Philadelphia 76ers have an ironic teacher for playoffs

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers (48-30) have four games remaining in the regular season. With the postseason near, who should the Sixers attempt to emulate?

Playoff basketball is almost back in Philly.

The Philadelphia 76ers, riding high on a 12-game winning streak, are coasting toward home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs. At 48-30, the Sixers aim to claw the three seed away from the Cleveland Cavaliers (48-30) as the regular season wanes.

How the Sixers dramatically improved from a string of losing seasons– with 19, 18, 10 and 28 wins respectively– to a campaign flirting with 50 wins is clear. The Sixers persevered through and benefited from rare circumstances.

Sam Hinkie’s deconstruction of a middling playoff roster to a bare-bones NBA squad was rare. The Sixers medical staff’s slew of mysterious diagnoses were rare. Having a coach like Brett Brown, who suffered the blows of losing with an upbeat smile and professional enthusiasm, is rare.

Related Story: Philadelphia 76ers look to avoid falling in Eastern Conference playoff standings

Most importantly, the talents of franchise cornerstones Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are rare. Trusted basketball mind and former Sixers great Julius Erving recently called Simmons a “once in a decade, maybe once in a lifetime type player.” See the quote and video in Keith Pompey’s article on

With all of these unworldly circumstances, who can the Sixers look to for tactical, real-world guidance as the unknown postseason fray approaches?

Look no further than the last Sixers squad to reach the postseason, the 2011-2012 Sixers.

Here are some lessons the current Philadelphia 76ers can learn from their 2011-2012 counterparts.

Philadelphia 76ers
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Protect the ball

The 2011-2012 Sixers averaged a mere 11.2 turnovers per game during the regular season, the lowest in the Association. For context, the second place squad (the Los Angeles Clippers) coughed the ball up an extra two times a night (13.3 TPG).

Conversely, the 2017-2018 Sixers average 16.7 TPG, the most in the Association.

Thus, five-and-a-half turnovers separate the averages of both Sixer teams.

Five possessions in any game, let alone the NBA playoffs, is paramount. Those five possessions could serve as the difference between wins and losses come mid-April.

Playoff basketball offers a change of pace through added intensity. The Sixers have the unique talents to either slow the pace down with a bruising Embiid or quicken the pace with an electric Simmons captaining.

Related Story: Ben Simmons records 11th triple-double of the season with ease

Excessive turnovers at a slower pace could dampen scoring numbers, while excessive turnovers at a quicker pace could lead to sloppy play.

Thus, the Sixers should take a page out of their 2011-2012 counterpart’s playbook before a new postseason pace arrives.

Philadelphia 76ers Lou Williams
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Smooth sixth

The last Sixers playoff roster featured Lou Williams as their sixth man. Williams finished the 2011-2012 regular season second in Sixth Man of the Year voting. (See the final tallies here).

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Williams, who serves as the Clippers current sixth man, is known for his smooth offensive skill set. The crafty guard uses his 6-foot-1 frame to concoct shooting space from anywhere on the floor.

Williams was instrumental to the Sixers success. “Sweet Lou” totaled double-digit points in seven playoff games, including one contest with an astounding +28 plus/minus.

The job for Lou Williams was simple: score. Current Sixer Markelle Fultz could serve as a similar spark plug for the playoffs.

Fultz, like Williams, has a knack for creating offense off the dribble. A natural scorer off the bench is a golden asset to possess come playoff basketball.

Williams netted only 1.9 points per game I his rookie season with Philly, while Fultz pours in 6.5 PPG a night. Both players were age 19 in their rookie seasons.

Considering where Williams started his career, it’s very plausible that Fultz can grow into a Lou Williams clone.

In order to get a semblance of William’s bench scoring from five seasons ago, the Sixers must continue to prop Fultz into the backup point guard role.

If Fultz and the Sixers use these next five games wisely, opposing backup point guards should keep their eyes peeled come the playoffs.

Philadelphia 76ers
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Defensive Priorities

Even though Simmons’ flashy passes, J.J. Redick’s quick-trigger threes, and Embiid’s earth-shattering dunks are pleasing to the eye, the Sixers mustn’t lose sight of their defensive priorities

Clearly, the Sixers sport a solid defense this season. However, the 2011-2012 Philadelphia 76ers defense was elite and worthy of emulating. You can find their stats here.

In short, the Sixers finished the 2011-2012 regular season first in opponents points off turnovers, off fast breaks, and in the paint. The Sixers also sat second in opponents second-chance points, third in defensive rating and sixth in defensive rebounds per game.

Although mostly comparable, perhaps the most shocking difference in defensive stats comes in opponents points off turnovers, where Philly ranks 28th this season: much lower than their first-place finish in 2011-2012.

Related Story: Maurice Cheeks is heading to the Hall of Fame

Thus, not only are the team’s turnover numbers higher this season, but opponents are cashing in off the blunders as well. These free points could cause damage down the stretch of a tight playoff contest.

Maybe 2011-2012 Sixers like Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala will ignore their postseason runs to come back and host a playoff seminar.

Is that too ambitious of a prospect?

Next: Joel Embiid missing postseason would be a crushing blow

Nonetheless, even if Holiday and Iguodala are booked, there is ample evidence that these Philadelphia 76ers are more than well-equipped for a deep playoff run.