Is Load Management Really What’s Killing the Sixers?

With all the hype and expectations that had been built up during the offseason, one would expect the Sixers to be a bit more dominant in the East thus far. After a scorching-hot 5-0 start, Philly has cooled off a bit and seems to be struggling to finish out games they should be winning. When the Sixers go into these kinds of slumps, it’s easy for the finger-pointing to start – whether it’s towards coach Brett Brown or Ben Simmons or some other factor. This time around, however, there seems to be a culprit gaining traction that some believe is the cause of their demise: load management.

Brett Brown told the media that regularly scheduled rest days for many of the team’s star players have already been planned out for weeks in advance. The purpose is to keep some players who may be either aging or regularly subject to injuries, such as Al Horford and Joel Embiid, fresh for when it counts. This is not an uncommon practice among the league. Two of the best players in the league, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, have frequently been subject to this strategy. In fact, Leonard had made headlines for being rested in a marquee matchup against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch.

Many fans have felt that at a certain point, load management goes too far and does nothing other than keeping the best players off the court. Horford was kept out for load management purposes in a game against Cleveland, and the team scraped by with a one-point victory. Embiid was rested in a matchup against the Orlando Magic, a notable game against former Sixers bust Markelle Fultz. The Sixers, despite being viewed as a better team, lost the game by 15, leading to skepticism on why Embiid needed rest after having played in only seven of the team’s first ten games.

While it’s easy to blame load management for the Sixers’ struggles, the reality is that great players have seen success when given routine rest games, so it’s hardly a problem. Either way, there are more significant issues within this team. Right now, this team is constructed to be a physical force in the paint and win on defense. Despite this, they are being coached to attack from the perimeter, putting a spotlight on the team’s shooting woes. Aside from Josh Richardson and Furkan Korkmaz, the latter of which has been a pleasant surprise in 2019, nobody in the team’s backcourt is shooting particularly well outside. Ben Simmons still won’t make three-point attempts, and Tobias Harris has been laughably bad when shooting from free.

The season is still early, so there is plenty of time for the Sixers to turn it around. Despite falling behind to teams such as the rival Celtics and the Jimmy Butler-led Heat in the standings, they are still considered one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. If all goes well, the Sixers will be hosting their trophy at the Wells Fargo Center come June.

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