James Harden wants out, but Morey and company are patiently waiting for the right return. (Where have we heard that before?) The murkiness of Harden’s trade request has left more questions than answers for the team’s roster construction.
But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom! A few of you hit me with questions on Twitter and I’m going to do my best to answer them.
If you were to put a percentage on it, what are the chances Joel Embiid requests a trade at some point this season?— Lior (@LiorLampert1) July 24, 2023
Let’s get this one out of the way first.
I’d put the chances at less than 1%. I’d honestly be shocked if he does it at any point this season. He seems to trust Daryl Morey and he does feel a real loyalty to Philadelphia.
Remember, this is an organization that took a really big chance on him in 2014. Many folks thought Embiid would never play an NBA game, but the organization gave him the opportunity to sit out two seasons to let his navicular bone heal properly. Those injuries have been a death knell to the careers of NBA bigs, but Embiid is basically a decade removed from the original injury and is still seemingly ascending at the age of 29. They were patient and he’s rewarded their patience in a big way. Despite the second-round stagnation, this has been a successful marriage.
Another factor: Tyrese Maxey. The only other teammate I’ve seen Embiid enjoy being around this much is Jimmy Butler. Embiid has affectionately referred to Maxey as the best player on the team on multiple occasions. They have a genuine bond and Maxey, still just 22, has All-Star potential (more on that in a bit).
It’s not lip service when Embiid talks about playing his entire career in Philadelphia, but things can certainly change in a hurry in the NBA. If the return for James Harden isn’t very good and the team isn’t as competitive as Embiid would hope, maybe he gets antsy. But the Sixers will be in an interesting position as possibly the only competitive team with cap space next summer. There could be a few interesting names to hit the market. Morey has undoubtedly kept Embiid in the loop with his long-term plan.
In summation: I strongly doubt Embiid asks for a trade during the season and things would have to go disastrously in 2023-24 for him to consider doing so next offseason. Another note: the Sixers have zero desire to trade Embiid, so he would likely have to ask out for it to ever happen.
Do you think Embiid with Reed at the 4 can work under Nick Nurse? And How?— Marvin Kline (@mklinejr) July 25, 2023
This has been one of the more interesting non-Harden storylines this summer. To answer it simply, yes, I believe Reed at the four can work with Embiid at the five.
B-Ball Paul said that head coach Nick Nurse wants to mold Reed into a Pascal Siakam-like player. Most likely Nurse isn’t saying he can develop Reed into an All-NBA player, but that there are other ways to use such a versatile and athletic player. When watching the Raptors over the years, I actually see a guy like Chris Boucher as being a solid template for Reed. If Reed can develop into something in between Siakam and Boucher, that’s a damn good player.
It’s really all going to come down to the jumper. Reed is 3 for 20 in his NBA career from beyond the arc. The reason for optimism is Reed’s G League MVP season, in which he shot 44.4 percent from deep on a healthy sample size (24 of 54). In watching workout videos and his outing at the Brotherly Love ProAm, Reed does appear to be working the hitch out of his shot. Reed was also constantly praised for his work ethic by Doc Rivers and the previous coaching staff.
Reed feels like one of those guys you don’t bet against. Rivers saw him more as a solid backup five (though he’d often say he believed Reed’s ultimate position was the four) that offered rim protection and could be a decent screener/roller. Nurse evidently sees more.
Realistic chances at Jaden Springer getting a shot at regular rotation minutes at the beginning of the season?— Brandon Apter (@bapter223) July 24, 2023
This might hinge on what happens in any type of Harden trade. If Harden is back somehow, Springer will be firmly behind Harden, Maxey, De’Anthony Melton and most likely Patrick Beverley (basing that off Morey’s gushing over Beverley during that 97.5 appearance). If Harden is gone, it’s possible another guard(s) makes their to way Philly — or that Springer himself is elsewhere.
In the clean scenario where Harden is moved and the team brings back no experienced guards, I’d say Springer has a decent chance to get rotation minutes. Maxey and Melton are your starting duo, then you’re rolling out Beverley and Springer to put opposing backcourts in hell. Melton and Beverley have had success in the past guarding up, depending on the matchup. Springer has the frame and strength to do so as well.
The offensive game being so raw is the only thing holding him back — most notably the jumper. There were flashes during the summer league, but nothing consistent enough to suggest he’d help space the floor for a player like Embiid. His ability as a slasher is there. His finishing got better as the summer league progressed. He also has a knack for getting to the line. The shot is the final piece.
The big thing to remember with Springer is that he’s still somehow only 20 years old. I anticipate the Sixers will want to get a longer look at him this season. If Nurse gives him run, it’ll be because of how good Springer has already looked as an NBA defender, but he has a long way to go on the other end.
Can you think of any reason at all to be excited about this season? Because I'm struggling to find one.— Deadboy90 (@deadboy90d) July 26, 2023
Yeah, this is fair given the current state of the roster, but I’ve got a few for you.
As already mentioned, Reed and Springer bring a level of excitement to the team. Young, athletic players actually getting playing time on an otherwise plodding team?! What a concept!
I’ll give you two more big reasons: Maxey and Nurse.
Maxey is still just 22 years old and has taken jumps in each of his first three NBA seasons. He averaged 20.3 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from three. Only two other players have hit at least 40 percent of their threes (on at least six attempts per game) while averaging 20 points a game at 22 or younger: Tyrese Haliburton (who also did it last season) and Jayson Tatum.
Playmaking is really the next developmental step for Maxey. If you recall, while Ben Simmons was holding out and before the team acquired Harden, Maxey was running things. During that stretch, Maxey was averaging 4.6 assists to just 1.2 turnovers a game. He was at 5.4 assists over the last 14 games before Harden’s arrival. It would’ve been interesting to see how much more he could’ve grown. It appears there’s a strong chance he gets that opportunity this season.
With respect to Doc Rivers, Nurse is a massive upgrade. It wasn’t that long ago that people considered Nurse the best coach in the NBA. He’s still likely in the top five. He’s innovative and unpredictable — two words you would never use to describe Rivers. While it’s fair to note Toronto’s development of players sort of stagnated by the end of Nurse’s tenure, he deserves credit for guys like Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby becoming impact players.
It’ll be fascinating to see how Nurse uses Embiid and Maxey, most notably. Nurse mentioned that he felt like the Sixers were predictable offensively at times in the postseason. The Celtics would probably agree. We all know Nurse isn’t afraid to throw out some funky defensive schemes. We’ll see if he can help the Sixers’ offense after Toronto’s half-court struggles the past couple seasons.
The last thing I’ll add: this team has the freaking reigning MVP. I get folks are down on Embiid and the team after the way last postseason ended, but the Sixers have only had four other MVPs in the entire history of the franchise. We should all enjoy him while we can — because who knows when the sixth MVP will arrive.
when will the pain stop— The Notorious S.E.B. (@bigseb31213) July 24, 2023
Existence is pain to a Meeseeks (or a Sixers fan ).