At 52-27, the Philadelphia 76ers are all but locked in to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, where they will likely face the Brooklyn Nets in round one and the Boston Celtics in round two, should they get that far.
As the Sixers have had one of the toughest schedules across the league during March and April, they’ve been given a prime opportunity to see how their rotations work in playoff-like scenarios. Almost every opponent the Sixers have played over the last month has serious playoff or title aspirations.
With the playoffs right around the corner, it’s time to ask: how much trust do you have in the Sixers’ depth?
Season Stats: 76 GP, 10.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 42.7 FG%, 39.2 3P%
Melton has easily been the most consistent depth piece on this team, although his role has been anything but. Melton was thrown into the starting lineup early in the season when Tyrese Maxey and James Harden suffered foot injuries, and remained in the starting lineup for a couple months even when Maxey was healthy.
The shuffling of the lineups appeared to have negative effects on both Maxey and Melton, as Melton had his worst three-point shooting month, hitting 35 percent in March. Even with that, he still sits at 39 percent from deep on the season and is the best perimeter defender on the team, and seems settled in as being this team’s sixth man.
Season stats: 76 GP, 8 PPG, 2.1 RBG, 43.6 FG%, 39.7 3P%
After Melton, it does seem like the rest of the rotation is up in the air. While Doc Rivers has played around with different looks, Niang’s minutes have remained consistent more or less all season, despite the fact that elite teams have been able to expose his lack of defensive ability.
Niang’s ability to stay on the floor relies solely on his three-point shot, as he isn’t really physically capable of contributing anywhere else. While it felt like he had a miserable March, he shot 38 percent from deep in the month, only bringing his season percentage just under 40 percent.
Rivers continuing to play Niang isn’t necessarily puzzling — when his shot is falling he is a lethal weapon for James Harden to play around with. What is puzzling is that when Niang stays on the floor when he is struggling, especially when Jalen McDaniels, Danuel House Jr., and even Shake Milton all are more viable options to not get picked on defensively.
Season stats: 66 GP, 3.9 PPG, 3.7 RBG, 0.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Reed has really made the most of his minutes since he became the full-time backup for Embiid in mid-February. He’s been easily the best defensive backup center on the roster, as the Sixers were able to give Embiid some fourth quarters off in March as they were blowing teams out.
His progress on the offensive end has been what’s notable. Rivers has praised him for how his pick-and-roll chemistry with Harden has come along. Reed has also been a menace on the offensive glass, a skill set the rest of the roster really doesn’t have: 1.6 of his 3.7 rebounds per game are coming on the offensive end.
How much time Reed will see in the playoffs is still up in the air, as the team seems pretty intent on using P.J. Tucker at center when the time comes. Despite Reed playing the best basketball of his career, Rivers has been quick to pull him if he struggles in the first half. Regardless of how much time he sees in the playoffs, Reed is the best traditional backup big on this team.
Danuel House Jr.
Season Stats: 53 GP, 4.4 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 48.2 FG%, 35.6% 3P%
After being a human victory cigar for months, House finally got another chance with real minutes in a March 1 win against the Miami Heat. Since then, he is shooting 36 percent from three while also providing energy as one of the most athletic players on the team. Rivers praised House for how he fits in defensively with Reed and McDaniels, giving them tons of switchability.
He seems like the best alternative when Niang struggles against teams filled with athletic wings such as the Celtics. Despite that, House only played 48 seconds in Tuesday’s win, while Niang played 15 minutes.
Sixers season stats: 21 GP, 5.6 PPG, 3 RBG, 48.4 FG%, 36.4%
Despite his inability to finish lobs, McDaniels has come just as advertised in terms of being the athlete the Sixers needed. With McDaniels, Reed and House on the floor the Sixers can play the switch-everything defense that Harden prefers to play.
He may be finding a rhythm on the offensive end as well. Through his first 13 games of March, he made only one three pointer — not exactly the Matisse Thybulle replacement Philly was hoping for. Since last Monday’s loss in Denver, McDaniels is 5 of 8 from downtown. He’ll need to continue to able to hit an open three or two. This team can’t have another player opposing defenses don’t have to guard in the playoffs.
Season stats: 73 GP, 8.1 PPG, 2.5 RBG, 2.8 APG, 48.2%, 38.8 3P%
Rivers said he intends to start his playoff rotation at nine or 10 deep, and likely shrink it as they go from there. While nothing is set in stone yet, Milton has been the odd man out at 11. While the Sixers are fairly deep at guard this year, this is puzzling as Milton has stepped up for this team all year.
He carried a huge scoring load when the team was without Harden, Maxey, and even Embiid for an extended period of time in November. We’re far removed from that stretch of the season, but Milton had his best month as a three-point shooter in March, shooting 42 percent.
Despite this, Milton is often the first player to earn a DNP-CD. In last year’s second round series against the Heat, Milton was thrown back into the rotation when it was clear the injured Niang couldn’t hang, but it was an adjustment made too late. It will be interesting to see if the team is faced with a similar decision in this year’s playoffs.
On the whole, how much trust do you have in the Sixers bench?
This poll is closed
Little to none