As the opening of the new season draws closer and closer, USA Basketball continues its traditional presentation, franchise by franchise, of the upcoming NBA season. Like every year, this one takes the form of a countdown, from the worst record in the league to our favorite for the title of champion.
Today, we continue our ascent to the top of the Eastern Conference with a must in Philadelphia, where the 76ers have been used to the top of the table for almost five years now, without managing to really approach the title, with another elimination in the conference semi-finals.
A season in two acts
Last season was even a step backwards in the collective progress of the club as it was particularly eventful.
It all started with the Ben Simmons episode, during the second round series of the 2021 playoffs against the Hawks. In the “money-time” of a Game 7 that the 76ers lost a few minutes later, the Australian transmitted the leather to Matisse Thybulle in the “corner” rather than crushing a ready-made dunk in front of a helpless Trae Young. Causing misunderstanding in his own camp, and the anger of fans of the franchise…
The beginning of a long showdown between the Australian player and his club. After complicated months, marked by a public battle, straddling the offseason and the start of the 2021/22 financial year, the two camps were finally able to turn the page, in February as the “trade deadline” approached. , when Ben Simmons was sent to Brooklyn in exchange for James Harden. A relief for everyone, each finding his account.
For the 76ers, it was the start of the second act of their season, of sorts. Daryl Morey thus finding his favorite bearded man, to associate him with Joel Embiid.
But this new project was ultimately a mixed success, because while the 76ers admittedly won 16 of their 24 remaining regular season games after the arrival of James Harden, they nevertheless stalled, once again, in the second round of the playoffs, against the Heat (4-2). The fault, in particular, of the multiple physical glitches of the pivot of the 76ers, of an MVP level in the regular season but who ended his season on the kneecaps, and the disappointing level of play of the leader, not at the level physically and overall underperforming in Pennsylvania.
Tyrese, the Maxey satisfaction
The misfortune of some is often the happiness of others, and in Philadelphia, it was the imbroglio around Ben Simmons that fully benefited Tyrese Maxey.
In the prolonged absence of the Australian, the 76ers dragster, after a satisfactory rookie season, joined the five majors in his second year, in the key position of playmaker, and assumed this new status brilliantly. With a logically increased playing time (from 15.3 minutes to 35.3 minutes), he has indeed more than doubled his contribution to points (8 to 17.5) and assists (2 to 4.3), and almost to rebounds (1.7 to 3.2) !
Always aggressive towards the circle, skilful behind the arc, altruistic when necessary and voluntary in defense, the former Kentucky was certainly one of the greatest satisfactions of the season, not only in Pennsylvania but on the scale of all the league.
After the arrival of James Harden in February, he returned to a more natural position as a scoring back. And more broadly, after two first seasons of development, he found his comfort zone in the device of Doc Rivers.
Entering his third season, he is unquestionably the 76ers’ third most important player.
A real new start this season
With only 21 matches played in the jersey of the 76ers last season, James Harden considers in any case that this new fiscal year 2022/23 constitutes, in a personal capacity, his real new start.
” The set is basically a fresh start and a new setting. It’s a full boot camp, and there are times and periods when you have dead legs or stiff legs. But these are the times you just gotta get over it “he said in particular at the beginning of the month.
Recovered from his physical glitches, in particular a failing thigh, more integrated than ever into his team’s project after a financial effort which made it possible to recruit his former teammates PJ Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell, “The Beard” seems indeed today in a better sphere, both physically and mentally, than when he arrived in Philly eight months ago.
The same certainly goes for Joel Embiid, physically worn out at the end of the playoff campaign last spring, and who (literally) regained his health this summer, by repairing his right hand bruised by a tear in the ligament of the thumb. .
– Arrivals PJ Tucker (Heat), Danuel House Jr. (Knicks), De’Anthony Melton (Grizzlies), Montrezl Harrell (Hornets)
– Departures DeAndre Jordan (Nuggets), Danny Green (Grizzlies), Paul Millsap
PLAYER TO WATCH: James Harden
With Joel Embiid finishing second in MVP voting and Tyrese Maxey posting one of the most satisfying progressions in the entire league last year, he is de facto quite logical that expectations in Philadelphia this season are geared towards James Harden.
A little less in the spotlight for the past two seasons, the 2018 MVP, now 33, must raise his level of play to give his squad a chance to collectively revive after a laborious 2021/22 season. Especially since the 76ers have strengthened well this summer, and certainly have a shot in the Eastern Conference, if health holds for everyone…
After openly discussing his physical issues in recent months, the former Thunder and Rockets player seems much sharper in camp for the 76ers this year, and that’s a good start.
In the game, we will also expect James Harden to find a little more bite in attack, he who sometimes seemed too wait-and-see during the last playoffs, especially against the Heat. Of course, no one will ask him to replicate his offensive contribution from the end of the 2010s, especially since he is well surrounded in attack with Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey or even Tobias Harris and therefore does not need to be in overdrive. But the rear must not forget that he remains a formidable striker, which the 76ers will need more than once this season.
Average age : 26.6
Payroll: $169 million (14th)
THE IDEAL SCENARIO
The second part of the 2021/22 season was just a warm-up, a first taste of this team’s potential. Because this season, the 76ers are moving up a gear and displaying a much higher ceiling.
Thanks in the first place to his trio: Joel Embiid is still as dominant and maintains an MVP-caliber level of play, while Tyrese Maxey continues to progress and James Harden displays a much more convincing face than that of the season. former.
Health holds all year for the three pillars of the club, all three named to the All-Star Game in February.
The “Rockets Connection” works, too: Houston alumni – PJ Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell – shine in the shadows, while De’Anthony Melton and Furkan Korkmaz provide offensive punch and energy. external address at bench output. In short, the 76ers display a balanced and serious game.
Thus, at the end of the regular season, the troop of Doc Rivers has secured a place on the podium of the East and therefore begins the playoffs with the advantage of the field and an excellent momentum. In addition, everyone is in good health, unlike last year’s campaign… Philly is logically a serious candidate for the title.
Difficult to get excited about this new season of the 76ers, which is very similar to the previous one.
First, the integration of James Harden is still not optimal. The back has however given himself the means to bounce back during the summer, and he clearly appears physically lighter and turns easily in 20/10… but the mayonnaise simply does not take on the ground. Joel Embiid, in the continuity of his 2021/22 exercise, nevertheless continues his business of demolishing all the rackets in the league, and it takes that to keep his club in the Top 6 in the regular season.
In fact, overall, the 76ers season is far from ridiculous since the club has a largely positive balance sheet, but we feel that the collective ceiling is not higher than last season. Despite summer recruits who do the job, and the constant progression of Tyrese Maxey…
Thus, after a much flatter regular season than expected, the 76ers are in the playoffs, but they have stagnated. Having had to force on his physique, Joel Embiid is once again on the kneecaps for the “postseason”. Philadelphia is still in a good position to pass the first round, but not the second.