March 17, 2023
The Sixers have just 14 games left to play in the regular season, and soon all of the debates about MVP, their legitimacy as a contender, and the future of the franchise will be put to the test. No better time than the present to dive into a mailbag.
We start today with Tobias Harris, who has struggled to find his place as the Sixers have ascended as a group.
What is going on with Tobias? Everyone keeps saying he is the sixers swiss army knife. But he has had 5 games this season where he scored less then 4 points! His ppg has gone done dramatically since December. And we can't have a guy like this when he is taking up 37 million.— Bill (@BillW6251) March 14, 2023
But the other side of it is that the setup that benefits the team doesn't really benefit Harris. Doc Rivers has made more of an effort to stagger Joel Embiid and James Harden recently, ensuring one of his stars is on the floor at all times. This is the right thing to do for Philly both now and in the playoffs, but I think it works out in a way that actually hurts Harris. When Harris had opportunities to get time and touches with Embiid and Harden both on the bench, he was capable of working himself out of a cold or ineffective start by getting to his comfort zones, working out of the mid-post or handling the ball a bit. Those chances are few and far between these days, so if Harris can't get himself going as a catch-and-shoot player, he may just never find the rhythm during a game.
That's not an excuse for him to offer as little as he has at times recently, and as you point out, he is making a ton of money to figure out the best way to help this team. It's just an acknowledgment of reality — Harris' early-season success as a spot-up shooter was noteworthy because it was helpful, but also because it was unexpected based on his career to date. How a player is comfortable playing and how they want to play are factors people don't consider as much as they should. I think Harris made a real effort to be the guy the team needs, but you can certainly seeing him fighting his instincts at times as he does so.
I don't think we've seen the last good Tobias Harris game of the season. I just think a big reason we even think so much about his production comes down to the contract, and as the Sixers move toward the playoffs, fans of the team should just try to put that out of their minds. We'll see what he has to offer when it really counts.
What do you think about the possibility to insert McDaniels for Tobi in clutch time in the playoffs?— Sterczer Péter (@sterczerpeti) March 14, 2023
Do I think they'll do that? Probably not.
The Sixers have been a better team than the Celtics for the majority of the season. Are the Celtics a uniquely bad matchup for them, or is more of an issue of some flukey regular season games this season that make it appear that they have the 6ers number?— B(uck)Ball Mulligan (@frite_truite_) March 14, 2023
The Celtics are one of only two teams in the league (Dallas being the other) the Sixers are winless against this season. Let's take a quick look at each individual game:
I would argue the second one is the only one you take any real concern from, and even that could be argued as a game where they just lost steam mentally. Embiid destroying them in the most recent meeting was encouraging, as was the fact that they let go of a decent-sized lead and then waged a comeback of their own in the fourth quarter.
While I think there are matchup concerns for Philadelphia, namely that they'd be a hard team for Harden to attack across a seven-game series, some of those beliefs haven't really held up in practice (Harden is averaging 27-6-9 on 50/42/97/ shooting splits against the Celtics this season). I would be pretty concerned about Philly needing to defend Tatum and Brown well enough to win a series, though I think you could say the same about Boston defending Embiid. The Celtics' preferred frontcourt/starting lineup doesn't really work against Philly at this point, and we'll see if Joe Mazulla is willing to abandon it in tight games in the playoffs if that remains the case.
Whether there's a mental component to the Celtics matchup is a different story. Embiid has remarked in the past that this is not really a rivalry because Boston continually beats them, and you do have to wonder if that plays a role in the poor record this year. The Sixers had plenty of self-inflicted wounds in the second loss specifically, and Boston does tend to bring out some of their bad habits. I think they are capable of beating them, but it would be nice to see them actually do so before the regular season ends.
Who’s scarier in the playoffs the bucks or Celtics?— sad sixers fan (@tzillagamess) March 14, 2023
Why is the doc starting Maxey these days?— ピスケッツ (@pisqeuets) March 14, 2023
Maxey's play will ultimately play a huge role in whether they can win a title or not, and he was having a hard time figuring out his role from the bench, so this was a no-brainer.
If the Sixers make it to the finals (I know this is a big IF).— eMVPiid (@LTGamesBegin) March 14, 2023
Who do you think would be the most fun Western Conference opponent? What about the most challenging/least challenging?
As far as toughest vs. easiest, I would want no parts of trying to stop the Kevin Durant/Devin Booker combination in a series. On the flip side, if we're only considering "likely" contention threats (so let's say top 6 out West), neither of Sacramento or Memphis feel that scary. That said, any team that makes the Finals has figured enough out to be taken as a serious threat to win it all. Hard-hitting analysis, I know.
Does the fact that every team has a bad loss to a bad team show the high level of NBA play or that any team can be beaten?— Failsauce (@OSPFailsauce) March 14, 2023
That's part of why I think Sixers fans should be a bit more optimistic about their team than they have been. This season lacks a team that you look at and just think, "Oh man, they have no chance against them," and the Sixers have two of the league's best players performing at a high level right now, including perhaps the best current player in Embiid. They have to shed their playoff demons, but why not them?
What can the NBA do with national TV scheduling so that we aren't constantly stuck watching games with key players missing due to injury or rest?— Scott Phillips (@scottphillips17) March 14, 2023
The thing the NBA could do is what they're never going to do — cut games from the schedule. The owners and players don't want to take the revenue hit, but it's the easiest solution to improve the overall quality of play, the health of the players, and the significance of national games.
Come playoffs, presuming, Maxey continues starting, is our short bench Melton, Georges, and BBallP?— Marc Kravitz (@Marc_Kravitz) March 14, 2023
I think Danuel House Jr. might have a role to play depending on whether Niang is running hot or cold from three (or getting carved up on defense), but that spot in the rotation will be situational.
Are you excited for the Elden Ring DLC— zmose (@zmoseCOD) March 14, 2023
If they finish 3rd, who would u rather have 6th, Nets or Knicks. Knicks are more of a headache imo. I’d say vs Nets in 5, vs Knicks in 6. Also how does it feel winning 7-0 and then losing 0-1?— BR (@therealbrick1) March 14, 2023
We're going to look closer at matchups sometime in the near future, so the short version for now is that I think I agree on preferring the Nets to the Knicks. But don't expect a cakewalk in almost any Eastern Conference series this season.
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