July 22, 2022
This is usually the quiet point of the NBA offseason, and the sports calendar in general, but the Sixers didn't get that memo.
James Harden agreed to his new two-year deal late Wednesday, then, on Thursday morning, the Sixers announced their proposal for a privately funded area in Market East after their lease with the Wells Fargo Center ends in 2031.
Within 24 hours, the organization made a major move on its immediate on-court future then made a play toward its long-term one in Philadelphia.
But talks of a new arena can get complicated and divisive fast over numerous concerns, even more so when it threatens to break up a setup as unique as Philly's with the Sports Complex, which Shamus Clancy touched on HERE.
So for now, let's focus on Harden and the roster the Sixers are constructing got the 2022-23 season, hoping this will finally be the year they break through and take a true shot at the NBA title.
Here's what they're saying, on the court, about the Sixers:
The Sixers' offseason hasn't been as splashy as previous summers, but after re-upping Harden and acquiring P.J. Tucker, De'Anthony Melton, and Danuel House Jr., the team deepened its bench without sacrificing much of the rotation it had last season.
Theoretically, this roster should get the Sixers through the regular season without nearly as much strain on Harden and Joel Embiid, which would mean plenty of gas left in the tank for those tougher battles against the league's best come playoff time.
With that in mind, The Athletic's Rich Hofmann ponders if this might be the best Sixers team of the Process era.
"[Matisse Thybulle’s] offense and [Georges Niang’s] defense are much less of a problem in the regular season, which is a critical piece of the puzzle. This should be a deep team. We haven’t even mentioned Shake Milton, who was snakebitten by injuries last season only to perform at a high level in the playoffs. The Sixers’ goal should not only be to earn a high seed with 50-plus regular-season victories but also to use as little gas as possible in doing so. With a margin for error that was slim until Harden came aboard, the Sixers are coming off a high-stress regular season. With this roster, they should not need as much heavy lifting from Joel Embiid to finish in a similar spot.
"But Tucker, Melton and House also were chosen for a reason. They address the Sixers’ biggest weakness, as they will be tasked with guarding the opponent’s best players. At least on paper, their skill sets are complementary of Harden, Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Everyone thought Toronto was the nightmare matchup for the Sixers heading into the playoffs, but ultimately, they lacked the type of high-end creator the Sixers would have no answer for. They found one of those players in Round 2: [Jimmy Butler]." [The Athletic]
Not every team has a true Big 3, but when one does, it makes life a lot easier. Right now, with Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey, the Sixers may have one of the NBA's best in what is already exclusive company.
Using a combination of estimated plus-minus, combined net ratings, and the good old-fashioned eye test, Greg Swartz over at Bleacher Report ranked the Sixers pretty favorably — fourth out of eight — among the league's top trios.
Only Milwaukee in first (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday), Golden State in second (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green), and Brooklyn in third (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons) fell ahead of them.
Granted, Swartz did acknowledge that Durant, Irving, and Simmons may never actually play together.
"Embiid will be an MVP candidate for the foreseeable future and Harden has transitioned into an excellent sidekick, one that seems perfectly happy leaning on his still incredible playmaking skills. This was the most efficient pick-and-roll duo in the NBA last year, one that should only improve with more reps together.
"Maxey has always been a terror to stop in transition, but it's his evolution as an outside threat that couldn't have been more perfect next to Embiid and Harden.
"After making just 32.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers as a rookie, Maxey increased his efficiency to a whopping 45.1 percent on no-dribbles threes last season. His 42.7 percent mark from three ranked third overall in the NBA and was even better off passes from Harden (55.6 percent).
"It's hard to push this team further up the eye test rankings without more time together, although what we've seen in limited minutes should be scary for the rest of the league." [Bleacher Report]
James Harden's clunkers in the six-game series loss to the Heat were a major part of why the Sixers went home in the second round yet again.
And while Harden has never outright said it, The Inquirer's David Murphy pointed out that all of the 32-year old's actions in the offseason indicate that he is very much aware of it, and isn't too proud either.
He's trying to make this right.
"For the first time in his career, he would enter an offseason without the comfort of knowing that he’d done everything he could. For the first time in his career, he walked off a playoff court knowing that he had not left it all out there. Not only that, but he knew that the reason he had not left it all out there was that he’d brought nothing there to leave. There is only one path forward for a man who has arrived at such a realization. He can fight, or he can flee.
"While it is far too early to say for certain which path Harden has taken, the early reports are promising. He began his offseason conditioning program earlier than he had in previous seasons, when he often showed up to training camp looking like he had never begun one at all.
"He has been working out with Sixers assistant Sam Cassell and spending time with Sixers center Joel Embiid. No doubt, all of these things are easy enough for even a part-time public relations consultant to manufacture, and have proven in the past to be far from predictive. But the most telling bit of information is something too concrete to ignore, that being the two-year, $68.6 million contract extension that the Sixers announced on Wednesday, and that gives them the salary cap room they need to address most of the holes on their roster. [The Inquirer]
The wounds from how last season ended are gone, but they seem to have left behind some scars.
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