December is upon us as the Sixers sit at 4th in the east with a 12-7 record. After starting off hot, injuries and illnesses have caused them to sputter out as of late. Joel Embiid has been sidelined multiple games with an illness with Tyrese Maxey missing one as well. In the last three games Embiid didn’t play, the Sixers lost each; though they almost pulled off a miracle win against the Celtics led by Patrick Beverley’s 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists (all team highs).
After starting December with a game against the Celtics, the Sixers received a long four-day break to begin the month. This hopefully will allow the team to recover from whatever sickness has been plaguing them as well as bring Kelly Oubre Jr. back into the rotation after missing 11 games with broken ribs after a car accident in Philly.
The Sixers have 13 games remaining this December with only three of them coming against winning teams: Minnesota, Chicago, Miami. The rest of the games will be against teams that are not playing at a high caliber this season. This will allow Embiid, Maxey, and their new teammates to gel and develop chemistry in games that will most likely not require them to be playing their A-game. This can prove to be a very valuable month for them. Developing chemistry is not something Embiid has been able to do with players too much throughout his career. Many of the recent teams have been broken up much too early for him to figure out how to play with his teammates. Now, with him and Maxey entering their 4th season together, the sky is the limit for this duo.
Key New Players
So far this season, the biggest new contributors seem to be Kelly Oubre and Nico Batum. These two have outplayed most peoples’ expectations coming into the season. With Oubre being a journeyman, he was expected to be a decent role player. His contract says it all: 1 year minimum deal. Players on minimum deals rarely ever average over 16 points and 5 rebounds. Daryl Morey landed a steal with him. Gotta give him props for that. Nico Batum on the other hand is a seasoned veteran who is 34 years old. I did not get my hopes up to him having much contribution when coming over from LA, but he has so far been the most valuable piece from the Harden trade. He doesn’t light up the box score, but he is a willing shooter that is hitting over 50% from 3. He is not the type of player that falls into the Sixers’ lap very often. These two have been very valuable to the success of the team early this season.
Embiid is Still the Focal Point
No matter how any of the players perform does not matter if Embiid doesn’t step up this month. Embiid has been a monster throughout his whole career, and without Maxey last year, he had one of his best months in December averaging 35.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists which gave the Sixers a 9-4 record against a tougher schedule. Embiid and the Sixers need to use this Christmas gift of a schedule to build confidence, momentum, and most importantly, chemistry. Doing this could provide a huge boost to their record early this season.
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