Sixers' lack of depth is huge

Posted: January 14, 2014

BEFORE THE SIXERS' loss to the Knicks on Saturday, Nerlens Noel sat in front of his locker with his long, spindly legs stretched out in front of him, a large bag of ice wrapped around each of his knees. As you looked at his 6-11 frame and remembered the raw athleticism and defensive presence that prompted the Sixers to acquire the player taken with the No. 6 overall pick on draft night while realizing he might not play as a rookie, you were hit with a cold bucket of perspective.

A couple of hours later, as if on cue, New York's Amar'e Stoudemire checked in from the scorer's table. By the end of the night, the veteran power forward would score 21 points and grab five rebounds, hitting 13 of the 15 shots he would take, 8-for-10 from the field, 5-for-5 from the foul line.

In less than 23 minutes of action, Stoudemire would nearly equal the production of the Sixers' entire bench, which combined for 20 points and seven rebounds on 8-for-18 shooting in its 49 minutes of action.

The simple truth is that there are no Stoudemires walking through the door to the home locker room at the Wells Fargo Center any time soon, and until Noel is able to join the fray and start the process of balancing things out, fans are probably going to witness plenty more nights like Saturday. With big men Arnett Moultrie and Lavoy Allen also sidelined, the Sixers simply do not have the size or depth to make the short term anything more than a preparation for the long term.

"It's always going to be an issue," coach Brett Brown said. "If you look at the age and the resumes of our bench, and let's just start there, that's not an insult, that's just the truth. We're grooming. We have inexperienced players, and we're trying to identify and polish up our key players. Apply experience, resumes and payroll to our bench and you can see it's always a challenge. And I love it. Those guys, they are good people, they are good players, and we're trying to create opportunities and help develop them."

The Sixers enter today ranked 21st in the NBA in bench scoring, getting an average of 27.5 points per game from their reserves, who were averaging 15.8 minutes per game, also 21st in the NBA.

Since a four-game winning streak that marked their first consecutive wins since starting the season 3-0, the Sixers have lost four straight and have been outscored by 69 points in the process, including back-to-back home losses to the Pistons (114-104) on Friday and then the Knicks (102-92). Detroit's Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 48 points, 35 rebounds and 11 blocks. In the two previous losses, Cleveland's Anderson Varejao tallied 18 points and 14 rebounds in less than 27 minutes, one game after Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic went for 16 points and 14 rebounds in 22:41.

Because the Sixers play such an up-tempo game and lean on their starters to play such heavy minutes, their lack of depth is conspicuous.

"It's a chain reaction," Brown said. "Sometimes that's good, sometimes it hurts you. Multiple games, back-to-back games, trying to run like we run, trying to play guys 40-something minutes doesn't work at some point, and you get exposed. I have confidence that our bench will do one of two things. We ask them to do two things. They've got to play with amazing energy, you know, there's a tenacity, there's an energy, they can fly around defensively, and then I want them to take off and run. So yes, perfect execution, perfect shot selection, perfect ability to shoot high-percentage shots from outside the three-point range, at this point, that's not them, and so they have to dump what they have into energy, defensive kamikaze stuff and offensive pace."

During their four-game losing streak, opponents are shooting 46-for-102 from three-point range while the Sixers have shot just 25-for-80.

Long story short, there are no easy answers.

On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy


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