his game: his field goal percentage is up dramatically everywhere on the court except beyond the arc. He is converting 70 percent of his shots from 0-to-3 feet, up from 64 percent last year, 44 percent from 3-to-10 feet (37 percent last year), and 55 percent from 10-to-16 feet (37 percent last year). He is seeing the court better, which we saw against the Warriors on a nifty pass to a cutting Dario Saric in the first quarter (his assist total is up nearly 50 percent, from 2.1 per game last year to 3.3 per game this year).
Now, about those turnovers …
After averaging 3.8 turnovers per game as a rookie, Embiid is averaging 4.7 per game in his sophomore campaign. That's an astoundingly high number. In fact, Embiid's 8.1 turnovers per 100 possessions are the most in the NBA among players with at least 75 minutes played this season. That would be the highest single-season total in NBA history for a player with at least 250 minutes played.
Embiid's career mark of 7.5 turnovers per 100 possessions is the highest career mark for any player with at least 1,000 minutes played in NBA history.
The active leaders …
Active career leaders, turnovers per 100 possessions (min. 1,000 minutes)
Ben Simmons shining on the defensive end
One positive from the loss to the Warriors was the defensive ability that Ben Simmons continues to display. Witness the first quarter, the first half of which saw Simmons matching up against point guard Steph Curry before Brett Brown subbed in a smaller lineup and Simmons slid over to guard power forward Draymond Green. By my count, Curry attempted just one three-pointer when Simmons was guarding him in the first quarter. His length really is a problem for shooters.
TLC making the most of his minutes
Here's another positive: the play of the Sixers' bench, in particular second-year guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Against the Warriors, TLC had his best game to date, knocking down all three of his three-point attempts while scoring 15 points in a season-high 23 minutes, 18 seconds of action. In his last seven games, he is shooting 54.2 percent from three-point range while averaging 16 minutes per night. On the season, he's shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.