Can the Sixers sustain their Success?


Milan Varia

The Sixers have certainly taken a step forward, but can that expected all season long?

Dribbling with the ball, Ben Simmons makes his way down the court. Sitting at the top of the key, Joel Embiid comes out of nowhere and sets a screen for Seth Curry. Simmons dishes the rock to Curry. 


The Sixers have certainly made noise this year, with the best start to a season in the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons era, finding more success early on than they have years past. This is a result of a few very key factors addressed in the offseason. 

The two most notable differences between last year and the new season are three-point shooting and coaching. Darryl Morey’s trades have let the Sixers be more creative, and Doc Rivers’ new coaching leads to a different playstyle.

This level of play is something not seen by the Sixers before, but is it sustainable?

Tackling threes first, Curry is making shots at an unprecedented rate. If he finishes the season with his current 59.5%, he would set an NBA record, beating out the current record of 53.6% held by Kyle Korver. So his return to Earth seems like it is bound to happen. But there may be a few reasons as to why it may not.

The pairing of Joel Embiid and Seth Curry has done plenty of wonders for the Sixers’ offense. For one, it is arguably the best pick-and-roll duo in the league. The efficiency of this duo is off the charts. As Joel sets the off-ball screen, Curry cuts for an open spot-up shot and makes 69.4% of his spot-up shots, resulting in 8.6 points per game, the most in the league from this play. 

Curry is also completely reminiscent of JJ Reddick’s days in Philly.  Having one of the most reliable shooters in the league proves to do wonders for the Sixers’ offense. If success occurs in the playoffs, the largest contributor may be the Embiid-Curry pick-and-roll. But he is not the only player taking a step forward.

The other player is Tobias Harris. After his disappointing start in Philadelphia following the trade with the Clippers, Harris never found his element. So far, it seems he regained his magic touch. 

Harris is having a career year, with highs in FG%, 3P%, and steals, and also has a 0.6 increase in blocks per game. Without him, Curry would not be as efficient; he takes attention away and improves spacing. The Sixers would also not be 7-3. His game has been extremely consistent in every facet; he has even become a serviceable defender.

But we need to continue this success for 62 more games. How does success continue?

Ball movement.   

95% of Curry’s and 100% of Harris’ three-pointers have come off passes, primarily from Ben Simmons and Shake Milton. That is the cog to this offense. All of the new assets brought in by Morey have finally let Simmons and Embiid work together efficiently.

This is where the elite coaching comes in, and connects to offensive success. Doc Rivers’ rotation changes are most significant when viewing who is playing and when they play. Last year, Brett Brown had the starters out altogether for 23.4% of the time; this season, Rivers plays his starters together 36.5% of the time, enough for 2nd most in the league. 

Rivers is holding his players to a high standard. In particular, Embiid sees the most attention. For the first time in Embiid’s career, he is opening games playing for 10 to 11 minutes. In the past, Embiid would rarely play 10 consecutive minutes straight, but Rivers is pushing him and his body to new limits. 

This is not the only thing affected by the new coaching staff. The Sixers currently have one of the best defenses in the league, with the second-best defensive rating in the league. So many things have changed on that end. The addition of Danny Green allows our defensive specialist, Matisse Thybulle, to come off the bench. This not only provides depth on defense but makes it hard for opponents to score all game.

All of the above is occurring at world-class rates, which brings up some concerns. Last year, the Sixers started 5-0, and some of the same things they currently perform well fell off last year. Joel Embiid’s stamina and injury concerns are always a prevalent issue. There is just as much as a chance the Sixers fall back down to Earth. The last playoff run was the peak of that disappointment. One prominent concern that also needs fixing from last season was the Sixers’ road record. No matter who it was, whether it be the Timberwolves or Lakers, the Sixers almost always lost on the road. Could it be argued that opposing fans contributed to that? Yes. But the issue runs deeper than that: Fatigue is the plague of the Sixers, and if these issues persist, the Sixers will never truly dominate consistently.

Nonetheless, the room for hope has been growing consistently so far, and with versatility from Embiid to Curry, the Sixers have the formula to win. The team has better leadership, morale, and chemistry. They are competing and winning games. Hope is there for fans.