Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
While last years Philadelphia 76ers team was inherently flawed, at the end of the day they could fall back on their excellent defense. So far this year, this current incarnation lacks any such identity.
Last years 76ers team was inherently flawed. Without great creators in the half-court they were far too reliant on settling for long range two point jump shots, setting a near historic futility in getting to the free throw line and struggling to be a consistent offensive team.
However, when the chips were down they could also count on their defense to keep them competitive when their offense struggled. After losing one of the best wing defenders in the game in Andre Iguodala and their best post defender in Elton Brand, the team no longer has that to fall back on.
Last season, the 76ers were 3rd in the league in defensive rating at 99.2. They were 3rd in opponents field goal percentage (42.7%), 6th in opponents three point percentage (33.4%), and gave up the 3rd fewest three pointers made at only 5.4 per game.
Those figures are all down so far this year, and significantly. Their defensive rating has fallen all the way down to 106.4, falling from 3rd best in the league to 20th. They're giving up 7 three pointers made per game at 37.3%, the 6th worst mark in the league.
This has become particularly problematic over the last 4 games without Jrue Holiday, where the 76ers have given up 109.5 points per game on 51% from the field, good for a mind boggling awful 118.7 defensive rating. With Holiday off the court, the 76ers are giving up 108.1 points per 48 minutes, a full 3 points per 48 minutes higher than when he's been on the court.
Still, the defense has struggled even when Holiday has been playing. Evan Turner has taken over from Iguodala as the main man responsible for defending the oppositions best offensive option, and he has struggled to fill those shoes. Turner has struggled defending some of the more physical wings in the league, and he has struggled at times on the pick and roll and on his rotations.
The man Turner is defending is averaging a 16.1 PER, a slightly worse than average mark, but not terrible. This output would be fine if the team had a stud defender at power forward and a center who could help block shots from the weak side, but the 76ers do not have either luxury.
Still, Andre Iguodala was able to hold his man to a 9.2 PER last year with many of the same shortcomings. It's unfair to hold Evan Turner to that same all-league level, but Iguodala's all-world defense was part of what made this otherwise mediocre team over-achieve. The 76ers do not appear to have that ability.
The rest of the 76ers flaws have largely remained the same. Despite the substantial individual steps made by Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner they have the 25th ranked offense in terms of offensive rating. They're the second worst team in the league at getting to the line, saved from repeating as the worst team in the league two years running only by the overhauled Orlando Magic. They don't force an appreciably high amount of turnovers (12th in the league), and are a below average offensive rebounding team (21st in offensive rebounding percentage).
Even three point shooting -- an area expected to be substantially improved with the additions of Dorell Wright, Nick Young, and Jason Richardson -- has largely been something the team couldn't rely on. Nick Young and Jason Richardson have been battling minor injuries and Dorell Wright has been incredibly streaky, leading to the 76ers being merely average both in terms of three pointers made and three point percentage.
Obviously, the loss of Andrew Bynum has changed the way this team can play, on both ends of the court. With Bynum, Holiday, and now Turner out, the 76ers are down their best 3 scorers and creators. Guys who were brought in to hit open jump shots aren't getting those open looks.
But, depending on the news the team receives on Andrew Bynum's injury later today, playing without Andrew Bynum may have to be a reality this team has to learn to live with. So far, Doug Collins and the 76ers have little they can hang their hats.