Doc Rivers Teases Rotation Changes As Sixers Roster Returns to Health

Doc Rivers, Sixers

Getty Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers high fives Tobias Harris #12 in the fourth quarter of the game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center on November 22, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Nets 115-106.

The wait for the Philadelphia 76ers to return to full strength is nearing a close. Joel Embiid made his return to the court during the previous victory over the Hawks and it was reported that James Harden is targeting the matchup on Monday with the Houston Rockets to make his return. One of the unforeseen problems with this is finding minutes for the players who stepped up during their absence. The Sixers have gone 8-4 during Harden’s absence and 3-1 during games with both superstars out. Several members of the bench unit deserve a ton of credit for stepping up in their expanded roles during their absence.

When asked about this by reporters Rivers put it “I don’t mind tough decisions. I’d rather have those than not, but we knew that coming into the year. We have a lot of guys who are not gonna play. It’s just impossible, but we can play a lot of them and that’ll help us. Especially, in back-to-back games where you can put a second group on the floor, and hopefully, increase the lead or not lose the lead. That helps you the next night,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.

Strong Play of Bench Players

At the top of the list of players who have stepped up is Shake Milton. With both Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, Milton saw plenty more thrown on his plate and succeeded in this role. Over the past six games, he has averaged 23.2 points, 6.7 assists, and 6.3 rebounds during his 38.7 minutes per game. Paul Reed, Furkan Korkmaz, and Georges Niang also especially exceeded with their expanded roles as well.

Rivers also wanted to make this message clear and stated following the previous victory, “Shake has been phenomenal. Furk has been phenomenal. Danuel House was phenomenal in the second half and that’s great. I think with all these guys out and our guys are playing, this is gonna make our team better, for sure. Furk has great confidence. We want him to keep playing the same way. The key for us and I always say is can we play the same way when everybody’s back, and that’ll be a key for us,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.

Sixers Must Continue to Rely on Bench Unit

While it is obvious their minutes will be scaled back once the team returns to full strength, Rivers would be wise to ensure he does not exclude these rotational pieces completely. One of the biggest goals of the Sixers’ offseason was to add depth to the bench unit. Bringing in players like De’Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker was expected to take some strain off of the starters this season.

Despite this, the Sixers’ big three are each averaging over 35 minutes per game. Maxey and Harden both rank in the top 14 for minutes per game and Maxey was even leading the NBA in total minutes played prior to his foot injury. While injuries happen and you cannot blame it fully on the excessive strain, it must be kept in mind that the NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint.

The regular season is the time to be more creative with lineups and experiment with what works and what doesn’t. One of the blessings in disguise of these injuries was that the Sixers may have stumbled into some combinations of players that could be successful moving forward. Milton playing his best basketball in years on a Sixers team that has been limited in guard production is especially noteworthy.

The goal for the team must now be to continue the success that the shorthanded roster started. Keeping this same level of defensive effort and ball movement with the stars on the court in the next step. The outlook for the Sixers is much more positive than it was a few weeks ago but there is still plenty of the season left to conquer.

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