Sixers aiming to reduce league-worst turnovers, fouls

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Ben Simmons (right) averages 4 turnovers per game, tied for worst on the Sixers.

CHICAGO – The 76ers realize that cutting down on their excessive turnovers and fouls will help them snap out of their funk.

“It’s the same old, same old,” said coach Brett Brown, whose squad has lost five of its last six games. “When you look at the turnovers, we can all come out and say, ‘They’re last in turnovers.’ That is true. But when you go deeper, why? Who?”

The Sixers (14-14) are trying to develop rookie point guard Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid into “less turnover-prone” players, the coach said. Embiid, who doesn’t practice because of back and left knee issues, had seven turnovers in Friday’s 119-117 triple-overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The franchise player and Simmons, the transcendent playmaker, each average a team-worst 4.0 turnovers per game. Their combined 8.0 turnovers account for 46 percent of the Sixers’ 17.3 per game.

“I go like 10 layers why. That part of it is of interest,” Brown said. “The fouling is of interest.

“You know second off the floor and being able to get lifted and up-faked too easily or whacking people into the bonus. We foul too much. That’s part of the evolution.”

The Sixers’ 23.6 fouls per game are the most in the NBA.

“But that’s part of our growth,” Brown said. “We get there are no moral victories. But there’s also the understanding that this team is really young.”

The Sixers are tied with Brooklyn Nets for the sixth-youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 25.3, behind the Los Angeles Lakers (24.9), Portland Trail Blazers (24.9), Phoenix Suns (25.0), Chicago Bulls (25.0) and Boston Celtics (25.1).

As the Celtics and Blazers have shown, youth doesn’t have to translate to team struggles and turnovers.

The Celtics have the league’s best record at 25-7 and they average the league’s seventh fewest turnovers (13.3) Meanwhile,  Portland (16-3) has the Western Conference’s fifth-best record and average the NBA 15th fewest turnovers (14.3).

While reducing fouls and turnovers is a priority for the Sixers, Brown made an observation about the latter.

“Teams that just don’t turn it over also don’t make the playoffs,” he said. “Three of the teams who were the best in the NBA last year didn’t even make the playoffs.”

He was referencing the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons. The Hornets averaged the fewest turnovers last season at 11.5 per game.  The Mavericks and Pistons were tied for second at 11.9. As a result, Brown said there’s a splitting of the difference.

“It’s how do you play and give these guys confidence,” he said. “We do play fast. The recognition that Ben has played however many games and Joel doesn’t practice.  If we can fix those two things [turnovers and fouls], we can end up a top-10 team.”