The Philadelphia 76ers were not able to land a notable free agent or swing a trade for Kawhi Leonard. But they’re still a strong team.
Even without LeBron James, who is now in the Western Conference for the first time in his career, the Sixers look like one of the most exciting teams in the East. They return all of their core from last season while also adding both youth and experienced role players to their squad.
Here is what the starting lineup on opening night will look like for Philadelphia.
Joel Embiid, Big
Dario Saric, Forward
Robert Covington, Forward
JJ Redick, Guard
Ben Simmons, Guard
This group played 600 minutes together last season, outscoring opponents by 21.4 points per 100 possessions during the regular season. They had the best net rating (minimum: 200 minutes) among all five-man lineups in the NBA. While it would be tough to match that figure two years in a row, it’s also true that the young core of Joel Embiid with Ben Simmons and Dario Saric will only continue to improve. Simmons led the league with 74.1 passes per game last season, creating endless assist opportunities for his teammates. He also ranked Top 5 in the NBA with 15.7 points in the paint per game, trailing only Giannis Antetkounmpo as well as LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
When both Simmons and Embiid are on the court at the same time, defenders have to account for a dominant interior threat to score. This creates a constant opportunity for teammates to be open for three-pointers. JJ Redick, Robert Covington and Saric combined to shoot 41.6 percent from downtown when both Simmons and Embiid joined them on the floor, per RotoGrinders. For comparison, the three were just better than league average (36.2 percent) on all other long range opportunities at 37.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the only team in the Eastern Conference that was more efficient than Philadelphia when cutting to the basket last season was the Cleveland Cavaliers. Simmons, in particular, was excellent on this play type — even as a rookie, he averaged 1.48 points per possession when cutting to the rim. He ranked No. 3 overall (minimum: 100 opportunities) once again trailing just James and Davis. Redick, too, was one of the most efficient spot-up shooters and one of the most effective pick-and-roll ballhandlers. With more time to gel as a unit heading into their second year as a starting lineup, there could be new surprises in store for the group as well.
Mike Muscala, Big
Amir Johnson, Forward
Wilson Chandler, Forward
Markelle Fultz, Guard
TJ McConnell, Guard
During the playoffs, point guard TJ McConnell actually led all qualified players in effective field goal percentage. His assist-to-usage ratio ranked in the 91st percentile among all players at his position, per Cleaning the Glass. They can also see more production out of Markelle Fultz, especially if his shooting form is back to even nearly what was expected from coming out of college. Wilson Chandler is a reliable veteran capable of playing starting minutes at power forward or small forward but will come off the bench for Philadelphia. Amir Johnson is a veteran presence needed for a young squad and Mike Muscala is a relatively serviceable big who can score well near the rim and crash the boards on the defensive end of the glass.
Furkan Korkmaz, Forward
Jonah Bolden, Forward
Jerryd Bayless, Guard
Zhaire Smith, Guard
Landry Shamet, Guard
It’s increasingly likely that the franchise tries to part ways with Jerryd Bayless, especially considering there’s no clear place in the rotation for the veteran. The rest of their roster has plenty of youth, however, including rookie draft selections Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet. Even though Smith is young, he has upside and the organization clearly favors him after trading down to select him. Shamet may be more ready for the league, especially considering his impressive jump shot and collegiate assist-to-turnover ratio. Furkan Korkmaz was arguably their best player during summer league, averaging 24.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per 36 minutes. Australian-born big Jonah Bolden will also be fascinating to watch if he cracks the rotation at any point during the season.
Demetrius Jackson, Guard
Shake Milton, Guard
While we did not get to watch Shake Milton during summer league due to injury, the 6-foot-6 guard averaged 2.5 three-pointers per game as a junior last season, which helped him score a team-best 18.0 points per game. He averaged 1.4 steals last season and measured in with a wingspan of nearly 7-foot-2. Former McDonald’s All-American Demetrius Jackson will return on a two-way deal after averaging 14.8 points and 5.2 assists per game in the G League over the past two seasons.
Norvel Pelle, Big
Anthony Brown, Forward
Former St. John’s big Norvel Pelle averaged 19.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per 36 minutes during summer league for Philadelphia. Anthony Brown has had tremendous success in the G League, averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 41.9 percent from three-point range during his three years of time in the league.
DunkWire, Top, Amir Johnson, Anthony Brown, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Demetrius Jackson, Furkan Korkmaz, Jerryd Bayless, JJ Redick, Joel Embiid, Jonah Bolden, Landry Shamet, Markelle Fultz, Mike Muscala, Norvel Pelle, Robert Covington, Shake Milton, TJ McConnell, Wilson Chandler, Zhaire Smith, Philadelphia 76ers