Opening night is nearly upon us and hope springs eternal for just about every team — even the ones racing to the bottom for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.
But the Sixers are a team with plenty of reasons for optimism as they get set to open the season in Boston against the Celtics next Tuesday. The Sixers have two All-Stars, a star on the rise and acquired multiple players to sure up the team’s depth and add much-needed toughness.
SB Nation is asking all its NBA sites to look at the best and worst case scenarios for their respective teams. So, what’s the outlook for the 2022-23 Sixers? Here are a few guesses:
What’s the ‘Best Case’ scenario for your team this season?
This is pretty easy: A healthy Joel Embiid has another MVP-caliber season, James Harden looks like James Harden pre-hamstring injury, Tyrese Maxey continues his ascension into stardom, and Tobias Harris keeps starring in his newfound role. Those things, along with the additions of P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House, Jr., and Montrezl Harrell adding the aforementioned toughness and depth, make the Sixers a legitimate title contender.
The other things I’ll add are the Embiid-Harden offensive partnership continues to blossom and Doc Rivers successfully navigates the backup center situation.
What’s the ‘Worst Case’ scenario for your team this season?
Really, everything with the Sixers boils down to Embiid and Harden. If either of those players suffers any type of significant injury — or in Harden’s case he looks the same as he did at times last postseason — the Sixers’ ceiling shrinks significantly. Maxey plateauing and Tucker looking like a 37-year-old wouldn’t help, either.
And come playoff time, Doc going ride-or-die with Harrell over Paul Reed could be a deja vu disaster.
What’s the ‘Most Likely’ scenario for your team this season?
Embiid is his MVP self, Harden is a version between his early Brooklyn days and what we saw last season, and everyone fills their roles as expected, fortifying the team’s depth and defense. Other than Embiid, the thing I have the most confidence in is Maxey’s star turn. He had a tremendous sophomore season and looked like the best player on the floor for three out of four preseason games. I’m also going to show a little faith in Rivers when it comes to the backup five. Reed seems to have earned his coach’s trust, which should go a long way if Harrell struggles defensively in the postseason.
I know the Sixers aren’t getting a lot of love as far as title odds and to be the team that represents the East in the Finals, but it feels like they’re being overlooked a bit. Smash the over on 50.5 wins and 4.5 for playoff seeding.
What are you most excited for going into this season?
As already mentioned, it’s Maxey. I’m confident he takes another leap in year three, I’m just curious how big of one. Harden’s scoring being down becomes much less of an issue if Maxey can be counted on to score over 20 a game (he averaged 17.5 last season, 20.8 over 12 playoff games). His jumper continues to get better. Pair that with his elite speed and you have a tough player to stop.
Predict your team’s win/loss record for the season.
Acknowledging this is bold as hell, I think they can finish 55-27. They’re legitimately 12 players deep and will have Harden for an entire season playing next to Embiid, who played a career-high 68 games last season. The playoffs could be a different story, but this team should crush the regular season.
Predict your team’s conference seeding.
I’ll say the two seed, but they have a shot at the one. The Bucks, Celtics and Heat will likely round out the top four. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of those four come out of the East.
P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House, Jr., Montrezl Harrell, Julian Champagnie (two-way contract)
Danny Green, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap, (Isaiah Joe and Charles Bassey are being waived)
Last season’s team record
Last season’s conference ranking
Last season’s offensive and defensive rating
114.39 (12th), 111.8 (12th)