The Sixers played against some very good basketball teams comprised of some very good basketball players this weekend. If possible, this was a fact even more apparent after the weekend ended than when it began. On Saturday night, LeBron James controlled the action like a mesomorphic puppeteer, posting a 16/11/10 line for his 35th career triple-double, while overqualified sidekick Dwyane Wade, taking the fullest advantage of the full attention the Sixers gave his teammate, and the relatively little that was left over for him, scored 33 points on a ruthlessly efficient 14-of-18 shooting. Then on Sunday in MSG, Carmelo Anthony, while lacking the self-interested selflessness of ‘Bron and Wade, burnt the Sixers for 29 points on a 16-of-18 mark from the stripe.
Great players win games in the NBA. It’s a line that’s dropped often and honestly. But against a backdrop of legitimately world class athletes playing accordingly, the events of Saturday and Sunday threw into relief the fact that the Sixers, as of this moment, don’t have one of their own.
The problem goes a little deeper than that though. By measure of some of the popular catchall metrics that measure player performance, the Sixers don’t merely lack a “great” player, but have one of the least great best players in the NBA. In other words: their best isn’t good enough.
Below, via Basketball-Prospectus, is a breakdown of the most productive players on each team in the NBA, measured and sorted by Win Shares.
PER, a system that measures player value differently, pegs a different Sixer as the team’s best, but tells a similar story.
Granted, with the case of Holiday, there are important caveats. He is a tremendous defensive point guard, and the value he provides on that end of the floor isn’t fully articulated by PER or Win Shares (or, for that matter, any “advanced” metric currently in common use.) Furthermore, while efficiency is a drag on his value (his TS% of 51.7 is 1.6 percentage points below the league average; he, despite improvement in this area, leads the NBA in turnover per game with 4), he’s carrying an enormous offensive burden on a team with obvious and well documented spacing and personnel issues. And he’s 22.
Still, in this superstar-driven league, the Sixers struggles can’t merely be chalked up to a mediocre team dragging down a great young player. At this stage in Holiday’s still young career, it’s also a matter of a mediocre best player dragging the team down.