Embiid’s extended absence has major implications for style of play, playoff picture, more

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Embiid’s extended absence has big implications for style of play, playoff picture More appeared first on NBC Sports Philadelphia

When asked Sunday about the Sixers’ approach to replacing Joel Embiid, Jaden Springer spoke the truth.

“I mean, you can’t replace Jo,” Springer said. “He’s the MVP; that’s Joel Embiid.”

However, Springer was not short on hope.

“I feel like we all have the same mindset,” he said. “We’re going to go out there, compete with each other, give everything we’ve got. We feel we can beat anyone. So just going out there, playing hard and playing the right way, I feel like we’ll be fine.”

With the announcement on Sunday night that the reigning MVP will undergo procedures on his injured left knee, the Sixers’ Embiid-less abilities will certainly be tested.

It’s a brutal turn of events for Embiid, who will clearly fall short of the NBA’s 65-game minimum for postseason awards. Had he stayed healthy and maintained his exceptional level, there’s a good chance the Sixers’ seven-time All-Star center would have won a second straight MVP award and a third straight scoring title.

The upcoming trade deadline certainly looks a lot different to Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey now than it did when Embiid was regularly scoring 40-plus points and the Sixers 29-13. They have lost five of their last six games and are plagued by injuries outside of Embiid. Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton, Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington lost Saturday night for the Nets.

Morey may become more likely to add a reliable center to the mix by Thursday afternoon. Among the logical names to consider is Andre Drummond, who really enjoyed his 2021-22 season in Philadelphia. Marc Stein reported Sunday via Substack that Drummond “continues to garner a lot of interest from various playoff-bound teams looking to add a proven center to the roster.”

At the moment, Paul Reed and Mo Bamba are the main center tandem of the Sixers. The roster also has players with small-ball center experience, including Batum and KJ Martin. Nurse would “ideally” like Reed and Bamba to handle every minute at center for the Sixers without Embiid, but that doesn’t always happen.

A nurse said Reed was “under the weather” on Saturday and Bamba “was frustrated,” so Martin played a little at five.

“I played a lot of small ball in Houston … so I’m familiar with it,” Martin said Sunday. “Obviously we’re going to be undermanned, so we have to box out and get rebounds. But in a good way, you can play faster. I can quickly get in, get out, and make the bigs decide.

“And if our pick-and-roll is working and we’re playing fast, the other team has to decide if they want to go small as well or (should) keep the big on the floor So there are pros and cons. But I feel that if we stay active on both ends of the floor, it’s easy to do that. “

Nursing options have generally been scarce with the Sixers so short.

“All we’re after is a good, honest, hard effort, especially at the beginning,” Nurse said, “so we can at least give ourselves a 50-50 chance of pulling one.” out at the end. … We have to make sure that everyone is mentally and physically in the best shape we can be when the ball goes up, no matter who we play. That’s kind of our goal right now: we’ve got to give ourselves a chance in those games to pull one out.”

The truth in the big picture is that Embiid is a very impactful player. Some changes without him are obvious, such as Tyrese Maxey becoming the Sixers’ undisputed top option offensively. However, other changes in team identity are more difficult.

For example, the Sixers could try to emphasize a fast, movement-heavy, slightly more dangerous style. They rank 14th in the NBA in rushing, but that could rise if athletic players like Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Reed and Martin seek more opportunities on the floor.

The Sixers could also lean on current core strength. They lead the league in offensive turnover percentage and, regardless of personnel, tend to be strong in that department under nurse.

How does a nurse measure these areas? Would a more meaningful distance be worth a few more rewards?

“Listen, I think we definitely value property,” he said. “And what does all that mean? Well, first of all, you take care of your own basketball. We do that very well. … We’re sort of fifth in the league in (fast break) points, so we’re getting a pretty good share of them. We love to create conversions. We like to take that defense and turn it into offense. We like offensive rebounding.

“For me, with the zillion things going on, it still comes back to total ownership in a game, right? If you get more possession than your opponent, your chance of winning goes to 60 percent very quickly – on that one. … So we focus on taking care of the ball. And obviously (points per possession) the maximum in transition, so we like to try to play with some pace. I think that’s something we needed to move into this season.

“When we started playing, I was like, ‘My goodness, we’re not nearly playing at the speed we can be playing.’ And I think we’ve increased that a little bit, but…we’ve got some work to do there for sure.”

There is a challenging job to do in general without Embiid. As for the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Sixers are in fifth place with 34 games to go, seven games back of the top-seeded Celtics.

The Sixers are one game behind the No. 4 Knicks and 3.5 ahead of the No. 6 Pacers. The Eastern teams sitting in the championship positions are the Magic, Heat, Bulls and Hawks.

On paper, the Sixers have a tougher schedule than the teams behind them. According to Tankathon, Orlando’s remaining schedule is the easiest in the NBA, Indiana the third easiest, and Miami the fifth easiest. The Sixers’ remaining opponents have a .506 winning percentage, which ranks 12th worst in the league.

The games will keep coming for the Sixers without their big man.

“It creates so much offense,” said a nurse. “Not only for himself, but he creates so much offense for us. So, now where are we creating all that crime that we need? … That’s a big one. And then the second one has to be the edge protection. Defensively, we have a style where we try to be aggressive and we try to create turnovers. Well, that’s going to put some pressure on the edge at times, and it cleans up a lot of that.

“You’re changing a lot of big pieces of what you’re doing on both ends of the floor without him. “

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