Let's be real for a minute: The Sixers are third on the Philly sports pecking order right now. The Phils are dancing on their own, all the way to the NLCS, and the Birds just showed those frauds in Dallas who daddy is.
In the back of everyone's mind, we are all thinking, there is too much winning going on. Sounds crazy right? But the Sixers have built a dynasty in the vibe killing department.
The happiest group of people that the Sixers really aren't being talking about much in the city right now, is the Sixers. This season, more than ever, presents a great chance to recharge and to become the powerhouse we know they are capable of being. Getting off to a good start is the main focus of every team at the beginning of each season, but for the 76ers: they need get off to a good start just to keep up.
First 6 Games:
- Oct 18 @ Boston Celtics
- Oct 20 vs Milwaukee Bucks
- Oct 22 vs San Antonio Spurs
- Oct 24 vs Indiana Pacers
- Oct 26 @ Toronto Raptors
- Oct 28 @ Toronto Raptors
*Key games in bold
With Philadelphia facing off against conference rivals in four of the first six games, we will get a good measure of what this team has in-store for the 22-23 campaign. With three out of those four games being on the road, another layer of the barometer will be imminent.
The roster at its current state, I believe the Sixers, at their peak, are a top three team in the NBA. So, the first two weeks of the season should be less about their opponents and more about the 76ers success internally.
Joel Embiid will continue his MVP campaign and it will start with game one. Without Rob Williams, the Celtics will most likely put Al Horford on Embiid. Horford at times has given Joel fits, but that changes tonight. Expect Joel to get to the free throw line as Boston gets in early foul trouble.
James Harden will get tested right out of the gate vs two of the leagues best perimeter defenders. In Boston, you can expect Marcus Smart to be all up in Harden's face (as he usually is). If Harden can win the battle vs Smart tonight, you take away one of the biggest strengths of the Celtics that got them to the finals last season. Thursday, in the home opener, it is presumed Jrue Holiday will get the Harden assignment. We will know very early on in the season about the health of Harden's hamstring.
We can talk all day long, even weeks, possibly years, about how phenomenal Tyrese Maxey is. Just an overall great guy, on and off the court. And there is no doubt he is going to have a great year. A slow start for Maxey could be the detriment to all-star season, however. If you have watched Tyrese hoop, he's a confidence and rhythm type of guy with a huge motor. And it's clear that his bad shooting nights will occur, but at that point it will just be damage control. When Tyrese, James, and Joel are hitting on all cylinders, Philadelphia becomes damn near unbeatable.
I don't expect Tobias Harris to be flying out of the gate. For the third season in a row, he will have to adapt his game to the style of the offense, and history shows it takes time for Tobias to find his footing. With him being more of a small foward in the offense, a learning curve will appear. And with the star power we have, it's ok that Harris isn't at his best all the time, and that has not been the case in years prior.
PJ Tucker: Play defense and shoot 3s. That's literaly it. You do that and Sixers could be in first place after just a few games.
Matisse Thybulle did not meet the deadline for his rookie extension yesterday (thank the lord), so this is 100% a proving season for Thybulle. He needs to play with a chip on his shoulder, as if he deserved the extension.
The less Georges Niang does, the better. No need to dribble or pass, just chuck it up. On defense, try not be the worst defender in the league. But just shoot, that's it. And please, nobody wants to see the 1-inch vertical, so don't jump either.
The bench as a whole is miles better than last season and this is where I will give the Sixers an advantage over the Celtics. The addition of De'Anthony Melton will pay dividends and his defense will be must needed tonight. Expect Shake to have a couple heat checks tonight as well as the ball handler with the bench unit.
It is going to be very difficult to keep the Jay's quiet for the Celtics. Brown and Tatum are both premier wing scorers and defenders in the league, they are going to get theirs. It's everybody else we have to worry about. An Al Horford masterclass will feel like a truck mauling over our souls. And the player I am worried about the most is Derrick White. Those are the type of guys the Sixers can't let be them.
Season opener tonight in Boston. 7:30pm, TNT. Everyone prepare for another season of heartbreak.