The Philadelphia 76ers can’t win without a monster Embiid performance

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

After dropping a horrible loss to the Brooklyn Nets, one thing is clear: The Philadelphia 76ers just can’t win without a monster performance by Joel Embiid.

The Philadelphia 76ers aren’t an elite team 12 games into the 2018-2019 NBA season.

I know this is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a point that’s almost impossible to argue at this point.

In one game, the Sixers will impressively blow past the Detroit Pistons and look like they’ve finally put it all together, and the next, they’ll turn the ball over 27 times in route to a 25 point loss to the lowly Brooklyn Nets.

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That inconsistency just isn’t a winning formula.

But how could this be? How could the 76ers’ collective performances shift so noticeably from one game to another? Easy, because Brett Brown doesn’t have a good team, he just has a fantastic, generational talent at the center position in All-World super-duper-star Joel Embiid.

If he goes off for a monster double-double performance, then the team will more likely than not find a way to win, as highlighted by their 5-3 record when he scores over 25. However, if he has an off night or gets double teamed in the paint, then there’s a very slim chance the Sixers will pull out a win (1-2).

Once again, that just isn’t a winning formula.

While it’s totally common for a team’s best player to score the most points (duh) night-in and night-out, it’s not typical for a team’s star player to outscore the rest of the starting five combined and still find a way to win. In Saturday’s 109-99 victory over the Pistons, Embiid scored 39 points. The rest of the starting lineup? 23 points combined.


And this is far from an isolated incident.

Just one game prior, Embiid scored 41 points in arguably the best Wells Fargo Center of his still-young career in a 122-113 win over the LA Clippers. The rest of the team’s starting five also scored 41 points, and they did so in 80 more collective minutes on the court.

A team just can’t win with only one elite scorer on the court for long stretches of the game, as it’s just too easy to take that element away with competition scheming.

Need proof, look no further than the team’s October win over former-assistant coach Lloyd Pierce and the Atlanta Hawks. While the Hawks are far from world beaters at this point, Pierce made a point of double-teaming Embiid in the paint with Kent Bazemore every time he attempted to attack the basket and held The Process to only 10 points. Now, said strategy is incredibly risky, as it leaves a player wide open on the wings, but if that player is Markelle Fultz, who’s only knocking down 31 percent of his 3-pointers for less than 10 points a game, that’s an advantage most teams will give up every time.

As of right now, the Hawks are the only team that’s attempted to double-team Embiid with a guard so brazenly, but if the rest of the offense, specifically Fultz and Dario Saric continue to drop the ball on the offensive end of the court, it’s probably going be a strategy that becomes more and more common over the next four months.

But what can the Sixers do to clean this up? Honestly, not much.

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While it would be easy to say ‘hit more shots,’ that’s not exactly something Brett Brown can scheme into existence, it’s something that has to come from the players. Now, could Brown shake up his starting five and give players like Mike Muscala and J.J. Redick looks in the starting five, as their competition outside shots could be a significant upgrade alongside Robert Covington on the wings? Sure, that could work, but for now, we may have to continue to suffer through frustrating inconsistency game after game as the new-look Philadelphia 76ers attempt to establish a new identity. Hopefully, it happens sooner rather than later.