NBA 2022 Offseason Guide: Philadelphia 76ers
The Process wasn’t supposed to end like this. The Philadelphia 76ers, with great pomp and ceremony, tanked their way with the intention of getting a team of superstars with the aim of competing for championships. A fourth second-round exit in five years is not what Sam Hinkie had in mind when he died for our sins.
Now, the Sixers have major decisions to make. Do they stick with their core? Do they make changes around the edges? Is a full rebuild around resident superstar Joel Embiid on the cards?
Let’s take a look at how the Sixers might progress this offseason.
For better or worse, the Sixers are all in for a championship. The question remains, as it did at this point last season: are the Sixers good enough to win it all?
Last year the question revolved around the supporting cast, the coaching and the fit between Embiid and Ben Simmons. This time around it’s…well it’s almost exactly the same, just swap James Harden in for Simmons.
In Embiid, Philadelphia has the type of singular force every championship hopeful must have. The 28-year-old won his first scoring title this season, earning his fourth All-NBA and third All-Defensive awards along the way. He’s dominant at both ends of the floor. Worryingly, he hasn’t shaken his injury bug, though the 68 games he suited up for this season was a career high.
In fact, Embiid racked up career highs for fun this season. His 30.1 points, 4.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.4 made threes, 9.6 free throws were all career highs, as well as tying game highs of 50 points and five steals.
Now Embiid just needs a worthy supporting cast.
There is a version of Harden who is the perfect player to accompany Embiid in search of a chip. That version existed about five years ago.
Turning 33 during the offseason, Harden is notoriously undisciplined when preparing his body for the rigors of a long NBA campaign. That, alongside some huge minute totals (second in the NBA behind LeBron James over the past decade) might mean that Harden is well and truly on the decline.
Whilst that decline is seeing many call him washed, that’s not at all fair. Even diminished from his exceptional peak, Harden is still a fine offensive player. He’s a wonderful set up man – perhaps the best in the NBA – whose combination with Embiid is already fruitful. Harden now creates more points through assists than he scores himself.
A team with Embiid and Harden on the floor will boast a very good NBA offense. It’s just getting them both on the floor at the same time that could prove an issue.
Around those two are a mixture of the overpaid and unproven.
Tobias Harris is unfairly maligned due to his gargantuan contract but is a very good third banana. Tyrese Maxey could soon supersede Harris’ place in the hierarchy, if he hasn’t already. The second-year guard is Leandro Barbosa with a jump shot; a blur on the open court with the first step to blaze past opponents and the range to punish anyone that plays him for the drive. Neither, though, will hold anybody on defense.
Danny Green is still a fine defender but is ageing and given his recent knee injury, will likely not have his contract guaranteed. Matisse Thybulle is the inverse Jordan Poole: destructive on the defensive end whilst borderline unplayable on offense.
The rest of the roster is a whole lot of meh.
Shake Milton, Isaiah Joe, Charles Bassey and Furkan Korkmaz are all at best barely above replacement level. Georges Niang is an ace shooter and great locker room presence, but a liability on defense.
More than anything, the Sixers need players not named Embiid who are capable of producing at both ends of the court.
Harden, Maxey, Harris, Korkmaz, Milton, Niang: all capable of going off for big games in the scoring column. Not a one will stop anybody defensively, though Niang and Harris are hard workers, at least.
At the other end of the floor Thybulle and Green are lockdown defenders. Green – turning 35 in a few days time – can still shoot it but has precisely zero game off the bounce. Thybulle is as springy as they come, but can’t shoot and can barely dribble.
In moving Seth Curry and Andre Drummond with Simmons to acquire Harden, the Sixers robbed themselves of much needed depth. Re-establishing some of that depth will be vital, especially given the injury histories of Harden and Embiid.
Philadelphia also needs to find players with a little bit of an edge to them. At times in their second-round loss to Miami – a team with plenty of doggedness – it often looked as if Embiid (when healthy) and little used reserve forward Paul Reed were the only two players that genuinely cared. A player with an attitude who could shake the team up a little wouldn’t go astray. Chris Paul did wonders for the Suns. Jimmy Butler was a godsend for Miami. It doesn’t have to be a star, though. A support player with a little bit of bite could get this team going. Dillon Brooks or Bobby Portis might prove too expensive. Would Jae Crowder be an option? JaMychal Green? Garrison Matthews? Jae’Sean Tate? Davis Bertans?
The Cap Sheet
Including the team options on Maxey, Thybulle and Milton – all sure to be picked up – and the $47 million player option for Harden – again, a lock to be picked up – Philadelphia is on the hook for $143 million for 12 players.
Their only out of contract players are Danny Green, who has a non-guarantee that probably won’t be picked up, the totally washed DeAndre Jordan and the fossilised remains of Paul Millsap.
The net result is that the Sixers have what they have, for better or worse. They hold only the tax payer mid-level exception of $6.3 million and the trade market to improve themselves.
The team does have to consider extensions for Thybulle and Milton, who will be in the final year of their rookie deals in 2023. Milton is an excellent shooter, but is very replaceable. He’s essentially the new Bryn Forbes and there’s a reason Forbes has bounced around the league.
Thybulle’s case is beguiling. An elite defender both on and off the ball, Thybulle brings gifts to the game that many simply cannot or do not. The man averages three steals and two blocks per 36 minutes! That said, until he learns to shoot (31.3% on the most wide open threes imaginable last season) and dribble at an acceptable NBA level, he’ll be nothing more than a situational player.
Shooting and dribbling are very teachable actions, though. What Thybulle does on defense is innate. If the Sixers development staff think there is enough improvement in Thybulle’s game he’ll surely be extended. The numbers on the deal will be fascinating.
Thanks to the Nets deferring their option on a Sixers first rounder, Philadelphia holds on to their pick in this draft, which comes in at 23rd overall. They have no picks in the second round.
Expect the Sixers to look at wings in this draft, of which there are many expected to be selected in the early 20s.
There isn’t really a high-end shooter expected to be taken in this section of the draft, so look for Philadelphia to go for an athletic player with the ability to become a two-way player with time.
MarJon Beauchamp is extremely athletic and has great measurements (6’6” with a 7 foot wingspan) and was a disruptive defender for G League Ignite and in college. His jumper has a ways to go, though he is a decent creator off the bounce. At worst he allows the Sixers an out if they eventually move on from Thybulle.
Kendall Brown is another that the Sixers will take a long look at. He’s an elite athlete with great speed and the ability to finish through contact around the hoop. He’s already a wonderful defensive player, physical and with quick feet. Offensively he’s far more advanced that Beauchamp, with a decisive driving game and a decent outside stroke. To this writer’s eye there’s a little bit of a poor man’s Jaylen Brown about him. The Sixers should be thrilled to get him at pick 23.
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