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Rotation Trust Level: Depleted bench stepping up in marquee games

Joel Embiid returned to the lineup, but the Sixers’ depth has taken a big hit with injuries. Still, the bench has come through in big spots.

Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sixers followed up their first three-game losing streak of the season by winning three nationally-televised games at home. This was capped off Tuesday night with a 126-121 win over Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

While Joel Embiid returned to the lineup this week, the Sixers’ depth continues to be a revolving door of injuries. Robert Covington, who has yet to suit up in 2024, has dealt with a nagging knee injury the entire season.

De’Anthony Melton will miss at least the next two games. The official reason from the team is lumbar spine stress response. Nick Nurse said that if the team needed Melton to suit up he probably could, but with four months of regular season basketball left to go, the Sixers are erring on the side of caution.

The team doesn't even have the reserve wings to fill in for those guys at the moment. Jaden Springer hasn’t been able to suit up the last two games due to an ankle injury and Danuel House Jr. suffered a lower back contusion at the end of Monday’s win against the Houston Rockets. That’s already caused House to miss a game.

The Sixers have even been without Mo Bamba, who is coming off his best basketball of the season. He's been sidelined for two games with a fat pad impingement in his right knee.

Even with the injuries, Tuesday’s game felt very much like a playoff game — a rare feeling for a midweek game in January. So, how does the Sixers’ depth hold up against the league’s very best?

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Oubre has been Nurse’s first choice to replace Melton in the starting lineup, and the benefits of that were evident Monday against the Rockets. Oubre had four steals in the game, able to sag off his man and pick the pocket of Alperen Sengun repeatedly.

When he's locked in, Oubre has been very good defensively this year, and his addition in the starting lineup makes that group of five a very tall, long group. Perhaps it is his bouncing in and out of the starting lineup, but Oubre hasn’t been as consistent on the offensive end of the floor since returning from his accident.

He’s shot 18% from three in his last four games, but his stretch of hero ball in the third quarter Tuesday against the Nuggets was really concerning. He missed a three which killed Philly’s momentum, allowing Denver to get back in the game.

After another bad shot and silly foul, Nurse yanked Oubre for Patrick Beverley, and stuck with that decision for the rest of the game.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Kelly Oubre Jr.?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    A lot
    (202 votes)
  • 37%
    Meh
    (123 votes)
  • 0%
    Little to none
    (3 votes)
328 votes total Vote Now

Patrick Beverley

Beverley rewarded Nurse’s trust to have him close the game.He played the last 18 minutes of the contest being a general nuisance to Jamal Murray. Beverley told reporters after the game, “This type of Lamborghini is ready for any type of minutes a game.”

He’s come exactly as advertised on the defensive end, and the offensive prowess he’s shown lately has really been surprising. Since the first 16 games of the season, where he shot 13% from three, Beverley is shooting 46% from the field and 37% from three-point range.

He has completely adapted the old man at the YMCA bag, meandering his way in the paint until he gets up a hook shot. He’s given the second unit a ton of life simply by being competent at dribbling the basketball.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Pat Bev?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    A lot
    (345 votes)
  • 28%
    Meh
    (138 votes)
  • 1%
    Little to none
    (9 votes)
492 votes total Vote Now

Mo Bamba

No seriously, what the hell is a fat pad impingement. This was rough timing for Bamba, because after earning more minutes last week in Atlanta, he followed it up with another solid showing against the Sacramento Kings.

He had 11 points, shooting 4-of-6 from the field, knocking down both of his three-pointers and blocked four shots. Bamba’s ability to stay on the floor will always come down to whether he’s taking threes and blocking shots or not, and for now, he’s been doing exactly that when he’s been on the court.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Mo Bamba?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A lot
    (118 votes)
  • 44%
    Meh
    (529 votes)
  • 45%
    Little to none
    (545 votes)
1192 votes total Vote Now

Marcus Morris Sr.

Fresh off receiving the key to the city, Morris is on another heater from three-point range. In his last four games he is shooting 50% from downtown, pushing his season average back up to 44%.

It’ll be interesting to see if Morris continues to be one of Nurse’s first guys off the bench with the trade deadline less than a month away. Making an expiring $17 million this year, Morris is the most moveable contract on the team and has come up as someone who could be moved in almost any trade rumor.

Still, with the amount of injuries on the bench, Morris has continued to be a heavy minutes guy that the team has relied on to win games now. He had another massive four-point play, this one again in the fourth quarter, tying the game with the Nuggets just before Joel Embiid checked back into the game.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Marcus Morris Sr.?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    A lot
    (216 votes)
  • 54%
    Meh
    (825 votes)
  • 30%
    Little to none
    (466 votes)
1507 votes total Vote Now

Paul Reed

Just like Bamba, Basketball Paul bounced back just in time for the big fella to return to the lineup. His most impactful performance was Friday against the Kings, where he grabbed eight rebounds, five on the offensive end of the floor, blocked three shots and swiped two steals.

This week looked like a much more normal week for Reed, and it’s probably not a coincidence that he was asked to do less. He only played nine and a half minutes against the Nuggets, a good reminder of just how short the non-Embiid minutes the team has to survive in the playoffs.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Paul Reed?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    A lot
    (1066 votes)
  • 41%
    Meh
    (902 votes)
  • 9%
    Little to none
    (201 votes)
2169 votes total Vote Now

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