The blueprint was daring but clear.
When Philadelphia decided to go all-in with extensions for Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris while signing Al Horford to a $100 million-plus deal, it was plainly obvious defence was on their mind.
Pairing Horford with Simmons and Joel Embiid gave the Sixers the pieces to assume the mantle as the league's best defence and perhaps, more importantly, give them tools on paper to slow down not only Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks but perhaps LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The best-laid plans on paper don't always translate to a complete product on the floor, and the lofty expectations on Brett Brown's squad are looking a little shaky, days out from a monster Christmas Day matchup with the above mentioned Milwaukee Bucks.
Philadelphia have now dropped to sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 20-10 record. After their latest loss, a blowout at home to the Dallas Mavericks, Brown let his frustrations be known.
"I feel like our competitive spirit has taken a dent because of our inability to score," Brown said postgame.
Brown: "The past three games we have laid eggs. We have not played with a competitive drive that reflects this team."- Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) December 21, 2019
The Sixers were outscored 54-41 in the second-half against the Mavericks, and finished just 29.4 percent from three on 34 attempts.
Joel Embiid, who finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds, seemed at a loss as to why the Sixers continue to struggle.
"We just, I don't know, I feel like especially tonight we were playing scared. Basketball is easy, you just shoot it, pass it, move it, if you don't got a shot just pass it. But tonight, like I said, we didn't make shots, and defensively we were pretty bad."
In their last two losses to Miami and Dallas, Philadelphia have been simply incapable of scoring against a zone defence, with a lack of outside shooting a glaring issues.
Through the first 28 games of the season, the Sixers faced a zone for 49 possessions, and averaged 112.2 points per 100 plays.- Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) December 21, 2019
vs Miami: 53 possessions, 90.6 points per 100 plays
vs Dallas: 55 possessions, 81.8 points per 100 plays
Philadelphia now hold the league's 16th ranked offence and sit 19th for pace - defying logic for a team that struggles to generate offence in the half-court.
Brown's squad is attempting just 29.9 attempts from three per game, despite the fact opposition teams are packing the paint and daring them to shoot.
Simmons is averaging a career-low 14.4 points per game, Harris is hitting on just 31 percent of his threes, Embiid is a career-low 45 percent from the field as he draws constant double and triple teams, while Horford remains a reluctant scorer.
These issues are only amplified in the fourth-quarter, where Philadelphia are averaging just 25.1 points - the third-worst mark in the league according to Statmuse.
Despite the struggles, the Sixers are still ten games over .500 and just one game out of second place in the conference, but the question is how they overcome the fundamental issues in the offence that seems more to do with the collection of personnel on the floor rather than the schemes those players are trying to implement.