The Sixers return to action Friday night following their worst loss of the season Wednesday night in Orlando. They’ll now face off against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, who sit at 4-7 on the season after losing by 26 in Indiana Tuesday night. Oklahoma City is currently undergoing their own version of the Process, having jettisoned Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Jerami Grant to accumulate a war chest of 15 picks and four pick swaps over the next seven drafts. Somewhere in California, Sam Hinkie is giving Sam Presti a respectful nod.
Of course, having already had superstars on the roster, the Thunder were better positioned than the Hinkie-era Sixers to acquire those assets while also maintaining an intriguing roster in the present. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks like the crown jewel of the Thunder’s future (to borrow a Brett Brown phrase). In just his second NBA season, Shai is already averaging 20.1 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 40.4 percent from 3, while chipping in 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists. The former Clipper is having the opportunity to flex his skills as more of a scorer and secondary ball handler playing alongside future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul.
Most people assumed the Thunder acquired the 34-year-old Paul to flip him elsewhere, and while they still might trade him down the line, Paul is currently playing 29.5 minutes per game for Oklahoma City. He’s certainly past his Point God prime, but CP3 is still an effective player, averaging 5.5 assists per game and shooting 42.6 percent from 3. I’m intrigued to see if head coach Billy Donovan utilizes his three-guard lineup featuring Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder against the supersized Sixers; those groups have accrued 61 minutes together across 11 games thus far this season.
Aside from contending with the Thunder, the Sixers have their own set of challenges. Tobias Harris is 0-of-18 from 3 over his last five games; you have to go back to the Phoenix game on November 4 for the last time Tobi connected from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Josh Richardson is dealing with minor ankle and hamstring injuries, and while he said if he can walk, he’ll be out there, you would hate to see the team’s best guard defender hindered in any way facing a formidable opposing backcourt.
If Richardson does take the floor, though, the Sixers will have their opening night starting 5 on the court, with Joel Embiid and Al Horford both slated to suit up after each sitting out a leg of the back-to-back earlier this week. Of their four losses this season, only the Jazz game came with the full starting 5 available for Philadelphia. A fair share of the-sky-is-falling folks are already crying out about this Sixers season, but let’s keep a calm head and reserve judgment for how the team looks with all hands on deck.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
When: 8:00 pm ET
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Josh Richardson (probable - ankle, hamstring)
Oklahoma City: Hamidou Diallo (questionable - knee); Andre Roberson (out - knee)