Going into the 2019-2020 season, the Sixers had hope of another deep playoff run and a legitimate shot at the NBA Championship.

Yet as we wait for the NBA to resume following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Sixers are positioned as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with very few wins over current playoff teams.

How did a team come into the season with so much promise falter so heavily during the regular season?

What is missing from this team?

Many would point to factors such as injuries or coaching as the root of the Sixers’ struggles. It’s hard to blame injuries for the Sixers’ current standing, however, because that is not a factor that is exclusive to any one team. While yes, the Sixers have been waylaid by injuries this season, all teams deal with the potential for injury to any of their players. The topic of coaching with Brett Brown at the helm is probably a topic that deserves its own article, but that’s also not something that’s missing. Whether you like Brett Brown or not, he has been the coach throughout The Process and has been the coach all season. The consistency is at least something to lean on, even if there may be better coaches in the league. What’s missing from the Sixers is something that is intangible, but is important for every great team. The Sixers are missing an identity.

The Sixers’ identity is not The Process. That was the name given to the years of rebuilding which the Sixers went through. The Sixers aren’t rebuilding anymore.

They are constantly adding and subtracting pieces, like every team in the NBA, but the rebuilding label is associated with teams who are going through the negatives in the hopes of getting better in the offseason and seasons beyond. The Sixers’ identity is also not one specific player or person. It’s not Brett Brown, it’s not Joel Embiid, and it’s not Ben Simmons.

When you think of the great teams in the NBA, you can instantly tell what it is about them that makes them great and tells you how they win basketball games. The Milwaukee Bucks win games by playing through Giannis Antetokounmpo and surrounding him with excellent three-point shooters to kick to when he draws double teams. The Boston Celtics win by committee under the best young NBA coach Brad Stevens, one of the best young stars Jayson Tatum, and veteran leadership from Kemba Walker. The championship Golden State Warriors teams would win through fast-paced offense, unselfish passing, and three-point shooting. With this current Sixers team, there isn’t one thing you can point to.

As it currently stands, the only thing that is consistent among Sixers wins is that they mostly come at home. That isn’t good enough for a championship-level team. If the Sixers want to become a championship-caliber team, the players need to lean into the parts of their game that can shine on their own, and be accepted by their teammates. The suggestion: defense. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the Sixers’ two best players, have already shown their defensive prowess, but it cannot just be a two-person show. The entire team needs to buy into the old adage that defense wins championships. We are seeing it in the young star Matisse Thybulle. The rookie is already among the league leaders in steals.

The Sixers’ identity won’t become something offensive as they are too complex. They aren’t an offense that runs through one player, they don’t shoot consistently enough to be labeled as such, and they don’t pass well enough to excuse the turnovers.

If the Sixers can develop into a defensive nightmare for teams as the playoffs approach, they have the potential to make a deep playoff run.

What do you think the Sixers’ identity is/should be?

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