The Philadelphia 76ers should be jealous of Cleveland’s depth

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

While the Philadelphia 76ers may have the best Big 3 in the Eastern Conference, even the Cleveland Cavaliers have a more diverse collection of role players.

In a rare Sunday afternoon outing, the Philadelphia 76ers unsurprisingly found a way to win due to another collection of monster performances by their starting five.

In their first game back with Jimmy Butler following a two-game absence, Brett Brown‘s starters scored 90 of the team’s 128 points in a contest explicitly designed to showcase the bench in preparation for the second game of a back to back vs. San Antonio.

However, the Cleveland Cavaliers gave the Sixers a glimpse of exactly what they are missing from their attempt to truly rise to the upper echelon of the NBA: Depth.

More from Philadelphia 76ers

Sure, the Sixers without a doubt had four, if not more of the best players on the court at Quicken Loans Arena, but after those players, the drop off was pretty steep.

Besides Landry Shamet, who almost had a perfect game in a 5-6 shooting performance for 16 points in 15 minutes, none of the Sixers’ reserves had more than eight-points, a marked uptick from their usual output.

The team did get a rare 11 point performance from Wilson Chandler, who’s only averaging 5.9 points per game in easily his least effective scoring season of his career, but this has become a bit of a rare occurrence, as the team hasn’t had all five starters score in double digits since November 25 against the Brooklyn Nets.

Landry Shamet just so happened to have 16 points in that game as well; I wonder if there is a correlation there?

As for the other team on the floor, though the Cavaliers didn’t have a single star on the court against the Sixers, as Kevin Love has missed almost the entire season thus far with a toe injury, they were still able to hang around for a little longer than they should have. Why? Because they have a very deep, varied roster.

Much like the 76ers, the Cavs utilized their entire 12 man bench in the 128-105 lopsided victory, but unlike the Sixers, the Cleveland’s offensive attack was incredibly varied.

In roughly 27 minutes of action, the Caliveirs starters each averaged about 11 points, whereas their second unit, led by Jordan Clarkson, scored an average of 10 points in 21 minutes of action, and that’s including lackluster performances by Channing Frye and two-way rookie Jaron Blossomgame, who combined for three points in 14 minutes of action.

As for the Sixers? Their starters each averaged 18 points in 28 minutes of action, vs. 5.4 points in 13.8 minutes of action by the reserves.

No wonder the team suffers immensely whenever a starter misses a game or two due to injury; they have no depth.

And unfortunately, that’s by design.

In his lone season as the 76ers GM, Brett Brown practically made it his mission to upgrade the roster by making multiple deals that helped to shrink it.

Whether it be trading Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson to the Thunder and Hawks respectively for Mike Muscala (a good move), or trading Richaun Holmes to the Phoenix Suns for cash (a decidedly less good move), it seemed like any deal that swapped out a few ok players for one slightly better player was in consideration by a squad that let two of their best reserves walk for nothing in free agency.

The result? The Sixers really don’t have a solid backup center capable of logging quality minutes and are predominantly left with an uber young bench filled with a bunch of one-dimensional shooters, Amir Johnson and T.J. McConnell.

Add in the team’s very successful trade for Jimmy Butler that flipped two starters for one star, and the Sixers are one of the shallowest teams in the league, without a single bench player averaging 10 or more points a game.

Now sure, some of this can’t be helped, as there was no way of knowing that Zhaire Smith would miss the entirety of 2018 to a sesame allergy, or that Markelle Fultz would excusing himself from the court to eventually be diagnosed with a should injury, but the team had to have known that they were going to be playing light when they traded for Butler and opted to take on a player in Justin Patton, who isn’t even cleared to play.

So technically, the trade was a 3-for-1 that’s left the 76ers with only 11 players who are even medically able to play on any given night. If it wasn’t for the surprising play of Shake Milton, the 54th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft who’s currently playing on a two-way deal, the team would be unable to utilize a full 12 man bench.

Now I’ve heard of playoff teams shrinking their benches, but this is ridiculous, am I right?

Say what you will about the Cavaliers in the post-LeBron James-era, but much like the Process 76ers, they are a team loaded with a solid collection of 4th-9th men. Need a solid guard defender? David Nwaba is your guy. Some secondary playmaking? Cedi Osman can fill that role. A reserve big man capable of throwing down a highlight reel dunk? Play Larry Nance‘s namesake son.

And in Jordan Clarkson, the Cavs have a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate who could start on a number of different teams starved for offense.

In a weird twist of fate, Sunday afternoon’s game was almost like watching ‘The Ghosts of Process Past’ play against the team’s ‘squad of the future’. While talent obviously won out, as it so often did when Brown’s squad skirted the 20 win mark for the better part of a half decade, the Cavs hung on for a whole lot longer than they had any right to, largely due to a fast, selfless brand of basketball that’s incredibly fun to watch.

As for the current 76ers? Well, they have a top-3 Big 3 in Butler, Embiid, and Simmons, J.J. Redick, and about three more players who play exactly like Redick. That’s just bad business.

Next. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a bad fit in Philly. dark

While I doubt anyone wants the Philadelphia 76ers to go back to the pre-Butler-era, let alone the days of the Process, it’s hard not to be a bit jealous of a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers who have the depth needed to play opposing teams to their strengths.