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Week (at least) that Joel Embiid is expected to miss due to left knee soreness

Sixers’ mid-term grades

Posted by Eric Fisher On January 15

The 76ers are fourth in the Eastern Conference, so, as you might expect, their mid-term grades are fairly good. But there is a feeling that the Sixers aren’t playing up to their potential, which is one factor in determining grades.

The Sixers aren’t far from losing homecourt advantage during the playoffs. Given the Sixers’ poor road record this season, that’s not a situation the Sixers want to find themselves in when the postseason begins.

The Sixers definitely have the star power to be a championship contender. But can they get enough from their bench to become a contender this season? The bench didn’t receive very good grades, but there is plenty of time to improve before final grades are determined.

Here are the Sixers’ mid-term grades for the 2018-19 season:

Joel Embiid: A Embiid is averaging 26.9 points and 13.3 rebounds. He is the franchise player. He still has stretches where he looks tired at the end of games, including Sunday’s narrow win over the Knicks. The apparent fatigue and public complaints about the way he’s being used are the only reasons he didn’t receive and A+ for a marvelous first half of the season.

Jimmy Butler: A- Since being acquired, Butler has been the third star the Sixers so desperately needed. Although seemingly deferential at times to Embiid and Simmons, Butler has displayed a willingness to take big shots at crunch time. He’s averaging 19.4 points per game and playing terrific defense. Reports of his unhappiness at how he’s being used are a big disturbing, but Butler has been as good as advertised.

Ben Simmons: B+ Averaging 16.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists, Simmons is a consistent threat to register a triple double. But his reluctance to take outside shots, and his inability to make them with regularity, hurt Simmons’ grade. Good defensive teams play off Simmons, almost daring him to shoot.

JJ Redick (left): B+ How does the 34-year-old Redick follow up a career season? By playing almost as well. Redick is averaging 18.4 points per game. He is making 37.4 percent of his 3-point attempts and 89.8 percent of his free throws. Although not a good one-on-one defender, Redick always gives a good effort at the defensive end.

Landry Shamet: B The rookie is averaging eight points per game. He’s inconsistent, which is to be expected for a rookie, but he displays signs of being the combination guard that the Sixers had hoped Markelle Fultz could be. At times, Shamet gets lit up on defense, but he’s giving the Sixers as much as can be asked of a player drafted late in the first round.

T.J. McConnell: B It seems as if McConnell takes advantage of almost every opportunity presented to him. He definitely provides the Sixers with energy when he’s on the court.

Mike Muscala: B- Averaging 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds, Muscala is contributing on offense. But he’s not able to play center on defense in place of Embiid, which might be more of a planning mistake than anything that should be held against Muscala..

Wilson Chandler: C The Sixers should be getting more from a starter. Chandler is averaging 6.2 points, with no offensive consistency.

Furkan Korkmaz: C He has demonstrated the ability to score, but Korkmaz is a liability at the edefensive end.

Amir Johnson: D It’s tough to fault the effort, but Johnson isn’t doing enough for the Sixers to allow Embiid more time to rest.

Markelle Fultz: F There were hope that Fultz would develop into the Sixers’ third star. Those expectations were too high, but the team needed him to step u and contribute. Instead, Fultz has continued to be an enigma. The former No. 1 overall draft pick once again demonstrated a hitch in his shot before a nationwide search found a doctor – although we don’t know which doctor – who could find something physically wrong with him.

Jonah Bolden, Shake Milton: Incomplete Neither Bolden nor Milton has played enough minutes to receive a fair grade.

COACH

Brett Brown: B+ Keeping his three start happy is a difficult challenge. Winning more games without a suitable bench might be more difficult. With complaints from Embiid and Butler about how they’re being used, Brown’s job isn’t an easy one. If this lineup doesn’t work out, however, Brown will be likely be the fall guy.

GENERAL MANAGER

Elton Brand: B+ The aggressiveness Brand displayed in acquiring Butler, the much-needed third star, deserves praise. How far the Sixers advance in the playoffs and whether they re-sign Butler will determine the verdict on that trade, but give Brand credit for pulling the trigger on a trade that cost them Dario Saric and Robert Covington rather than standing pat. The next challenge is improving the bench before the trade deadline.

*****

WOLVES AT THEIR DOOR: Dario Saric and Robert Covington make their return to Philadelphia on Tuesday (7 p.m.) with the Timberwolves. The Sixers miss their solid contributions, but giving up these two serviceable players was the price that had to be paid to acquire Butler.

*****

ROAD WOES: The Sixers continue to struggle on the road. Their 123-106 loss last Wednesday to the Wizards, a team they beat by 17 points the previous night, is disconcerting. But it would have been worse if the Sixers lost to the Knicks on Sunday. They nearly squandered a 24-point lead while pulling out a 108-105 victory.

Despite having a 28-16 record entering Tuesday’s game against the Timberwolves, the Sixers are just 10-12 on the road.

*****

JACKSON EARNS AWARD: Congratulations to Flyers broadcaster Jim Jackson, who will receive the Bill Campbell Broadcast Award at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s awards banquet on Mon., Jan. 21. Jackson has been broadcasting Flyers games since 1993, with two years on radio before becoming the team’s television play-by-play voice.

*****

DIFFICULT SCHEDULE: After hosting the Timberwolves on Tuesday (7 p.m.), the Sixers hit the road Thursday (7 p.m.) to take on the Pacers, before returning home for games against the Thunder (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.), the Rockets (Monday, 8 p.m.) and Spurs (Wed., Jan. 23, 8 p.m.) before hitting the road for a four-game Western swing. The Spurs, at 25-20, entering Tuesday’s games, have the worst record of the four teams the Sixers are facing after the Timberwolves.

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Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal