Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia 76ers are the hottest team in basketball.
After dropping their first game of the season, the 76ers reeled off eight wins in a row, getting off to their best start to a season since 2000-01.
Following losses to the Celtics and Pacers, the 76ers now sit at 10-3 on the season, trailing only Boston in the Eastern Conference standings.
MORE: Maxey joins Iverson in the record books with 50-point performance
Behind the dynamic play of Tyrese Maxey and reigning MVP Joel Embiid, let’s take a closer look at the numbers that underpin their fast start to the 2023-24 season.
The 76ers look like a different team this season, and that’s because they are.
Under new head coach Nick Nurse, they’ve sped up their offense, currently playing at the 15th fastest pace in the league this season.
While that may not seem significant, last season the 76ers were one of the slowest teams in basketball, playing at 97.44 points per 100 possessions, which ranked 27th in the NBA.
watch til the end for the camera man’s pov. pic.twitter.com/UzaXcANYDy
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 7, 2023
While Embiid still does most of his damage in the post, replacing James Harden as the primary ball handler with Tyrese Maxey has paid immediate dividends, with the 23-year-old zipping up and down the floor, leading the 76ers to the No. 1 ranking in fastbreak points (19.2) with Maxey, ranking eighth in the league in fastbreak points (4.3) per game, behind Zach Lavine, Jaylen Brown, Desmond Bane, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Anthony Edwards, LeBron James and Donovan Mitchell.
Joel Embiid’s assist numbers paint a pretty picture.
Without Harden, Maxey has led the charge on the playmaking front, but Embiid’s improved passing, especially out of double teams has added another wrinkle to the 76ers’ offense.
Up from his previous career-best last season of 4.2 assists, Embiid currently ranks third in assists among centers, behind Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Jokic.
Sure, he’s no Jokic, but he’s certainly doing a decent impersonation with dimes like this.
Joel Embiid with the over-the-head backwards assist 🤯
Sixers-Raptors | Live on NBA TV
📲: https://t.co/7PWdV3vhF5 pic.twitter.com/YVsLxRqdeK
— NBA (@NBA) November 3, 2023
With season averages of 31.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.5 blocks, Embiid is putting together another MVP-caliber season.
Through the first three weeks of the season, the 76ers have been well-balanced on both ends of the floor, boasting the third-best offense and seventh-ranked defense, putting them second in net rating at 8.9.
While those numbers aren’t too dissimilar to last season, with a host of new players on the roster and a new head coach in Nick Nurse, the 76ers have bought into Nurse’s system, making them one of the meanest defensive teams in the league.
Anchored by Embiid in the middle, the 76ers are closing out shooters, making hard defensive rotations and out-hustling teams ranking 10th in loose balls recovered (6.1) and ninth in deflections (16.3).
“We may not have like one guy that’s a lockdown…we got like five above-average guys with size and athletic ability and aggressiveness,” Nurse said. “Guys that are out there trying really hard to guard.”
How can we talk about the 76ers’ red-hot start without diving into Tyrese Maxey’s impact?
The fourth-year guard has taken the reigns of the 76ers’ offense, increasing his scoring average by a whopping 6.5 points.
Already dropping a career-high 50-point game against the Pacers last week, Maxey is averaging 26.8 points, 7.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds through the first 13 games, on .475/.446/.953 shooting splits.
While his shooting numbers have come down since last week, his hot start to the season put his name alongside some elite company, as noted by Justin Kubatko. Only two other players in NBA history have averaged at least 25 PPG, 5 RPG and 5 APG on 50/40/90 shooting splits through the first nine games of a season — Larry Bird (1987-88) and Stephen Curry (2015-16, 2018-19).