Following a 1-4 start to the 2022-23 season, the Philadelphia 76ers’ offense has been exposed as anemic and unoriginal, the primary cause for the team’s poor performances through five games. For a team featuring stars Joel Embiid and James Harden, it’s a vast departure from what many might have expected.

As individuals, Embiid and Harden have not performed poorly, averaging 27.6 and 25.0 points per game, respectively. Tyrese Maxey has also been a profoundly helpful contributor, scoring 20 points per game. But the problem with the team is more fundamental than any individual’s production.

In five games, the Sixers have played at the slowest pace in the NBA, a style contradictory to the natural pace of stars like Harden and Maxey. The offense is fairly efficient but is simply being run off the floor, and Embiid told reporters after the game that things would have to change.

“We’re 1-4 so we got a lot of work to do,” Embiid told reporters. “Something is not working. We know what works. Obviously, him (Harden) and me in the pick-and-roll is almost unstoppable, but there’s so many ways. It’s not just about us. We gotta get everybody on the same page. We gotta get everybody to play at the same level. I still think the ball is sticking too much. We gotta get the ball moving side-to-side.”

Harden and Embiid’s pick-and-roll has earned notoriety as one of the most efficient plays in basketball, but the team’s plan to build around its stars has not yet come to fruition. Beyond the team’s obvious top three, only one player, Tobias Harris, is scoring more than 10 points per game. The team ranks last in the league in rebounds per game and 25th in assists.

The defense has been better than its offense overall, but it’s only been average at best and allowed 119 points to the Toronto Raptors Wednesday, a team that entered the contest earning 105 points per game. Despite obvious star power, a slow offense and occasional lapses of defense have hurt the team immensely. It’s not a form of winning basketball.

The 76ers will try to earn their second victory of the season in a rematch with the Raptors Friday at 7:30 p.m. The season is never over after five games, but improvement will have to come swiftly for the perennial playoff contenders to live up to expectations.

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