Philadelphia 76ers 2022/2023 Season Preview
How long can you hold onto a thing like trust? Well ask a Philadelphia 76ers fan and they'll probably tell you since the end of the 2012-13 NBA season, yes that's right, we're almost a decade into The Process!
For a city whose sports fans are known to throw batteries and throw things at a man dressed as Santa Clause, the people of Philadelphia have shown Zen-like patience in their acceptance to "Trust The Process". And following some all-time bad regular season performance, the result of their patience as yielded them a team that could be on the verge of greatness.
'NBA Media Day 2022 Recap' Source: NBA.com
Philadelphia has been the home to many of the great NBA big men. Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Dikembe Mutumbo; Joel Embiid is not the embodiment of their successor, he is instrument in his own destiny. A devastating force from Yaoundé, Cameroon, he has spent his career waiting for the moment to begin his reign as, just maybe, the best player in the NBA.
Coming off his first scoring title win, Embiid will look to continue his established dominance across the Eastern Conference and the NBA as a whole. Coming off a season of 30.6 points per game (on 49/37/81 shooting) it is likely that PPG will see a downtown with a full season of James Harden to help lighten the load. Regardless of the help received from Embiid's star guard teammate, a dominance in and around the paint is unavoidable; coming off a season of 11.7r rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, Embiid is a guaranteed double-double threat with rim protection to boot.
Joel Embiid delivered one of the best dunks of the 2021-22 season. Source: Tim Nwachukwu via Getty Images
Health, as always, has been the biggest concern for Embiid, the 76ers and the fans. Last season he had a career high in games played at 68, if he intends to take that next step towards making a conference finals, making an All-NBA 1st team or winning the NBA's Most Valuable Player trophy, he will need to continue the trend of prior seasons and increase the number of outings this upcoming season. Embiid undoubtedly has the skills, with his combination of vintage soft touch around the rim and explosive strength, showing endurance and longevity will go a long way in the eyes of voters.
This man personifies the rambunctious, in-your-face attitude, fighting spirit of Philadelphia. Having fallen short in consecutive MVP races, runner-up is will not be enough for Embiid.
On the Bad Men, Bad Takes podcast, I once described James Harden as the "baddest man on the planet", there was an era where Harden turned each position into a statement and turned any doubts into sources of wonderment, and for a time, Houston Rockets fans thought that just maybe there really was a connection with something higher.
James Harden in 2022 is, sadly, not that man anymore. No, James Harden doesn't look quite as explosive as he was during his peak years with the Houston Rockets, but considering the heights of his peak, that's a pretty ridiculous standard to hold a 33-year-old point guard to.
Maybe the most appropriate way to analyse Harden's 2021-22 may be relative to others at his age.
Last season, he became just the third player in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists in an age-32 (or older) season, joining LeBron James in 2019-20 and Russell Westbrook in 2020-21.
With his seemingly improved physical attributes, if he can repeat or expanded upon that kind of production, he and perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid should have the Philadelphia 76ers in the title picture.
After spending a total of just 33 games in Philadelphia last year during the regular season and playoffs, Harden will be looking to make a larger impression during the 2022-23 season. There has been a great deal of discussion surrounding the health of Harden following a season in which he was bothered by lingering hamstring issues. However if the recent pictures are any indication, it looks as if Harden is in much better shape heading into training camp than he was when first arriving in Philadelphia.
With a full offseason to get himself into better playing shape, the former MVP looks to turn back the clock. Source: NBA.com
Harden has opened up recently to NBC Sports talking about the mental health strains his form slump has had on him, stating "Mentally, it was very, very difficult for me just because I’m in love with the game...A lot of tough times, lot of dark moments, which I’ve never really went through because I was always healthy and playing. I feel like I’m back to where I needed to be, where I’m supposed to be." Thankfully for all parties involved, Harden concluded his admission of struggle with a optimistic notion he had regained his previous frame of mind, stating "I feel like I’m back to where I needed to be, where I’m supposed to be. The feeling is great."
It is unlikely James Harden has another MVP run in him, but it would be more than just careless optimism to assume he can return to All-NBA form and help Embiid and the 76ers in title contention. Finally, heed this warning, James Harden is going to hurt a lot of people's feelings.
If you looked up 'Dawg' in the dictionary, you'd have a photo of PJ Tucker, and if your dictionary has pictures, you're probably not old enough to be on this site. When the 76ers said, following their 2021-22 campaign, they needed toughness, GM Daryl Morey knew just the guy to call. Willing to defend anyone and shooting 3s above league-average this is the 76ers biggest off-season acquisition.
At present moment, Tucker is the 4th oldest active player in the NBA, but that didn't stop him from playing almost 28 minutes per game in his 71-game stint at Miami.
There may be some concern when a look is taken at the contract he signed; three-year, $33.2 million of fully guaranteed money is nothing to sneeze at when Tucker will be 40 come contract's end, however the rugged veteran is always in demand from contending teams, this could be a Morey gamble that pays out big for this small-ball big man.
Source: @Sixers via Twitter.com
Lost in the top-heavy 2018 NBA draft, is the fact that De'Anthony Melton was originally drafted by Daryl Morey during his tenure in Houston, before an August trade sent him to Phoenix.
Since then Melton has flourished in his back-up role in Memphis, he feels like the necessary 'glue guy' to hold together a second unit. Melton's jack of all trades skillset shows he can be a positive on both ends of the floor.
Source: AP Images/ Chris Szagola
Montrezl Harrell provides an offensive spark off the bench, just ask the 2019-2022 6th Man of the Year trophy in his display case.
While Harrell has his flaws, as the back-up centre for Philadelphia he will provide the team with lethal pick & rolling scoring when paired with Harden, he can also absorb fouls for his other big man teammates (Paul 'BBPaul' Reed PF/36 last year was 6.8!).
Harrell can provide a grit and toughness to satisfy the rabid Philly crows.
Source: AP Images/ Chris Szagola
The excitement around the Philadelphia 76ers is seemingly as high as it's been since the franchise bought into The Process.
Coach Glenn Rivers (Doctorate revoked until further notice) has a valuable chest of assets to mix it up, in tight final seconds requiring a stop he can opt for something like Melton/Thybulle/House/Tucker/Embiid, or on the offence he can utilise Harden and the plethora at his disposal for pick & roll or pick & pop opportunities.
I have no doubt many 76ers fans will find themselves humming and toe-tapping to Here Come the Sixers and spamming the replies of tweets with outlandish videos such as below.
Source: @Sixers via Twitter.com
The Philadelphia 76ers have a real chance to seize their destiny and reward Process fans for their trust in the 2022-23 season.
Ceiling: 1st Seed
Floor: 5th Seed