What’s up, peeps? It’s always great to chat about the 76ers.
There’s a lot to talk about with the NBA trade deadline just eight days away and the Sixers (31-19) having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
They’ll embark on a tough three-game stretch after playing the Washington Wizards Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers have games at the Dallas Mavericks (Friday) and Chicago Bulls (Sunday) before entertaining the Phoenix Suns at home on Tuesday. The Bulls (32-18) have the conference’s best record, while the Western Conference-leading Suns (41-9) are the NBA’s best team. The Mavs (29-22) are fifth in the West.
I’m pretty sure we’ll have more to talk about following that stretch. But for now, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and the Sixers’ biggest needs — assuming they keep Ben Simmons past the trade deadline — are big questions.
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Answer: Thanks for the solid question, James. It easy to say yes when looking at Harden’s resume and how the Sixers longed to have an elite perimeter player to pair with MVP front-runner Joel Embiid. Harden, the 2018 MVP, seems like the perfect fit.
Heck, I’ve been preaching for two seasons that the Sixers need a guy who can get a bucket, finish isolation plays, take opponents off the dribble, and bury a three-pointer.
I wrote that the Sixers need someone who can strike fear in defenders while making things easier for Embiid. That person would be Harden or a Harden-esque player.
So it does make sense, especially when you consider Harden’s tight relationships with Sixers CEO Tad Brown, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and team co-owner Michael Rubin. Brown was the Houston Rockets CEO and Morey served as the Rockets general manager when James played for Houston. So the Sixers pursuit of Harden and his interest in the franchise make a lot of sense.
The question, however, is which Harden will the Sixers get?
Will they get the guy who averaged 29.6 points, shot 36.2% on three-pointers and won three scoring titles during his nine seasons in Houston? Or will they get the player who’s averaging 22.9 points and shooting a career-low 33.8% on three-pointers this season? This is his lowest scoring average since averaging 16.8 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2011-12 season. The Sixers must ask themselves if the 32-year-old is on the decline or just in a bad situation — statistics-wise — in Brooklyn.
Answer: Thanks for the question, Paul. It’s still too early for me to accurately say what Maxey’s ceiling is. I will say that he does have a promising future. That’s evident by his 33-point effort in Monday’s victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
The NBA announced Tuesday that the 6-foot-2 point guard will play in the Rising Stars event at next month’s NBA All-Star Weekend.
As for Maxey being an All-Star selection in the near future, I think a lot of that will depend on how he continues to adapt to playing next to Embiid, assuming he remains with the Sixers for seasons to come. Think about it: Maxey has more freedom and a higher usage rate on nights, like Monday, when Embiid rests. However, when Embiid plays, his primary job is to feed the MVP candidate the ball.
While the pairing has improved, Maxey’s better games have come when Embiid sits out. So I think in order to become an All-Star, he has to become a more consistent scoring threat and difference-maker while playing alongside Embiid and Tobias Harris.
Question: If the Sixers don’t trade Ben Simmons before the trade deadline, what pieces do you think we need the most heading to the playoffs? — @RoBo54270733
Answer: What’s up, RoBo? A point guard is still the biggest position of need for the Sixers heading into the postseason. Shake Milton will miss his 15th consecutive game Wednesday with back spasms. Milton, who’s the backup point guard, and Maxey aren’t true ballhandlers. They’re both scoring combo guards playing the position because the Sixers don’t have any traditional point guards.
With Milton out, the Sixers rely on reserve swingman Furkan Korkmaz and shooting guard Seth Curry to be the backup point guard. However, Korkmaz (left knee soreness) is also sidelined. Meanwhile, tonight’s matchup against the Washington Wizards will mark Curry’s second game back from an ankle injury.
So this team has been in desperate need of a point guard all season. I think they would benefit from acquiring one via trade or in the buyout market to back up Maxey.