Philadelphia 76ers: Time to swap J.J. Redick in for Markelle Fultz?
The Philadelphia 76ers starting rotation has been good, but for both floor-spacing and the bench, it might be time to start J.J. Redick over Markelle Fultz.
The Philadelphia 76ers are still winless on the road at 0-5 as the 2018-19 season rolls along. They are one of five teams that remain winless on the road this year. In their recent loss to the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night, they fell 122-97 in a game that saw Joel Embiid attempt just eight total shots. Ben Simmons finished the game with just three assists, his lowest output since a two-point victory over the Charlotte Hornets back on Oct. 27.
The Sixers are a quality defensive team, that should be no secret. They rank 11th in defensive rating at 106.6. The offense has been a different story though, especially on the road. Away from home, they’re scoring just 99.8 points per 100 possessions, compared to their 110.0 offensive rating at home.
As other teams around the league have shown their ability to win, the Sixers have faltered. Philadelphia is winless on the road against the Nets, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics, with the Indiana Pacers looming on Wednesday night. There’s plenty of time for adjustments and some of it comes with finding their mojo on the road.
They’re turning the ball over a significant amount more on the road as well, averaging 18.8 turnovers per contest. In Brooklyn, the Sixers turned the ball over a season-high 27 times, allowing 39 points off turnovers. When things like that occur, it’s important that the reserves step up. In this case, they didn’t, getting outscored 51-34 in the rout.
Head coach Brett Brown made the adjustment at the beginning of the season of bringing J.J. Redick off the bench, but Redick’s minutes have actually increased. He’s averaging 17.9 points per game through 11 appearances off the bench and is shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range.
Finding their identity on the road
The Philadelphia bench needs Redick’s scoring boost to go along with T.J. McConnell‘s scrappy play and emerging rookie Landry Shamet, but defense is also a concern. With Redick in the second unit, other teams already seem to know what’s coming, especially on the road. With him in the starting lineup, he can at least set the tone on offense in the early going.
Redick shot 42 percent from behind the arc in 2017-18 as a starter. As a team, the Sixers are 33.9 percent from 3-point land, 22nd in the NBA. With Redick in the starting rotation last season, they ranked 10th at 36.9 percent.
Running Markelle Fultz with the second unit may allow this team to run at a different pace, particularly on offense when Ben Simmons is off the floor. As a starter, Fultz is the only player not averaging double figures in scoring, and his defense would be better suited with the reserves.
That’s not to say he’s playing bad, but with the ball in his hands, Fultz plays at a different speed. In 11 starts, he’s produced 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals per contest. As a reserve, these numbers could very well improve as a backup to Ben Simmons.
One player that could also benefit from Fultz’s presence on the second unit is rookie Landry Shamet. Shamet is averaging 7.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per contest while shooting 38.3 percent from behind the arc.
The adjustments are minor, but in their loss to Brooklyn, over-passing the basketball and lack of chemistry on offense led to a terrible third quarter performance. The Sixers were outscored 41-28 in that quarter and never recovered. As a team, they attempted a season-low 20 3-pointers in their fifth-straight loss on the road.
Looking next to Indiana, the Pacers are another team that can contend for the East this year. Simmons and Embiid have been themselves for the most part, but somebody else has to step up for them, especially on the road. Maybe starting J.J. Redick is the cure for now.