Sixers weekly observations: When will Joel Embiid start seeing regular double-teams?


The first game of this week, Joel Embiid scored a season-low 10 points, as the Hawks aggressively double-teamed him and forced him to give the ball up.

In the final three games of the week, Embiid averaged 37 points and 13.7 rebounds.

The MVP chants he’s heard from the fans at Wells Fargo Center are absolutely warranted; Embiid is posting historically great numbers.

Embiid leads the league in post-ups by a wide margin because he makes an inefficient play type relatively effective by being so good at drawing fouls. He’s masterful at exploiting overzealous defenders like Andre Drummond and Zaza Pachulia. His 99 free-throw attempts are 22 more than any player in the NBA.

At this point, you'd think opponents are going to have to start doubling Embiid regularly. Even though his decision-making has been much sharper out of the post, with his turnover percentage down to 8 percent from 13.8 percent last season, it’s surprising he hasn’t been doubled more often, given how dominant he has been.

Here a few more observations on the 6-4 Sixers, who lost to the Raptors and beat the Clippers, Hawks and Pistons this week. 

• After Saturday’s win over Detroit, Joel Embiid and Landry Shamet both noted the team talked at halftime about avoiding the kind of poor start to the third quarter that nearly lost them Thursday’s game vs. the Clippers. That discussion didn’t work.

Detroit scored 13 points to open the second half and turned a blowout into an interesting game. After squandering plenty of big leads last season, the Sixers don’t want this to become a trend again.

• Robert Covington has quietly had an excellent start to the season. He has the most steals in the NBA (21), is ninth in the league in blocks (17), and is shooting 44.3 percent from three-point range. He’s even looked much better driving to the basket and finishing around the rim.

• Dario Saric’s minutes gradually decreased over the past three games (from 31 to 24, to 22), while Mike Muscala’s steadily increased (from 16 to 23, to 26). That’s no coincidence. While Brett Brown isn’t planning to give the struggling Saric a rest unless he asks for one, he’s going to play Muscala at the end of games if he gives the Sixers a better chance to win (see story).

There’s no doubt at the moment that Muscala is the better late-game option — in all honesty, most players would be at the moment over Saric, who made 3 of his 17 three-point attempts this week.

• Though Wilson Chandler finally made his regular-season Sixers debut Saturday after injuring his left hamstring in the first preseason game, it sounds like it might be a while until he’s fully a part of the rotation. Brown said before Saturday’s game that the Sixers are going to play it safe with Chandler.

“I think the hamstring is something we’re all cautious with,” he said. “My gut feel, having dealt with this injury before — and it’s not like he’s 20 years old — you really are mindful of some level of patience bringing him back.”

While the Sixers would love to have Chandler’s versatility, scoring and physical defense in the lineup for 20-25 minutes a night, there’s no need to rush him, in large part because of Shamet’s impressive play (see story)

Chandler will start out as Covington’s backup, but Brown said he plans to use him as a shooting guard, small forward and power forward down the line, and even possibly as a center on rare occasions. Chandler’s ability to play the four could come in handy if Saric can’t find a way out of his slump.

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