There are six strong reasons to instill optimism over the Philadelphia Sixers’ prospects for the next 2023–24 National Basketball Association (NBA) season.
The Sixers’ future in 2023–24 is bleak, and it’s easy to be negative about it. With the goal of getting moved, James Harden exercised his $35.6 million player option, yet he is still playing for the 76ers. As expected, Sixers president Daryl Morey is already making demands about what kind of return he wants in exchange for Harden.
Harden has requested a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers from the Philadelphia 76ers, but Morey has asked for a high price that the Clippers don’t seem willing to pay. According to Kyle Neubeck of the 76ers, the team has been “fairly unserious about what they’re willing to give up” in exchange for Harden, and other writers have noted the team’s reluctance to trade away Terance Mann.
Parabellum, the third chapter of The Harden Trade Saga, shows no indications of ending very soon. That leaves the door open for the Sixers’ point guard drama to re-emerge for the second time in as many years.
Because of Harden, the Sixers have probably done nothing with their $5 million taxpayer mid-level exception. If they used any of their TMLE, they’d be limited in how much money they could recoup in a Harden deal to the $182.8 million second apron.
The Sixers’ 2023–24 season is likely to be a struggle until they make a decision on Harden. But there is still a chance. Despite the hardening uncertainty, there are real reasons for hope.
For many seasons, many Sixers supporters have been pleading with the franchise to dismiss head coach Doc Rivers. In the offseason, their hope came true.
The team has replaced him with Nick Nurse, formerly the head coach of the Toronto Raptors. Early reviews regarding Nurse’s fit in Philadelphia have been excellent, despite the fact that the vibes seemed to go south at the conclusion of his stay in Toronto.
Third-year guard Jaden Springer told reporters before the start of the summer league, “I can tell he’s a coach; he really wants to help the players learn and wants to teach, and then he stopped the drills, stepped in, and gave us points on what to do here and there, like it’s great.” I can’t say I’ve seen many things as remarkable as that in my time in the league.
Morey also told 97.5 The Fanatic’s Anthony Gargano that Joel Embiid is “excited” about what Nurse “is planning to do for training camp.”
Later, Morey said, “I know Nick; a big focus of his is how to make us less predictable in key moments.” The emphasis has been there. I can tell Joel is looking forward to talking with Coach Nurse.
As Morey put it, “versatility will be a big theme” for Nurse this year because “he’s looking at very different, creative ways to use all the folks we’ve brought in.” After the last several years with Rivers in charge, it definitely seems like a breath of fresh air.
Mr. Paul Reed
In the early hours of free agency, the Sixers said goodbye to Georges Niang, Jalen McDaniels, and Shake Milton. Fans should rest easy, however, since the team eventually matched the Utah Jazz’s wicked three-year, $23.5 million offer sheet in order to keep fan favorite Paul Reed on the roster.
This year, Ball Paul seems to be a major focus.
Reed told Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire, “I’ve talked to him plenty of times, and it’s always been kind of the same kind of idea.” He said he could make me into a player like Pascal Siakam. An individual with a wide range of skills. Shoot, drive, and pass, but my current priority is perfecting my shooting form. That’s where we begin. That’s the point when it all begins.
Furthermore, Reed said that he is “getting more and more comfortable every day” with his improved shooting techniques and is anticipating a “breakout year.”
“I feel like last year, I started figuring things out toward the end,” he said to Carlin. “And I feel like this season is going to go a lot smoother because I already have things figured out.”
In 13.1 minutes per game, Reed averaged 5.7 points on 61.4 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, and 0.7 steals after replacing Montrezl Harrell as the Sixers’ main backup center following last year’s trade deadline. He also excelled in a pair of postseason starts in place of Embiid, including Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a road victory against the Boston Celtics.
Reed will fight with Mo Bamba for backup minutes behind Embiid this year, but if he can improve his shooting this summer, he might also get time in the 4 position. Whatever the case may be, it seems like we’re in for an unprecedented influx of BBall Paul.
The basketball nurse is optimistic about the whole team, not just Paul. He is also confident in Maxey’s potential development with or without Harden.
During his introduction news conference, Nurse noted, “From afar, playing against him was very difficult.” It was difficult to prepare a strategy to counter his speed and agility alone. Sometimes speed is unbeatable, and no countermeasures seem possible. What he accomplished and what we saw weren’t all about sprinting and easy baskets, however. After that, his shooting improved dramatically. Then he began making layups that were only a hair and a half or so longer. Despite our best efforts, he continued to make easy baskets along the basket’s rim.
He has a great opportunity to develop and advance, and all signs point to the fact that he is eager to seize it. Excellent worker and a sincere improvement seeker.
In the middle of July, Morey expressed the same view to Gargano.
Morey added, “I don’t want to limit Maxey, frankly, because he’s exceeded expectations since we drafted him.” Each year, he improves more than expected, both offensively and defensively. He’s got the makings of an All-Star, for sure.
Maxey will be the starting point guard for the Sixers if they are unable to either keep Harden or acquire one in exchange for him. A year and a half had passed since he temporarily assumed that position during Ben Simmons’ holdout in 2021–22, before Harden’s arrival.
The nurse had already intended to give Maxey more pick-and-roll work before Harden’s trade request, saying that he wanted Maxey to be able to “make the reads for all the other players on the floor depending on what he sees.” One of the season’s greatest themes, Maxey’s development in that area will have a significant impact on the Sixers’ roster-building plan going ahead.
Over the course of his first two NBA seasons, Jaden Springer has logged a paltry 95 minutes in only 18 games. For those who missed the third-year guard in the G League or the summer league this past July, he remains a bit of a black box.
At least in the outset, Springer is expected to contribute more on defense than offensively. His inexperience was not lost on veteran forward P.J. Tucker, who lauded him throughout training camp last year.
“He doesn’t even know how to play yet,” Tucker told the press. Therein is the insanity. He’s out there, obliviously doing his own thing. It’s fantastic, by the way. I’m going to constantly pump him up. It’s fantastic, by the way. He tried his hardest and is still learning, but he is still a child. He hasn’t a clue yet, but he continues to work hard every day as if he did. Furthermore, he is mute. The weird aspect is that!
This past season, Springer played 30.2 minutes per game on average for the Delaware Blue Coats and averaged 2.3 steals and 0.8 blocks. In a late-season matchup against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, he again performed well, scoring 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting with 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 threes, 1 block, and 1 steal in 34 minutes of action.
Last year in the G League, Springer made only 31.9 percent of his 3-point attempts, and in his few NBA minutes so far, he has made just five. He assured reporters during this year’s summer league that he could strengthen his offense.
“I know I’ve been working,” Springer said. “I am very aware of the effort I have put into perfecting my shot and all that. I’m sure if you stick with it, you’ll succeed. It’s all a matter of timing; in the meantime, don’t worry and make yourself at home.
Springer is expected to compete with Patrick Beverley for minutes off the bench in the Sixers’ backcourt if they deal Harden without receiving a guard in exchange. How Nurse uses him and the devastation he might cause in certain defensive pairs (Reed, Springer, and De’Anthony Melton, anyone?) will be a fascinating subplot to follow this season.
The new-look bench
The Sixers’ bench will look different this season without Niang, McDaniels, or Milton. In the summer, they brought in free agents like Beverley, Bamba, Danny Green, and Kelly Oubre Jr. to fight for playing time against returning players like Melton, Reed, Springer, Danuel House Jr., and Furkan Korkmaz.
Although Beverley is not the same shutdown defender he once was, he nevertheless helped the Chicago Bulls right away after being traded to them at the deadline last season. Because of their ability to disrupt passing lanes and initiate fast-break points, he and Melton could be a nightmare for opposing second-unit ball-handlers.
While with the Sixers, Oubre is the first true bench gunner for the team since Lou Williams. He signed a one-year, minimum-salary agreement with the Sixers after scoring a career-high 20 points per game for the injury-plagued Charlotte Hornets the previous season. The Sixers will give Oubre a chance to show he can contribute to a successful team, much as the Milwaukee Bucks gave Bobby Portis a few years ago.
After struggling with limited playing time after returning from ACL and LCL tears, 36-year-old Green may not even make the opening night roster since his contract is totally non-guaranteed until then. However, now that time has passed and his injuries have healed, he may demonstrate that he still has some fight left in him. The Sixers are aware of his potential as a three-and-d contributor.
There is potential that the Sixers’ bench is better than it was last season because to the four new arrivals and the development of Reed, Melton, Springer, and House. After losing Niang, McDaniels, and Milton on July 1, this seemed like a long shot, but the front staff was able to do some good on the edges while being unable to fulfill Harden’s trade request.
In spite of just being named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, Joel Embiid may be experiencing the lowest level of public acclaim in Philadelphia in at least half a decade. Since he vanished for a chunk of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and has said he would be happy to win a championship “in Philadelphia or anywhere else,” it’s reasonable to ask whether the Sixers’ greatest shot to win with him has already gone.
Sixers supporters shouldn’t waste their time worrying about Embiid’s future with the team by trying to predict when he’ll want to be traded.
Embiid is the first center to lead the NBA in scoring in consecutive seasons since the mid-1970s. He has guided the Sixers to their most successful season in almost two decades. He is now in the middle of his peak and into his 29th season.
It’s reasonable to assume that Embiid is even more motivated by the negative impression the end-of-season slump left on fans. The fact that Nikola Jokic, his main MVP opponent of the last several seasons, won the NBA title with the Denver Nuggets last year should serve as extra inspiration.
Embiid has remade himself in recent years by moving away from post-ups and toward mid-range shots with his back to the hoop. The Sixers haven’t advanced beyond the second round in over two decades, but if he improves in another area of his game this summer (it seems like playmaking is a goal of his), he may be a big reason why.