Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Grading Philadelphia's Performance
Movement on both ends of the court was the dominating story for Philadelphia.
On offense, the 76ers are a totally different unit than last season. The slower, deliberate pace of Doug Collins' team is gone in exchange for a quicker, motion-based offense that looks to capitalize on all the young legs on the roster.
The most notable of their young players was current sixth man Tony Wroten. Wroten showed off devastating speed and an improved jump shot, pouring in 20 points in just 21 minutes to pace the Sixers.
The problem for the Sixers is the hectic mentality they displayed on offense carried over to the defensive end, where they repeatedly over-pursued, leading to far too many open looks for Thunder players. Kevin Durant used the attention shaded his way as a weapon, showing off his improving playmaking skills with 12 assists.
Durant sat out the fourth quarter for the Thunder, but it hardly mattered as a mix of Oklahoma City starters and bench players held off the Sixers top unit to close out the win. Evan Turner missed three of four free throws in the final minute, a simply unacceptable display from one of the team's top players.
Luckily for Turner and the gang, it's just a preseason game, and there are plenty of positive takeaways to reflect on moving forward.
Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams had a fairly nondescript game but flashed encouraging signs that project hope for his future as an NBA player.
The often maligned jump shot of Michael Carter-Williams looked strong, with the Syracuse product knocking down three of five shots from beyond the arc. This is no small note for MCW, as his jumper was the biggest question mark dogging him through the draft process and summer league.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all roses for Carter-Williams, who allowed opposing point guard Reggie Jackson to score 29 points from the field. He struggled to fight through screens chasing his man, an issue that might just be a product of his lanky frame more than anything else.
The point guard skills he was drafted for weren't on display much, but MCW displayed a knack for getting the ball to his teammates in the perfect position, tallying four assists on several pretty passes.
Final Grade: C
Shooting Guard: James Anderson
James Anderson had a rough go in Manchester, attempting to do too much instead of letting the game come to him.
When Anderson focused on getting his feet set and knocking down open three-point shots, he was effective. Unfortunately, Anderson put the ball on the deck a little too much, and turned the ball over three times as a result.
Anderson is perfectly capable of being a contributor, as he showed with a 15-point, seven-rebound performance against Bilbao on October 6th. He was much less effective against Oklahoma City, scoring six points on two of eight shooting.
That type of effort just isn't going to get it done for Anderson.
Final Grade: D+
Small Forward: Evan Turner
Evan Turner had a productive first half but cooled slightly in an uneven performance reminiscent of years past.
Turner shot seven of 16 from the field for 19 points, a solid effort on the heels of his 25-point outburst against Bilbao. Several of Turner's bad habits popped up throughout the game, including his insistence on pulling up for long twos in transition, but he supplemented that with repeated drives to the bucket.
With the chance to tighten the gap in the final minute, Turner missed three of four free throws in a game ultimately decided by four points. As one of the team's elder statesmen, Turner is going to be looked to in these situations and must come up with more.
One issue that's already becoming obvious is Turner's struggle to deal with the bigger, faster players at the 3 position.
Turner has been able to lean on other players to guard them in recent seasons, most notably Andre Iguodala, but the responsibility is almost solely on him this year. Kevin Durant was able to create offense for himself too easily, racking up a near triple-double in just 33 minutes of play.
Overall, Turner looks at the very least more consistent than last season, using a bulkier frame to his advantage in the paint.
Final Grade: C+
Power Forward: Thad Young
The always dependable Thad Young got off to a rough start against Oklahoma City but recovered to turn in a solid outing against the Thunder.
Preseason isn't as essential for Young as it is for the rest of the roster, with his place in the team's hierarchy being rock solid. As a result, we only saw him on the court for 28:43, a significant dip off last year's pace of 34 a game.
While on the court, Young worked both inside and out, knocking down both of his three-point attempts en route to 12 points. His ability to knock down that shot consistently will be key for a Sixers team devoid of shooters. If he can open up driving lanes for his teammates, it will go a long way towards building a respectable offense.
Defensively, it wasn't Young's best effort, as he let Serge Ibaka post a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Most of those points came on long two-point jumpers, however, which is the shot Philadelphia would prefer to give up rather than looks at the rim.
Final Grade: B
Center: Spencer Hawes
Spencer Hawes had an okay outing from the field, but the weaknesses that fans have become used to seeing the last couple seasons were still apparent.
Hawes' screens left a lot to be desired, which is a big concern in an offense heavily based on pick-and-rolls. Whether the ball-handler was Evan Turner, Tony Wroten or Michael Carter-Williams, they were often not given much separation to work with.
The most glaring concern was his rebounding on the defensive end. The Thunder were able to grab 12 offensive rebounds, many of which went to players in the space around Hawes. As the Sixers' only true big man, Hawes has to do a better job of cleaning the glass.
Hawes is going to frustrate Sixers fans all season with his inability to do the things that are expected of a team's center. Get well soon, Nerlens.
Final Grade: D
Sixth Man: Tony Wroten
The early leader in the race to be Philadelphia's fan favorite is Tony Wroten, whose consistent tenacity was noticeable every time that he was on the court.
If Wroten develops a consistent jumper, it's not outside the realm of possibility that he'll move to the starting lineup. The pace and willingness to drive to the basket he showed time and time again helped him stand out as the clear-cut leader of the second unit.
He left several reminders that he's only 20 years old, hoisting some downright awful looks with hands in his face. Wroten overcame poor shot selection to knock down four of eight from downtown, but it's not a performance he should look to repeat. Brett Brown will have to make sure to stress shot selection when looking at his game tape.
Wroten was also active on the defensive end, jumping into passing lanes and snatching rebounds among players half a foot taller than him. He was one of just four Sixers who was a net positive for the game, a sign indicative of his impact on both ends of the floor.
Final Grade: B+
The most glaring issue with the Sixers was the play of their second unit.
Outside of Tony Wroten, the Sixers bench struggled to create offense. Too often possessions ended in isolation play and contested shots, instead of the ball movement that was the focus of the starters.
It's fairly obvious that management brought in a more a cost-efficient, low-risk group to back up the team's primary cast. As opposed to the veteran-laden benches of title contenders, there are lots of young guys fighting to make a name for themselves in the NBA.
Backup guard Darius Morris was dreadful from the field, shooting one of seven and failing to make an impact on either end of the floor.
Hometown hero Khalif Wyatt was the most notable of the "other guys," scoring five points in 13 minutes of action. Wyatt looked slimmer than his college days and still displayed the same knack for getting looks at the rim as he did at Temple.
The overall youth of the bench is a good thing for a team looking to build for the future and take its lumps this season, but it was a hindrance to the 76ers picking up a victory against Oklahoma City.
Final Grade: D