Feb 25 2013

Why the Sixers best isn’t good enough


"Mediocrity!" (Credit Philaphans.com)

“Mediocrity!” (Credit Philaphans.com)

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.


There are only seven teams in the NBA with a less productive best player than the 76ers. These seven teams are, combined, 116 games under .500 this season.

PER, a system that measures player value differently, pegs a different Sixer as the team’s best, but tells a similar story.

While Jrue Holiday leads the Sixers with a PER of 18.3, this would only be enough to lead six other NBA teams. Win Shares is more critical of Jrue, who is second on the team in that category to Thaddeus Young. Holiday’s Win Share total of 3.1 would, if he led the Sixers in that category, place the team dead last in the above ranking. This is troubling information about a player who is widely believed to be the best the Sixers have.

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.

  • Steven Toll

    Hi Tom,

    I’m Steve Toll from Philadunkia.

    I noticed that this is exactly what I have been saying for months and YOUR NAME is on this piece and not mine.

    I was ok with ESPN stealing my stuff when Philadunkia was on Truehoop but not anymore.

    Get your own material

    • Will

      Are you trying to say that pointing out Holiday’s flaws is your original idea? You aren’t seriously doing that, right? I mean you and Tom came to similar conclusions about him because, you know, you looked at the exact same data. He didn’t steal your material. Geez I agree with what a lot of you have to say over at Philadunkia but you make yourself almost impossible to like.

      • Steven Toll


        He 100% stole my material, if you’ve followed my writing/comments and you have.

        Tom also forgets a whole bunch of advanced metrics that show the same thing.

        I don’t care if I’m liked, I’ll try harder

        • Will

          Here’s what frustrates me about you. You write for a semi-popular basketball site. You have the opportunity to educate and encourage your audience to look at basketball through a different, more informed lens. But you don’t. You alienate your readers and dismiss anyone who dares to disagree with you. You pick and choose your comment battles so that you only argue with the people who are the clear idiots, almost never addressing anyone who manages to form a coherent argument. You write columns designed to be inflammatory in order to see the comment section blow up with arguments about what you wrote. You seem to measure yourself by the number of commenters you can prove wrong and it prevents you from writing good columns that inform your readers and foster intelligent discussion. You’re clearly a smart guy, I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that. Step your game up, man.

          • Steven Toll

            people still think Iverson was a great player, its terrible

          • Will

            Welp that literally could not have been more unrelated.

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