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October 18, 2022

Sixers power rankings roundup: New year, same goal

A look at how the Sixers project going into the 2022-23 NBA season

It's the dawn of a new NBA season, which means a new run of power rankings from various outlets now that the rosters and expectations are set. 

The Sixers are going in with their sights locked on the NBA title. They fell short in the playoffs yet again last season, but are returning with a deeper bench, a Tyrese Maxey coming off a big year and driven to be better, a James Harden looking to prove he hasn't lost a step, and an ever-contending MVP candidate in Joel Embiid. 

The goal remains the same and so does the big three, with Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers hoping that just a little more depth is enough to finally get them over the hump. 

The Sixers are definitely towards the top of many publications' power rankings heading into the 2022-23 season, but a handful of very obvious teams are projected to stand in their way. 

Here's a look at the rankings and what they're saying... 

Outlet Sixers Ranking Behind 
 NBA.comGSW (1), MIL (2), BOS (3), PHX (4), LAC (5) 
The Athletic GSW (1), MIL (2), LAC (3), PHX (4), MIA(5) 
 Bleacher Report GSW (1), MIL (2), BOS (3), DEN (4)
CBS Sports GSW (1), LAC (2), BOS (3) 
The Score MIL (1), BOS (2), GSW (3), LAC (4) 

The inside drive

John Schuhmann |

The Sixers will likely have to keep up with last season's two finalists, the Warriors and Celtics, a Bucks team that has matched up well against them the past few years, and possibly a Clippers squad whose success is going to bank largely on the sustained health of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. 

Going in, John Schuhmann notes that the 33-year-old Harden's play inside the paint will be something to keep an eye on as a factor in the Sixers' success.

With how much oomph that Maxey gives the Sixers’ offense, Harden doesn’t need to be as much of an attacker as he’s been in the past. But he is going to be handling the ball and he will venture into the paint, so he’ll need to finish well and/or draws fouls when he gets there.

Harden’s 48.3% in the paint last season ranked 81st among 97 guards with at least 200 field goal attempts in the paint. And in the preseason, he shot just 4-for-11 (36%) in the paint, while registering the lowest preseason free throw rate (22 attempts per 100 shots from the field) of his career. He played just 70 total minutes, but that wasn’t particularly encouraging. []

A lot to like, but a lot too question too

Zach Harper | The Athletic ($)

A better-supported big three featuring Harden is impressive on paper, but Zach Harper's hang-up over at The Athletic is which Harden are you going to get? That question, for now, is keeping the Sixers just on the brink of contention on The Athletic's list. 

What do we like? This Philadelphia 76ers team has a three-headed trio with a better supporting cast going into this season. Joel Embiid is an MVP candidate every season. James Harden appears to be in much better shape and hopefully rid of those hamstring problems. Tyrese Maxey has already ascended beyond expectations going into his third campaign. They picked up Tucker and Danuel House Jr. to give this team some much needed versatility and grit. This isn’t make-or-break for the Sixers by any means, but now would be the time to take that step forward into true contention.

What do we question? Which Harden are we getting? We have to divorce ourselves from the Harden from Houston. That’s not going to happen, and it’s not necessary either. But will Harden be plagued by stricter rules against trying to draw fouls and more importantly his nagging hamstring issues? Harden might be best used as a pure point guard type of player, but he might be in the zone of waiting to see if he can remain healthy. Hopefully, him focusing on conditioning more intently this offseason cures all of that. [The Athletic]

 The sexy pick

Colin Ward-Henninger | CBS Sports

Again, there's a lot to like about the Sixers' big three, especially with Maxey breaking out and Harden coming in with a chip on his shoulder. 

But again, which Harden are you going to get, especially come playoff time?

CBS' Colin Ward-Henninger on the Sixers:

The 76ers have become the sexy pick to win the East this season thanks to perennial MVP contender Joel Embiid, a potentially resurgent James Harden, a breakout candidate in Tyrese Maxey and a few well-fitting additions to the roster. On paper, this team should be stout on both ends of the floor, and the combination of Embiid and Harden was thoroughly dominant in a small sample size last season. We can talk about Harden and the playoffs later, but for now the Sixers should be able to rack up a ton of wins in the regular season. [CBS Sports]

The best yet?

Andy Bailey | Bleacher Report

With Maxey looking to take another step and a bench bolstered by names like De'Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker, Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey suspects this is the best roster Embiid has ever had, putting the Sixers at No. 5 going into the season. 

Joel Embiid and James Harden make up one of the NBA's best duos. When both were on the floor in 2021-22, the Philadelphia 76ers were plus-15.8 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile).

Competing for a championship will depend on everyone else, though, and 21-year-old Tyrese Maxey's 20.8 points in the playoffs suggest he's ready to be a championship-level No. 3.

His ascension makes Tobias Harris one of the league's best fourth options. And the additions of De'Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker should help too.

With the possible exception of the partial year Jimmy Butler was in Philly, this is probably the best team Embiid's ever had. [B/R]

We'll start getting tangible results to work with once the Sixers tip-off against the Celtics Tuesday night in Boston. 

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