Sixers season outlook, Section 2: Joel Embiid’s protection, Montrezl Harrell’s are compatible and rebounding

At the moment subsequent week, the Philadelphia 76ers will probably be working towards at The Fort in Charleston, S.C. As of late, we’re going to proceed with the second one batch of key questions that I’ve in regards to the Sixers’ on-court product this season.

For those who overlooked Section 1, it serious about James Harden (who looked as if it would experience himself at The Linc on Monday night time) and Tyrese Maxey. Now let’s flip our consideration to the staff’s MVP candidate and the remainder of the frontcourt. Listed here are questions 6-10:

6. Will Joel Embiid flip up the defensive depth?

After each sport ultimate season, Embiid normally stated one thing uniquely insightful. Even after a ho-hum January win over New Orleans, he admitted that he wasn’t taking part in with the absolute best depth stage in a disappointing first part.

There’s a option to the insanity. How Embiid has realized to pick out his spots and tempo himself via an 82-game season is one of the most under-discussed component of a scrutinized profession. Discovering that tempo is a difficult balancing act. When Embiid tries to preserve some power, it may turn out to be glaring to even the untrained eye. The Sixers most often play worse as a result of, neatly, they have got depended on Embiid to do the entirety. However he additionally shouldn’t be taking part in at complete throttle for stretches of a grueling season.

As Embiid discussed within the video above, availability used to be certainly one of his primary objectives ultimate season. Challenge achieved: Outdoor of a three-week COVID-19 absence, he performed 68 video games and best overlooked the occasional load control night time. That stage of sturdiness calls for some success, but additionally the information of when to step off the fuel. The times of Embiid diving into the 0.33 row as a result of he’s lowered to a 20-minute prohibit and gained’t play within the subsequent back-to-back are over.

Whilst Embiid’s numbers can have been a tad higher in 2020-21, the level of issue ultimate season used to be upper. That boils right down to Ben Simmons refusing to play on a roster that used to be constructed to depend on his athleticism, playmaking and protection. Taking a look forward, this season’s staff is deeper and includes a working mate who’s taking part in basketball. Embiid shouldn’t have to hold as a lot of the burden, but this Sixers staff may want him in a extra explicit method: protection.

As I discussed within the first publish, Maxey and Harden supply problems defensively. The remainder of the roster is filled with succesful defenders, and if Embiid can lead that staff to a most sensible 5 end, he might be within the working for NBA Defensive Participant of the 12 months. Misplaced within the MVP noise over the last few years, this is an award he covets as neatly.

This isn’t to mention that Embiid gained’t ranking round 30 issues consistent with sport. He’s going to. It’s merely a reputation that Harden, Maxey and Tobias Harris are a succesful supporting solid that has 3-point capturing surrounding it. Closing season, when Embiid used to be tasked with doing the entirety, the Sixers gave up 109.0 issues consistent with 100 possessions when he used to be at the flooring. This is excellent, the eightieth percentile of all avid gamers consistent with Cleansing The Glass, but it surely used to be the bottom mark of his profession. With a greater, deeper staff, may Embiid burn some extra gasoline at the defensive finish?

7. What’s subsequent for Embiid as an offensive participant?

In keeping with Synergy Sports activities, listed here are the choice of pick-and-roll possessions completed by means of Embiid over the last 4 common seasons: 133, 123, 162 and 316. Since that used to be best with James Harden at the staff for one-third of the season, you could possibly be expecting him to set every other profession prime in that class if he remains quite wholesome.

That a part of the sport doesn’t come naturally to Embiid, who’s on file pronouncing, “I don’t truly need to catch lobs and leap in every single place.” Staying at the floor in additional scenarios permits him to play in additional video games. However what Embiid began to comprehend is that with Harden working the pick-and-roll, he didn’t want to leap like Clint Capela to have luck as a curler. Harden’s passing, mixed together with his measurement and talent, were given Embiid a ton of simple baskets.

It’s a captivating time for Embiid’s offensive sport. On one hand, Harden supplies him with high quality appears to be like that he doesn’t must create. However Embiid is also at all times having a look to increase the boundaries of his sport, which gained’t alternate now that Harden is right here.

Something we now have realized about Embiid and his instructor Drew Hanlen is that the entirety is aimed at the playoffs. He most often takes courses from the former postseason and applies them to his sport the next season. When Toronto doubled him within the publish within the 2019 playoffs, he turned into extra perimeter-oriented. The adjustments Embiid has made have basically proven up within the common season, as he completed 2nd in MVP balloting for 2 consecutive years.

What’s subsequent? The problem with ultimate season is that there each on-court postseason lesson might be caveated with the truth that Embiid suffered a damaged face and a concussion. However there at all times is one thing. One space to look at might be his isolation sport, which has risen in frequency each and every of the previous 4 seasons. That most often approach catching the ball in the course of the ground and going through up opposing facilities.

8. With Montrezl Harrell aboard, how will Document Rivers deal with the backup heart rotation?

I’ve come to just accept that, in masking this franchise, we’re sure to spend as a lot time discussing the backup heart place than the opposite 29 groups mixed.

As a substitute of rehashing the DeAndre Jordan and Paul Reed calculus from a yr in the past, which is contemporary in everybody’s thoughts, let’s rewind again to the primary season of the Daryl Morey-Rivers technology. Then, the Sixers caught with Dwight Howard all the season and cruised to the No. 1 seed. As a typical season backup, Howard proved helpful. However that staff didn’t experiment as a result of there wasn’t a valid small-ball heart at the roster. They weren’t ready when Howard proved unplayable come playoff time. The backup heart scenario used to be a ways from the one reason why the Sixers bowed out in the second one around to Atlanta, but it surely certain didn’t lend a hand.

As of now, Harrell is a greater participant than Reed. Harrell is a wonderful pick-and-dive heart who possesses each physicality and contact across the rim, which is why Harden used to be recruiting him arduous. However Harrell’s defensive barriers, and the issues they may pose within the playoffs à l. a. Howard a couple of years in the past, are neatly chronicled. If truth be told, Rivers had a front-row seat for them.

The principle distinction between 2021 and ’23 is that the Sixers appear to have more than one in-house choices already at the roster. Reed held up fairly neatly within the first-round collection towards Toronto — a plus-2.2 web ranking over six video games doesn’t appear to be a lot, however making an allowance for this place’s fresh historical past, it very a lot is — after which used to be installed an not possible spot after Embiid went down.

And there may be a historical past of P.J. Tucker taking part in as small-ball 5 in a success lineups with Harden, switch-heavy teams that supply Harden with an optimally spaced flooring. The Sixers no longer best have the middle to play that taste (Tucker), however a couple of further 3-and-D wings as neatly. Harrell must carry out within the bulk of the mins, however Reed and Tucker must fairly get their possibilities if best to look the way it appears to be like in brief spurts.

How Rivers handles this factor will probably be attention-grabbing. And in a comparable query…

9. How a lot switching will the Sixers protection experiment with?

That is one thing I touched on when writing concerning the additions of Tucker, De’Anthony Melton and Danuel Area Jr. The ones 3 avid gamers, at the side of Harden, Reed, Harris and Matisse Thybulle, shape a bunch of 7 avid gamers who may just swap maximum displays 1 via 5. Embiid is succesful as neatly, despite the fact that that isn’t one thing the Sixers need him doing a lot of within the common season.

That gained’t be the Sixers’ base protection since Embiid is right here, however may just it theoretically be one thing we may see extra of? Most likely no longer, since Rivers and assistant Dan Burke come from the similar faculty of a staff mastering its core defensive rules. However the staff is right here to experiment somewhat extra in the event that they make a choice to move in that path.

10. Will the added athleticism translate at the flooring?

There used to be a time when Simmons and Embiid have been tasked with working the offense as younger avid gamers within the NBA, and turnovers have been the Sixers’ largest factor. That has modified in fresh seasons, each because of Embiid’s particular person development (he has lowered his turnovers each season of his profession) and the staff’s advanced guard play. Closing season, it used to be transparent what the Sixers’ bugaboo used to be: They might no longer grasp a rebound.

Earlier than Harden’s arrival, the rebounding bordered on one thing of a crisis. In spite of having Embiid and Drummond, the Sixers have been fifteenth in defensive rebounding and useless ultimate (thirtieth) at the offensive glass. This used to be the world the place the Sixers overlooked Simmons probably the most. Maxey, Thybulle, Georges Niang, Danny Inexperienced and Seth Curry are all deficient rebounders for his or her place, whilst Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz are somewhat under reasonable. And on account of the staff’s general loss of athleticism, Rivers and Burke made the verdict to really eschew the offensive glass to get again in transition. Total, the 2021-22 Sixers have been an unathletic staff by means of NBA requirements.

The roster turnover must lend a hand. Melton, a guard, is a plus rebounder on each ends. Harden is a wonderful defensive rebounder. Harrell hits the offensive glass arduous. Tucker is an improve over Niang, and as discussed previous, Embiid may have extra power to rebound on protection.

Rebounding is most probably the most productive proof of the loss of athleticism, however there are different spaces to indicate to. The Sixers dropped from 0.33 to seventeenth in forcing opponent turnovers with out Simmons. In spite of giving up at the offensive glass, this additionally used to be nonetheless statistically one of the most worst defensive transition groups within the league ultimate season. How a lot can the brand new staff lower into the ones weaknesses?

(Photograph of Embiid and Harrell: David Dow / NBAE by the use of Getty Photographs)

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