o/u 50.5 – OVER
Last season, on the shoulders of MVP runner-up Joel Embiid, the 76ers won 51 games. Philadelpha, in 61 games without Ben Simmons / before trading for James Harden, was 37-24. The only subtraction from the roster who won 37 games was Danny Green; however, he left in a trade for De’Anthony Melton, one of several exciting off-season acquisitions that look to enhance their depth and defense.
PJ Tucker and Danuel House join Melton as the 76ers defensive upgrade. Montrezl Harrell reunion with Doc Rivers to play the backup center spot behind Embiid adds another scorer to the bench. The addition of those four players unlock non-Embiid lineups more talented than Philly has ever had. While Embiid rests, combinations of Harden-Maxey-Melton-House-Tobias-Tucker-Harrell gives the 76ers depth and options.
The non-Embiid lineup’s main concern will come on the defensive end. Harrell has proven to be unplayable in the playoffs, and in an Eastern Conference with a slew of front court talent, look for Philly to be a player at the deadline and in the buyout market for one more big body to help their interior defensive depth behind Embiid.
Tyrese Maxey looks to continue his rampant progression this season into one of the most terrorizing guards to play against each night. Even if he does not have a large jump from year two to three, Maxey has already proven to be a threat as a pressure point in the offense where he can not only get his, but create for others and play off of Embiid. Maxey is a security blanket for anyone concerned about what James Harden will look like this season – though do not anticipate Harden needing any saving.
Houston James Harden is gone. Fans did not enjoy his brand of basketball while he strived at it and now as he transitions his game, the same fans clamor for him to get back to his MVP form. Regardless, Harden has shown throughout his career his ability to adapt. In his Oklahoma City tenure, he often ran the point guard position in crunch time of big games. Harden is not new to playing alongside MVP talent, and he knows in Philly, he’s not the president.
Even if MVP James Harden is gone, 3rd team All-NBA James Harden is very much still here giving opposing defenses hell. The combination of Harden and Embiid blew the rest of the league away in pick and roll numbers from a season ago. A perfect combination with an unstoppable formula for getting to the free throw line, this one-two punch will be the engine to one of the strongest win machines in the league.
Whether he has the ball in his hands or not, the stress Harden puts on the defense immediately opens the floor for Embiid, Harris and Maxey to make plays for themselves and others. 50 wins is a low projection even if there is concern about what James Harden will look like this season. Joel Embiid has come in second place for MVP the last two seasons. He is at the peak of his powers with the strongest ensemble he’s ever played with.
Considering this team won 51 games last year, only 14 of which came with James Harden, and they got better this offseason along with having Harden for the full season, there is no tell for this group to regress. Unless Embiid is unable to play, Philly will blow past their projection and compete for the top seed not only in the talented Eastern Conference, but the entire NBA.