We are less than one week away from NBA opening night, which means it’s time for everyone to submit their final preseason prognoses before the action gets underway. The Ringer released their updated Top 100 NBA Player Rankings, and the Philadelphia 76ers have four players on the list: Tobias Harris (83), Tyrese Maxey (52), James Harden (36), and Joel Embiid (6).
It’s hard to argue about Tobias Harris’ slotting, who has settled into the above average starter, not quite an All-Star role. It’s interesting that Harris earns the On-Ball Defense icon, something that would have seemed crazy five years ago or so, but it’s an area of his game he’s turned into a real strength and I’m glad to see it recognized. A couple guys ahead of him I would probably argue Tobias could be above (Bojan Bogdanovic, Malcolm Brogdon), but I could make a contrary case for a couple below (Jaden McDaniels, Bruce Brown), so this is probably about where Harris belongs.
I would say The Ringer is a little pessimistic about Maxey’s prospects, especially after we recently saw him one spot ahead of Harden in the low 40’s on ESPN’s NBARank exercise. The staff seems particularly hung up on what Maxey hasn’t had to do yet, as Michael Pina writes:
“He did not have to run the show. He did not have to set up teammates, deal with complicated defensive schemes, or assume the responsibilities held by most other 22-year-old budding All-Star candidates.”
I’m betting on Maxey overcoming whatever obstacle is placed in front of him, though. He’s well-established as an incredibly hard worker. He slid in the draft in part because of shooting concerns, so he went out and became one of the very best shooters in the world. Anyone who comes across this young man seems utterly charmed by him. Tyrese will figure out whatever he needs to figure out.
It’s impossible to really know where to place James Harden. I thought Chris Ryan captured the dichotomy of the Harden experience very well:
“Sometimes that means a 45-point outburst in a playoff game against Boston, and sometimes he demands a trade and calls his general manager a liar at a promotional event in China. In between those two extremes is a floor-raising playmaker. Just not a very dependable one.”
On a given night, he can still play like a top-15 guy in the league, but there are maybe 75 guys you would rather have on your team just to avoid the headache. Unless you are a Clippers executive reading this, then I would say James is lovely in every way and any organization would be extremely lucky to have him.
Previously, this is the point when I would have argued about having the reigning MVP all the way down at six, particularly with the Celtics-biased Ringer staff slotting Jayson Tatum one spot above him. However, with the last game of consequence for Joel Embiid being Game 7 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and given how each of those players performed in that particular game, I’m just going to go back to watching some Phils highlights.
Do you feel anyone on the list is particularly overhyped or extremely slighted? Discuss in the comments.