Just before the NBA All-Star break, the Philadelphia 76ers used an undefeated five game home stand to propel themselves firmly into the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the first time since 2012. The most exciting stretch run surrounding the team in a long time awaits but before we get to the basketball let’s hand out some grades for each player’s performance up to this point. (Each Grade is relative to a given player’s expected output.)
#0 Jerryd Bayless – (C-) – The veteran guard has had his moments but has been a rather big disappointment. Averaging just under 8 points a night and proving to be a liability defensively pretty much forced Bryan Colangelo’s hand in acquiring Bellinelli post deadline.
#1 Justin Anderson – (C+) – “Simba” as he is lovingly referred to by 76ers fans has been a useful piece off of Brett Brown’s bench. His above average defense and improved 3-ball make him a nice fit on this roster. Had he not struggled with multiple injuries he would likely have scored a bit higher. Should he get healthy, he has a chance to make a sizeable impact down the stretch.
#5 Amir Johnson – (B-) – A steadying presence, Johnson has been a constant in Brown’s rotation all season. He is not as flashy as fan favorite Richaun Holmes but he is leaps and bounds better defensively. Aside from some shaky shot selection, he has been exactly what he was expected to be. He’s a true pro and that is extremely valuable on a young team.
#7 Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – (C-) – The 2nd year swingman had about a 2 and a half week stretch of hot shooting when starting for an injured J.J. Redick. Outside of that he has struggled at best offensively and hasn’t turned into the type of defender his athleticism could allow him to be. With Anderson’s resurgence and the addition of Bellinelli, TLC will have to make his limited minutes count.
#8 James Young – (I) – Young was brought in to provide some shooting depth and he has done that when given a chance. We haven’t seen enough to give him an accurate grade.
#9 Dario Saric – (A-) – “The Homie” is averaging just under 15 points and 7 rebounds per contest; very respectable numbers. He has also considerably improved his outside shot and has carried the offense on nights when Embiid hasn’t played. Despite his impressive statistics though, this high mark comes from his effort. He is becoming a heart-and-soul type of player on this team. He makes an effort to secure every rebound and loose ball and his motor never ever stops. It’s hard to imagine this team without Saric. Is there a bigger compliment you can give a player?
# 12 T.J. McConnell – (B) – The Gritty point guard from Pittsburgh has become the unquestioned 6th man on the roster. If Brett Brown doesn’t like the energy in the building, he goes to T.J. without hesitation. He recently recorded his first career triple-double and has endeared himself to the Philly fan base with his relentless attack on both ends of the floor. Did I mention he is shooting above 50% from beyond the arc?
# 17 J.J. Redick – (B+) – The 76ers biggest offseason acquisition is the second leading scorer on the team averaging 16.9 points per game and has been much better defensively than anyone expected. His leadership is obvious on a nightly basis and he continues to play with the intensity and passion that made him famous at Duke. Brett Brown frequently calls his number late in games and he has come through. I expect big things from Redick the rest of the way and during a potential playoff run.
#18 Marco Bellinelli – (I) – If his only as a Sixer is any indication this will be an easy A. He led the way during the huge comeback win over the heat prior to the break. Philly needs him to play at a high level if they are going to make noise in the spring.
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#20 Markelle Fultz — (I) – What more is there to say about Fultz? He has unlimited potential but it is looking more and more like we won’t see him again this season.
# 21 Joel Embiid – (A-) – The big fella has been unstoppable averaging 24 points and 11 boards while earning the nod as a starter in the All-Star game. With Embiid on the floor the 76ers look dominant more often than not. He has struggled a bit with 4 turnovers a night but he has been better lately. His only downfall has been the amount of games he missed early on. He has played a few back-to-backs now and would be a sure “A+” if he were healthy.
# 22 Richaun Holmes – (C) – Much to the chagrin of Sixers fans, the super-athletic big hasn’t seen many minutes on nights when Embiid is in the lineup. He has looked great on the offensive end of the floor, jamming everything that gets near the rim. He runs the floor well and has a nice stroke. As good as he looks offensively at times, he has looked equally as bad on the other end. He often gets overwhelmed by opposing Centers and struggles on the defensive glass. He will look to build on his big game against Miami last week.
# 25 Ben Simmons – (B+) – The redshirt-rookie has been as good as advertised in his first NBA campaign. The comparisons to Magic have proven to be mostly accurate and he has racked up more triple-doubles (6) than any rookie since. He has shown amazing passing ability and can get to the rim pretty much whenever he wants. I couldn’t give him an “A” for the simple fact that he hasn’t shot many jumpers and can be better from the line. If this young man becomes an average outside shooter the NBA will not have any answer. The sky is the limit.
# 33 Robert Covington – (C+) – “Roco” has taken some criticism from the Philly faithful since signing his contract extension. It is easy to be frustrated by his streaky shooting but in my opinion effort is measured on the defensive end where he is still locked in every night. That said there is room for improvement offensively and anything that Covington can contribute is a bonus and the addition of Bellinelli will take even more pressure off of him. He remains a key piece to the puzzle on Broad St. and I feel good about that.
# 35 Trevor Booker – (C-) – It’s hard not to like Booker as he plays extremely hard all of the time. All things considered, I don’t love the way Booker has fit in with the 2nd unit. He does make his presence felt on the glass, specifically on the offensive end, but going forward I would personally like to see Holmes get a few of Booker’s minutes, especially nights when Brown wants more firepower.
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