Credit the Defense for the Sixers’ Hot Start
The Philadelphia 76ers are the talk of the NBA after starting off the season with a scorching hot 6-1 record, the best in the NBA. One of the main reasons for their hot start has been the defense. After not receiving the level of hype as they have in year’s past, the Sixers defense has been dominant to start the season. Even with a new coaching staff that includes a new defensive coordinator in Dan Burke, the Sixers have adapted quickly to a new defensive scheme.
According to Cleaning the Glass, which factors out garbage time, the Sixers are in the top 10 in every major defensive category.
- No. 1 in defensive rating (100.5)
- No. 1 in opponents’ effective field goal percentage (48.9 percent)
- No. 7 in opponents’ free throw rate (17.0)
- No. 10 in opponents’ turnover percentage (15.6 percent)
The main difference from previous years is the Sixers’ aggressiveness in pick-and-roll coverage. There’s an added variety into the team’s approach and they no longer rely solely on drop coverage. You can see in-game adjustments happening rather than just sticking with a scheme throughout an entire game. Embiid has been utilized all over the court defensively and has been extremely successful in sliding up to pressure a pull-up shooter or shaky decision maker.
The change in philosophy revolves around rim protection. The Brett Brown regime was adamant on taking away their opponent’s perimeter shot. It’s almost the complete opposite under Doc Rivers. The Sixers currently lead the NBA with 7.3 blocks per game and opponents are shooting a mere 54.3 percent against the Sixers around the rim. Both Dwight Howard and Joel Embiid have been excellent protecting the rim and keeping points out of the paint.
Defending the paint is an easy point of focus for the Sixers this season. What makes it even easier, is the fact that Ben Simmons is literally everywhere on the court defensively.
Ben Simmons’ defense this season:
- Bradley Beal: 1/3 FG, 1 TOV
- Russell Westbrook: 5/9 FG, 2 TOV
- RJ Barrett: 1/8 FG, 2 TOV
- Kevin Love: 0/3 FG, 2 BLK
- Pascal Siakam: 3/11 FG, 1 TOV
- Markelle Fultz: 1/6 FG, 1 TOV
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can literally cover any position on the court. Having that type of flexibility with not only one, but two players on your team is extremely valuable and causes headaches night in and night out for opposing teams.
But as we all know with the Sixers, it’s all about consistency.