Tatum’s gone from 13.9 to 18.4 points a game in the postseason and has been averaging 20.5 since Game 6 in Milwaukee. Pierce averaged 16.5 points as a rookie, but he didn’t get to participate in the playoffs until his fourth season. “He’s already off to such a great start,” said Pierce. “He’s mature beyond his years. He doesn’t look rattled by the moment. Sometimes you see rookies have problems when they get to this point. I saw Ben Simmons against the Celtics, and it looked like moment was too big for him. He was wide-eyed out there. He looked confused. I don’t see that in Jayson Tatum. And if he didn’t have a team full of guys who are really good players and with two All-Stars, he could easily have won Rookie of the Year. I think he’s just starting to see his potential. He’s just 20 years old and he has a long way to go, but he’s just scratching the surface of how great he can really be.”
The 76ers center made just the All-NBA second team, landing behind the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. Davis surged after Cousins went down, earning overall credit from All-NBA voters, who were also increasingly likely to view him as a center rather than just a forward. As a result, Davis made the All-NBA first team at center – costing Embiid about $29 million over the next five years.
The product of those years of decision-making brought a bunch of players to the city who have built a special connection with the fanbase, even if they don’t have the same star-level talent as Embiid. Hinkie discussed a bunch of his former players who he remains a big fan of — he raved about former Rockets guard Kyle Lowry — and did a decent enough job of summing up why the fans love a scrapper like McConnell. Hinkie: “I have a special place in my heart for a lot of the players we had in Philly, some of which are still there. Joel Embiid and I are still close, I love him and watch on pins and needles when he plays without his mask or something silly happens. T.J. McConnell I love and sort of what he stands for, Robert Covington I love, everywhere he’s been … I like people who have big dreams for themselves in whatever package they’re in, and trying to outkick their coverage and overachieve.”