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Ranking the Sixers roster based on fanbase approval

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These rankings are official but also not.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Only 10 games remain in this bizarre 2020-21 season, which means it’s the perfect time to assess the roster not based on where each player ranks in terms of value, but where they rank in our collective Sixers fan hearts. NOTE — these are not exactly how I would rank some players. Sure, I’d agree with quite a few of the slots I’ve selected for this piece, but the point here is to rank the players based on how I believe the Sixers fanbase views them as a whole. If that feels vague, it’s supposed to be! I’m sure many of you will disagree with me, so feel free to let me know what you would change in the comments. Let’s get into it!

1. Joel Embiid

Duh.

2. Tobias Harris

Leading off with a gif because this one just fits too well.

A year ago, many a Philadelphia fan would have rationally placed the $180 million dollar man near the bottom of these rankings, ahead of a man whose name rhymes with Mal Morford. He was overpaid, wasn’t helping, bombed in the playoffs for the second consecutive season, and worst of all, had four more years of gargantuan salary staring the Sixers in the face.

The 2021 season has belonged to Embiid first and foremost, but Harris’ elevation to being good enough that a slight overpay is acceptable and doesn’t hurt the team is incredible. He brings it practically every night on offense, scoring at least 10 points in all but two games this season according to Basketball Reference, and grinding more effectively on defense having been shifted down to his proper power forward position. I, as many of you know, criticized Tobi’s flaws and weird tendencies to no end prior to this season, and I’m beyond happy that the past few months have been a constant reel of him proving me wrong. Tobias Harris rules, man.

3. Paul Reed

The only things holding him back from the number one, undisputed top spot in the approval ratings of the universe are playing time and a lack of superstar recognition outside of the Sixers Twittersphere. I’m pretty sure Bball Paul could quite literally dump a bucket of mud on top of every single person in the Wells Fargo Center simultaneously and he’d still be beloved and cherished.

It’s always a great day when the Bball gets Pauled.

4. Matisse Thybulle

Remember at the start of the season when ‘Tisse had all but fallen out of the rotation and was getting tossed into every conceivable trade? Oh how things have changed.

Thybulle has a legitimate claim to being the best perimeter defender in the NBA, with the only thing holding him back from First Team All-Defense recognition being a lack of playing time. Of course, he doesn’t see the court as much as the other stoppers around the league due to his severe offensive limitations, but there’s something incredibly endearing about a player who has 99.99% of his value derived on one end of the court make a more than sustainable career that way.

Watching Thybulle absolutely obliterate the pull-up jumper of a poor, unsuspecting guard every night is worth the price of admission and/or a cable subscription. Never before has watching defense been this much fun.

5. Tyrese Maxey

Now if these were Doc Rivers’ approval ratings, the beloved T-Max might be ranked in the bottom three. It makes sense why Maxey hasn’t always been a net positive this season (because practically every 6-foot-2 rookie guard in NBA history isn’t), and his lack of a trustworthy 3-point shot limits what he can do on offense. And yet, he’s so freaking fast with the ball in his hands that he can still dart to the rim and wrong-foot defenders on crafty lay-ups and floaters galore.

According to Cleaning the Glass, Maxey finishes 61 percent of his shots at the basket, good for the 53rd percentile among combo guards, and more importantly, the frequency with which he takes shots at the rim ranks in the 75th percentile among said guards. Lay-ups remain the most efficient field goal attempts in basketball, and as a rookie, Maxey has already shown that he can generate those attempts with relative ease.

Also — he’s extremely cool.

6. Danny Green

First of all, it has to be said:

Danny is a bizarre man who shoots 3s like someone smacked his elbow with a ruler midway through his release, yet he makes most of them anyways, and has built a fantastic professional career despite the fact that I’m not entirely confident he could dribble through a 2-2-1 press from an average high school team. Heck, his two trademark GOAT abilities in the NBA are the moonwalk corner 3 as Zach Lowe detailed in his 10 things column this past week, and his uncanny abliity to get deflections and break up 2-on-1’s in transition defense.

He’s a weird-as-can-be goofball and I absolutely love him, as does most of the Sixers fanbase. He has a winning impact on the team and is good for a quick bit of comedic relief on a nightly basis. Love it.

7. Seth Curry

Curry likely would have seen his name higher on this list had it been published during the first or second month of the season, as he was gunning for mind-breaking shooting splits of 50-50-100. He’s “cooled off” to a mere 45-43-90 line for the season (gonna be hard for him to get that raw FG% up), and he occasionally draws the ire of the fanbase with his reluctance to shoot staring-you-in-the-face-it’s-so-wide-open 3s.

And yet, he’s still beloved simply because he can shoot the ball. Having suffered through so many players losing their ability to shoot the moment they suit up for the Sixers, it’s been great to see that Seth hasn’t lost his shooting touch while in the City of Brotherly Love.

8. Dwight Howard

Is it weird to say that this honestly feels a bit too low for Dwight? The big guy earned the distinction of the best backup center the Sixers have had during the Joel Embiid era in about 10 seconds of play, and his flamboyant persona both during games and on the court prior to the action has been nothing but joyful. He’s out there living his best life as he rams home dunks, inhales rebounds, smacks opponents like he’s really mad at flies that land on his desk and waves to the WFC crowd all the while.

Those extracurricular on-court plays are perhaps the only thing dinging him on this list. Some may argue that his proclivity for technical and flagrant fouls only makes him more endearing, but at some point, his antics do become a problem for the team’s bottom line of winning games. Add in the occasional cold stretch and it’s enough to keep him out of the top tier of approval, but still, to my knowledge, the fanbase holds Dwight in surprisingly high esteem at this moment.

9. George Hill

Feels somewhat high for a guy who has only averaged 5.7 points per game through six games as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, but Hill has been the normal, off-the-bench guard the fanbase has sought after for so long. He hits shots off the dribble, makes connecting passes, and fulfills the role on defense that is required of him. People were getting understandably worried about the veteran as his DNP-Injury counts piled up in the weeks following the deadline trade, but since stepping on the court, he’s established himself as a guy who will most definitely see important playoff minutes.

Only a short time into his Sixers tenure, Hill hasn’t given the fanbase any reason to turn on him yet.

10. Furkan Korkmaz

I think my ranking of Kormaz at nine speaks more to how likable the 2021 rendition of the Sixers is rather than to any disliking of the 23-year-old Turkish wing. After starting off the season cold from behind the arc (an ugly 30.8 percent from 3 in his first 20 games), he’s been on a tear over the past two months, shooting a blistering 42.7 percent from behind the arc over his last 29 games.

Additionally, he’s become surprisingly acceptable as a ball-handler alongside Shake Milton in second units. Even though it doesn’t look pretty, he’s capable of dribbling the ball versus pressure without completely stumbling over himself. He’s still prone to JR Smith/Dion Waiters-esque moments of irrational confidence from game to game, and his 73.4 percent mark on free throws is frustratingly low for a shooter of his caliber. Yet ask any Sixers fan what they think of Furk, and the answer is likely to be one leaning toward positive feelings.

11. Ben Simmons

Definitely the hardest player to rank. Some would argue he has to be top five seeing that he’s a three-time All Star, a legit candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and a homegrown star in the city of Philadelphia. Others would scream and denounce him as deserving of the absolute bottom spot on this list due to reasons everyone who isn’t living under a rock understands.

I think this spot at 10 — in the lower half of the approval rankings, but a good bit removed from the worst distinction on this list — is correct. If it’s a chat between Sixers fans themselves, they’re more than willing to pontificate on Simmons’ shortcomings and how those could hurt both him and the team as a whole come the postseason. However, if non-Sixers fans (most notably those located in the state of Utah) come after the 6-foot-10 Aussie, the fanbase will defend him with fervor as one of their beloved sons.

Sixers fans know that Ben Simmons is far from perfect, but at the end of the day, they know that he’s still one of us, and that matters more than anything.

12. Shake Milton

If this were a ranking of how I myself personally approved of each member of the Sixers roster, Milton would find himself much higher on this list, perhaps even in the top five. He’s my Twitter avatar for a reason. I just love the guy.

He’s been asked to do the hardest thing in basketball — create and make shots off the dribble against a set half-court defense — virtually all by his lonesome due to Doc’s preference for playing all-bench lineups, giving that gigantic load to the former 55th overall pick.

Naturally, his season has been filled with constant stretches of hot and cold play, going from an early-season Sixth Man of the Year candidate to someone whose value in a future playoff series has been questioned online.

Shake Milton’s Season by Segments

Stats vs Dates Dec 23 to Jan 20 Jan 21 to Feb 27 Feb 28 to April 4 April 6 to April 21
Stats vs Dates Dec 23 to Jan 20 Jan 21 to Feb 27 Feb 28 to April 4 April 6 to April 21
Points P/G 16.8 10.5 15.1 8.9
TS% 62.2 46.7 57.3 48.4
3PT% 35.3 25.6 37.8 38.5
FTA/G 4.4 2.5 2.9 1.25

I compiled those stats for last week’s episode of the Talking About Podcast, and in the five games he’s played since that episode, he’s averaging 11.8 points on 48.2 TS% and 40 percent shooting from 3. Not great, but better than the stretch he had been on just before. So Shake’s been a little inconsistent this season, and that’s okay. I think he’s deserving of more praise and appreciation than he currently receives, but just going off what I see on my timeline every night, this feels like the right spot for him in terms of the sentiment of the overall fanbase.

13. Rayjon Tucker

As is the case with both Tucker and the next two players on the list, they’re simply a bit lower due their absence from the regular rotation, giving Sixers fans little on-court play of which to approve. They’re all fine and none are discussed as actual negatives on the roster.

Tucker has been fun in his short stint thus far, bouncing around the court as if “he has flubber in his shoes” according to my Talking About co-host Sean Kennedy, which is all the more evident if you check out some of his incredible pre-game dunks.

14. Isaiah Joe

The Promise. Chicken Joe. The slim sniper who takes 78.6 percent of his shots from 3. It’s Isaiah Joe.

Again, he’s still well-liked, with almost no one in the rational fanbase holding ill-will against the rookie second-round pick. Sure, he’s down to 33.7 percent from deep on the season and 26.5 percent since February 12, after beginning the first month and half of play at a solid 38.7 3PT%, but there’s no reason to panic. Joe looks like a second-round pick who might one day be a part of the regular rotation. Fine stuff.

15. Mason Jones

Jones is the Sixers player fans have seen the least of, having only seen 27 minutes on the court since signing in Philadelphia. I shall continue to bang the drum for him, seeing that I was not only high on him coming into the draft, but declared that he was one of the weirdest, most enjoyable players to watch in the entire 2020 class. Relish this video of him making cool shots at Arkansas.

16. Anthony Tolliver

Word for word, here is a text I sent to my esteemed co-host Sean the other day:

“Tolliver is Danny Green if he couldn’t shoot and never got deflections on defense.”

“I.e. he’s kind of useless rn”

Sean’s response — “Yeah no value whatsoever. He needs to be gone yesterday.”

Ouch.

17. Mike Scott

Why the Hive leader behind Tolliver for being the least-approved-of 76ers player? Because deep down, Sixers fans know that Tolliver ultimately won’t do anything in the games that matter. Doc Rivers isn’t going to give him playoff minutes, and thus, while he isn’t helping the team in any visible way, he won’t be actively hurting them either.

Scott, however, is 100000000% getting serious playoff minutes, maybe even a playoff start for Embiid’s regularly scheduled game missed due to injury. Rivers clearly has an infatuation with the tall, occasionally accurate, but more often than not inaccurate 3-point shooter, and given that Sixers fans already scream bloody murder on the Twittersphere when Scott tanks regular season games, imagine what will happen if he posts an 0-for-6 with three turnovers in Game 3 against Brooklyn. I’d recommend Mr. Scott simply break his phone should that happen.

In all honesty, I’m not as opposed to Scott as many of my fellow LB colleagues and Sixers fan friends are, as evidenced by my defense of him during his hottest streak of the season. Additionally, I’ll feel forever indebted to him for his game- and pretty much series-winning 3 against the Nets back in the 2019 playoffs, but as of now, I feel pretty confident saying that Scott leads the team in having negative tweets centered around him on a nightly basis, earning him the dishonor of the least-approved-of Sixers player with the regular season drawing to a close.