Writing Out Sixers 2023 New Years Resolutions

Sixers, New Years

Getty Tobias Harris #12, Tyrese Maxey #0, James Harden #1, and Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers pose for a picture during media day at the 76ers Training Complex on September 26, 2022 in Camden, New Jersey.

The New Year has arrived and marks the time to make a change for people everywhere. The Philadelphia 76ers are no different and still have a ways to go to reach their goals for 2023. With the season’s mid-point approaching, it is also an excellent time to evaluate their play so far this season.

2022 Review

Following another second-round exit from the playoffs last year, the Sixers set their sights on building a more complete roster with the full focus on optimizing Joel Embiid. The early results have been mixed as the Sixers hold a record of 21-14 and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

There have been some notable highs, such as the recent eight-game winning streak, but Philadelphia still must prove they can play at this level against more talented teams. Most of the convincing victories have come against lottery-bound teams not set to make much noise. There also have been some notable injury hurdles so the Sixers themselves are still figuring themselves out. Here are a few changes each player should be looking to incorporate in the New Year.

New Years Resolutions

Doc Rivers

The head coach continues to be shown full faith by Daryl Morey and the Sixers’ front office. It will be his responsibility to elevate this roster to a championship contender this season. With plenty to nitpick on by fans due to past mistakes, his rotational decisions and comments will surely be viewed under the microscope.

While Rivers has been around basketball longer than most human beings ever have, it would benefit him and the Sixers to begin stepping out of his comfort zone a little more. Getting more creative with his rotations and showing a willingness to change his game plan on the fly would make a major difference. He also must find ways to create more movement within the offense, especially late in games. Some of the offense will inherently be isolation-based due to the strengths of the team’s stars, but the team’s play call looks to be too predictable far too often.

Joel Embiid:

The reigning back-to-back MVP runner-up started the year off slow but has more than returned to form of late. His 59-point performance against the Jazz will go down as one of the greatest games in his career and is among the most impressive individual performances across the NBA this year. In the 27 games he has played, Embiid is averaging 33.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists (career-high), 1.2 steals, and 1.7 blocks. While there have been some lapses in focus, for the most part, he has been every bit the superstar the Sixers expect him to be.

When looking ahead at the New Year, Embiid should set his focus on improving as a rebounder. The 9.8 per game he is tallying is the fewest since his rookie year and a downtick from the 11.3 he averages throughout his career. With the rest of the roster fairly undersized, it is Embiid’s responsibility to make up for this. His inability to do so far is a major reason why the Sixers rank 29th in the NBA in team rebounding. While he has plenty on his plate already, this should be a focus of the big man moving forward.

James Harden

During the first few games of the season, James Harden flashed to be every bit of the superstar he promised this offseason. He missed 14 games with a right foot tendon sprain but has returned to the court since. He is averaging 21.9 points, 11.1 assists, and 6.2 rebounds on the year. Overall, Harden has done a nice job finding the balance as a scorer and playmaker.

The Sixers don’t need him to be the MVP version of himself but will need Harden to play at a very high level if they are to reach their goals. The biggest change he should look to make in the New Year is improving his pace of play. While the full-court passes to create with others accomplish this at times, Harden often is too comfortable taking his time coming up the court and soaking up an unnecessary amount of the shot clock. So far this season the Sixers rank 26th in the NBA in pace and Harden will have the biggest impact on this number.

Tyrese Maxey

The 22-year-old looked to have taken another step forward in his development to start the season but then missed over a month due to a small fracture in his foot. In the 16 games he has played in, Maxey has averaged 22.0 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.3 rebounds. He continues to prove his jump shot is legitimate and is connecting on 41.9% of his three-pointers on an increased volume.

Maxey’s goal for 2023 must be to ensure he is not a forgotten man within the Sixers’ offense. While Embiid and Harden will continue to be higher on the pecking order, he is too talented to waste simply as an off-ball floor spacer. The Sixers must find ways to allow him some time to be the primary option and capitalize on the pace advantage that he brings to the table. While some of this will be on the coaching, Maxey must assert himself and not pass up opportunities when they arise.

Tobias Harris

Few players have sacrificed their style of play in the way Harris has this season. The veteran has become much more willing as a catch-and-shooter, played more decisively, and stepped up on the defensive side of the ball. So far this season he is averaging 16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He is shooting 5.3 three-pointers per game, the most he has as a Sixer, and connecting at a 39.4% rate.

The Sixers need more of the same from Harris. He has seen his shooting numbers go down a little bit of late and must remain confident throughout the duration of the season. The changes he has made are beneficial to the Sixers and his future career. Even if the shots are not falling, Harris must remain confident and be the three-and-D style of wing the team needs.

P.J. Tucker

It has not been a smooth transition to Philadelphia for their prized free-agent addition. In his 28.1 minutes per game, Tucker is averaging just 3.5 points and 4.3 rebounds. He is attempting just 3.0 shots per game with 1.7 of these coming from beyond the three-point arc. The 37-year-old has shot 38.6% on these attempts. He also has been tasked with some of the toughest defensive assignments of any player in the NBA. While Tucker has never been a guy whose impact was fully shown in the box score, the Sixers cannot afford for him to be a zero on the offensive end.

There have been some reports that Tucker is dealing with some nerve damage in his arm with the veteran himself referring to it as a “dead arm.” Tucker’s biggest impact will come in the postseason and the Sixers must be sure he is ready for that. Scaling back his minutes in the regular season and ensuring he is fully healthy should be the goal for Tucker. While he has been far from perfect thus far, if he steps up come postseason time this will be all that matters.

De’Anthony Melton

The highlight of the offseason additions has been De’Anthony Melton. The former Grizzlies standout has been a key part of the Sixers’ style of play on both sides of the floor. He is averaging 12.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.1 steals per game which are all career highs. Melton also has shot 39.2% on his three-pointers while attempting a career-high 6.2 per game.

The next goal of Melton should be to prove he is capable of guarding bigger wings. While he stands just 6’2,” his 6’8″ wingspan and active hands make him capable of holding up against most matchups. If he can show the ability to guard bigger wings, it would create some more lineup flexibility such as a three-guard lineups alongside Harden and Maxey. While some of his minutes will be scaled back as the team gets healthy, he has proven to be too important not to have on the floor and this would provide an avenue for more playtime.

Shake Milton

The re-emergence of Shake Milton has been great to watch this season. After starting the season entirely out of the rotation, the SMU product has played his way into a key part of the team. He especially stepped up during the injuries to Maxey and Harden and produced some of the best basketball of his career. He has averaged 10.8 points, 3.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game during his 24.5 minutes per game.

Milton must find a way to continue bringing high production as his opportunity gets more limited. The combo guard is a rhythm player who tends to perform better with expanded minutes, but will not get this type of opportunity with the depth at guard ahead of him. Providing a pop off the bench and impacting the game beyond just his scoring should be the focus for Milton.

Montrezl Harrell/Paul Reed

The backup center battle continues to be fought. The bottom line is the production has not been enough from either of them. Harrell must find a way to make an impact on the defensive end as he is targeted by opposing teams at times. His 6’7″ height is limiting and his slow feet get him in trouble. Rivers has leaned on Harrell more often lately, and while he has had some positive flashes, his level of play has not been consistent enough.

On the other hand, Reed has shown some signs of development but has seen his opportunity limited. He still has moments where he tries to do too much or commits a stupid foul, but the skillset Reed possesses is what the team needs. Continuing to iron out his growing pains should be the focus and if he could develop more as a screen-and-roller it would be helpful offensively.

While the rest of the bench each have some issues to work through as well, it will be mostly down to this core to determine the Sixers’ season. The NBA is about who gets hot at the right time and the Sixers’ goals are still well within reach. Hopefully, everyone is committed to this type of growth as the games will begin to mean more moving forward with the playoffs beginning to approach.

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