Sixers season preview: Will they get over the hump this year?

Sixers season preview: Will they get over the hump this year?

Basketball

Sixers season preview: Will they get over the hump this year?

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The Sixers haven’t made the Conference Finals since 2001, which seems odd considering that they’ve had many successful competitive seasons since. Since ending the tanking portion of “The Process” and making the playoffs in 2018, Philadelphia has made it to the second round in all but one season. They have now put together the best-fitting team around Joel Embiid in his career. If everything goes right for them, they could break their Conference Finals streak and potentially make it all the way to the NBA Finals.

Below, check out our preview for the 2022-23 Sixers campaign.

Roster changes

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Returning: Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Furkan Korkmaz, Georges Niang, Matisse Thybulle, Jaden Springer, Shake Milton, Isaiah Joe, Paul Reed, Charles Bassey, Charlie Brown Jr.

Additions: PJ Tucker (Miami), De’Anthony Melton (Memphis), Danuel House (Utah), Montrezl Harrell (Charlotte), Trevelin Queen (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), Julian Champagnie (St. John’s), Michael Foster (training camp deal)

Subtractions: Danny Green (Memphis), DeAndre Jordan (Denver), Paul Millsap, Myles Powell

Strengths

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

* The Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll could drive an elite offense… In limited minutes, the numbers on their pick-and-roll are just as strong as initially expected. Now that they have better personnel around them, they have more options in how they finish plays. They have more shooters to kick off to when doubled, and both are still excellent foul drawers, at least in the regular season. And even when Harden and Embiid aren’t on the floor together, they have so many versatile combinations to maximize production. They have the tools to have one of the league’s best offenses this season.

* A potential third All-Star in Tyrese Maxey… Where would the Sixers be right now had they not struck gold drafting Maxey? Not much is often expected with a 21st overall selection, but the Sixers wouldn’t be considered legitimate contenders without him. With so few pieces of “The Process” remaining, getting Maxey helps make up for a lot of their lost upside. Despite how well he played last year, there are still facets of his game he can improve on and master. He’s already premium insurance for Harden if he misses time or regresses, now the question is if he can become a perennial All-Star going forward.

* Sixers have the cohesion and depth to be a No. 1 seed… And that’s very important for a title contender with flaws and more potential factors that could go wrong for them. They have enough guard depth to stagger Harden in case he misses a significant amount of games. While there is no such thing as a replacement for Embiid, former Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell can help keep the Sixers afloat in the regular season. If they can get just one of Korkmaz, Milton, or Niang to get hot on a given night, that’s another factor that could make them an advantage in a random night. Having a top seed gives them a higher chance at avoiding unfavorable matchups deep in the playoffs.

Weaknesses

(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

* Improved defensive versatility, but maybe not at the highest levels… Tucker, House, and Melton were among the best available 3-and-D players, so the Sixers did well identifying them and taking the steps necessary to secure them. Melton brings some much-needed defensive versatility to the backcourt and could allow Philly to play smaller with him able to guard bigger wing-sized players. But with Harden and Maxey expected to close games in crunch time, that backcourt could give the Sixers a lot of problems defensively against versatile teams like the Celtics.

* Rebounding… The Sixers were among the worst rebounding teams in the league this year, especially with offensive boards. While the additions of Tucker, House, Melton, and Harrell should make them tougher and more physical crashing the paint, it’s unclear if it’s enough to get them at least average in rebounding. Their lack of rebounding last year allowed opponents to have a lot of transition opportunities, which they must clean up.

* What if Harden and Tucker regress?… Harden looked amazing in his first few games for the Sixers but earlier that season with the Nets and later in the playoffs his play caused concern. He lacked some of the speed and burst he is known for and his hamstring injury likely factored in that. Even if he proves that last season was an outlier, injuries could continue to be an issue as he gets older. Tucker also potentially missing a step could be devastating for Philadelphia’s title odds, especially after locking him up for three years.

Depth chart

Sixers 2022-23 Depth Chart by Dionysis Aravantinos

Sixers 2022-23 Depth Chart by Dionysis Aravantinos

Possible moves

James Harden and Daryl Morey before a press conference

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Harden took a $14 million pay cut to return to the Sixers this season, giving them enough flexibility to open up both the non-taxpayer mid-level exception and bi-annual exception. This allowed them to sign Tucker and House, both players who have had success with Harden back in Houston. Now they are hard capped and limited to signing players to veteran minimum contracts to fill out their roster going forward.

The Sixers of course will remain aggressive on the trade market but outside of Thybulle, they are lacking assets to make significant moves. They traded all the remaining first-round picks they were able to send out for Harden at the time of the trade, and cannot move any first-round picks this season other than a conditional 2029 first-rounder. It’s possible the Sixers look to get under the luxury tax later in the season by offloading a player like Korkmaz or Niang in a trade.

The Sixers are currently just $764,795 below the hard cap, but should be in the $4 million range below once they waive two non-guaranteed players to get down to 15 players. Their proximity to the hard cap will make trading for players earning $15 million or more an impossibility unless a more expensive player like Harris is being sent out. Although his contract has been a negative asset these past three years, his fit on the Sixers is better than ever and it makes more sense to keep him than move him simply to improve their cap sheet.

Salaries

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