There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the wheels are coming off in Philadelphia. Injuries have played the biggest role in the Sixers’ current five-game skid, a streak that could grow with an impending eight-game Western Conference road swing. There are some larger fundamental problems for the 76ers on both ends of the floor, but let’s focus on what is going wrong with their offense and what they can do to get back on track against Atlanta.
Shot selection and timing
The Sixers’ biggest problem from last year, shooting the ball, remains an issue this season. The acquisitions of Dorell Wright, Jason Richardson and Nick Young seemed to be a solution to the Sixers’ constant misfiring, but none of those players is shooting better than 40.6 percent from the field this year. The abundance of misses shouldn’t be a surprise, since the Sixers are one of the worst teams in the league at getting good looks at the hoop.
Far too many of Philadelphia’s shots - over 28 percent, the fourth-highest number in the league - are jumpers from the 16-23 foot range, according to hoopdata.com. Overall, their expected effective field goal percentage - the expected effectiveness of shot distribution for a team, assuming league average percentages - ranks next to last. Those two numbers probably aren’t coincidental. The Sixers often take the majority of the 24-second clock to get a shot off; nearly 40 percent of their shots come in the last eight seconds of the shot clock, so many of the long twos they hoist up are a function of running out of time and options.
Is it possible the Sixers are playing too slowly? Methodically working the shot clock and playing it safe has allowed the Sixers to maintain an 11.9 percent turnover rate, second-best in the league. However, when shooting the ball in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, their effective field goal percentage sits at a solid 51.2. While that number is skewed slightly by the Sixers’ fast break scores, few as they may be, it points to how much more effective they can be when taking a good look early in the clock as opposed to holding the ball, where the lack of a true go-to scorer comes back to hurt them and leads to the dreaded long two.
A few more quick threes could help the Sixers increase their offensive efficiency. Despite being an average team from beyond the arc, Philadelphia ranks a mere 24th in three point rate. Doug Collins might be wise to let his shooters do what they do best: let it fly, early and often.