How the process may work after all: A season preview

After an underwhelming playoff exit last season against the Miami Heat, the 76ers are preparing to put on a championship run headlined by their stars of Joel Embiid and James Harden. There is one question looming in the air. Something reporters, analysts, and fans ask.


Do the Philadelphia 76ers have what it takes to win?


From a Sixers fan perspective, you would think they have all of the pieces to win. Do they really? It seems like anything less then a conference finals appearance would be called a failure. Even then, if this team doesn't win the finals in June. Many will still call it a disappointment. Let's take a deep dive on how the Philadelphia 76ers can overcome doubts and be the team that holds up the Larry O'Brien trophy in June.



What went wrong in the past years


Let's take it back a few years ago against the Atlanta Hawks. The 76ers had a meltdown in the second round of the playoffs allowing Atlanta to advance to the eastern conference finals. That put an end to the Ben Simmons saga. The Sixers never really felt like a completely finished team, even when the championship hopes were so high. Last year they man handled the Toronto Raptors despite almost blowing a 3-0 lead. Then, onto Miami. Even though the Sixers were without MVP runner up Joel Embiid, they got outplayed in almost every aspect of the game. There was a glaring lack of size and physicality on the Philadelphia team. They needed guys who aren't afraid to get down and dirty. It seems that many people have written off the Philadelphia 76ers as championship contenders after disappointing years.


Coming into this offseason, there were an abundant amount of changes that needed to happen in order to get closer to a finals appearance.


Weaknesses included:


- The bench has been a large problem for Philadelphia year after year. Going with an all bench squad seemed to hurt every lead they had built up in the game. Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Georges Niang, and Paul Reed didn't seem as much of a threat to opposing teams.


- A reliable backup for Joel Embiid. I don't think Philadelphia fans can handle watching another player like Deandre Jordan start games ever again.


- The Sixers were too small without Embiid on the court. The backup four was a 6'7 Georges Niang, giving you nothing defensively. Their only other wing that you could play was Furkan Korkmaz. In a playoff setting, that is not nearly good enough.


- We were often left without the right amount of shooting. Last year we had given up Seth Curry in the James Harden blockbuster trade. It made Embiid's job much harder then it needed to be.


- An unplayable defensive minded wing. Matisse Thybulle. Yes, he is a brilliant defender, but he is an absolute disaster on the offensive end of the court.



A brilliant offseason for Daryl Morey and the front office


The 76ers offseason acquisitions were headlined by P.J Tucker, De'Anthony Melton, and Montrezl Harrell. Guys that can all bring value to this team.


Starting with De'Anthony Melton. On draft night the 76ers traded Danny Green (suffered an ACL injury in the playoffs), and a late first round pick for Melton. It made the Sixers younger, added more shooting, and athleticism off the bench. He seemed to struggle with his shot in the few preseason games, but I expect that to be cleaned up as the season goes on. If Doc Rivers decides to play Thybulle and Melton, it will be a disaster for the opposing offense.


The Sixers have always struggled to find the perfect starting 5, but this may be the year as P.J Tucker fills many holes such as defense, rebounding and more shooting. It also did a good job at taking away from one of their conference rivals, the Miami Heat. Watching preseason, you can tell that P.J Tucker is willing to put his body on the line for offensive rebounds and loose balls. There was a certain play in this years preseason where Tucker managed to get multiple offensive rebounds in the same possession. A few offensive rebounds for this team in the regular season and playoffs could help grow a substantial lead.


Signing Montrezl Harrell fills in one of the biggest holes on the Sixers team, and that is the backup center position. That was a glaring hole in last years Sixers squad. Philadelphia fans had to sit there and watch Deandre Jordan start in the playoffs. I don't think it's much of a worry anymore. You can tell right from the jump in preseason that Harrell wants to win. That also came with trash talking the Cavaliers bench in a exhibition match. He is a huge upgrade offensively behind Joel Embiid. Like Tucker, Harrell isn't afraid to put his body on the line, and I believe that he is going to help the Sixers win a ton of regular season games.


Daryl Morey signed another former Houston Rocket in Danuel House Jr. He is a big wing that can help on the defensive end, and hit some open shots when you need him to.


Now, what the Sixers need to do this year:



Another leap for Tyrese Maxey


After an inconsistent minute rookie season, Tyrese Maxey stepped up in absence of Ben Simmons, and ran with his role. Not only solidifying him a starting spot, but working hard and becoming one of the best young players in the NBA.


You saw the giant leap he took from year one to year two. Getting 20 more minutes per game, 9.5 PPG increase, and a 12%(!!) increase in his 3 point shooting percentage which is something you don't see very often.


We saw an even more impressive Maxey in 4 games of preseason basketball. He got started in each of the 4 games with a few 3's and ended the preseason shooting 55.6% from 3 on 4.5 attempts per game. He can be the sparkplug in the starting lineup that this team needs. We didn't think Tyrese Maxey could take another big leap, but is he doing it again? In order for the 76ers to win a championship, he will absolutely need to take that leap, and play a crucial role for this Sixers offense.


Can James Harden be that guy this year?


Although there have been some concerns about Harden's injury history in the last few years, he's finally had a full offseason to rest his body and take care of his hamstring issue. There were plenty of games last year where James looked like a complete mess, including the last two games of the Miami Heat series.


As a fan should we be expecting to see Houston Harden? Absolutely not. Sure, there may be some flashes of it but I believe those days are over. This can be a very big year for James Harden. First off, his shot selection. As we saw last season, Harden was not willing to take the smartest of shots. We saw a big improvement in the preseason games he played in. Not only was he taking open catch and shoot jumpers right away, but he was also taking mid range shots. I think that is the biggest thing he can improve on this year. Smart plays is what's going to take this team far into the postseason.


Joel Embiid & the MVP award


After two seasons in a row of coming in second place, Joel Embiid is ready to get right back into it. Embiid didn't play much in preseason but when he did, he looked dominant. Joel Embiid is going to get his offensively. Defense is what matters this year. Every player made sure to emphasize that on media day. They want to be the best defensive team in the NBA and that starts with Joel Embiid. He needs to be a leader on both sides of the court.


Embiid played a career high 68 games last season. We expect him to do the exact same barring any injuries (cross your fingers).


The 76ers roster is built so if Embiid were to go out, they wouldn't completely fall apart like you've seen in years past, except for the playoffs (we would definitely fall apart).


What about Tobias Harris?


Yes, as you can tell I have not mentioned Sixers starting small forward once. That is because I believe for him to have the same year he did last year. I expect him to struggle, and for him to find his shot at any moment. Of course he will be a big piece for the Sixers this year. One thing he needs to focus on...Stop pump faking and taking a contested mid-range, and just take the 3 point jump shot!


I expect him to mesh well with this team and really find his role, which is something we haven't seen him do yet in the time he's been a Sixer.


Is this the last year of the process?


While this may not be the last year of the process, I believe that this is Philadelphia's best shot to win the title. There could be a million different reasons why this team could fall apart, and people are looking too closely at it instead of the bigger picture. The Philadelphia 76ers are a damn good team. They will have the best player on the court at all times (Except maybe when they play against the Bucks). The 76ers have built a roster, covering up most of their holes, and there absolutely should not be an excuse for not at least making it to the eastern conference finals.


This shouldn't come to a surprise to anybody, but I am picking the Philadelphia 76ers to win the 2022-2023 NBA championship.


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