The Philadelphia 76ers have poured countless resources into building a talented team since doing the exact opposite around a decade ago. And now head coach Doc Rivers has boldly claimed that the 2022-23 iteration of the Sixers is the best he’s had since arriving in Philadelphia in 2020.
“This is the best talent I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Rivers said September 26 at a presser for the Sixers’ media day.
Great players such as Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Ben Simmons and Tyrese Maxey all have called the City of Brotherly Love home in recent years, and Rivers has fielded some seriously talented rosters in his two years at the helm. Nonetheless, the Sixers were a middling team offensively (113.5 offensive rating) and only slightly above-average defensively (110.8 defensive rating) last season.
Even more troubling was a bench unit that finished 27th in assists and 28th in scoring last season.
But after a summer of strong additions — including re-signing Harden in July and signing forward Montrezl Harrell in September — the Sixers look retooled for a deep postseason run after getting knocked out of the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Miami Heat.
The Sixers were widely praised for their offseason moves, earning an A-minus grade from The Athletic (their acquisitions “addressed their biggest roster issue: wing defense and depth”), an A from ESPN (“more two-way contributors to put around the stars”) and an A from CBS Sports (“this was a banner offseason. … the Sixers must be thrilled with where they are right now”).
Rivers: Need More than ‘Talent in this League’
Immediately after offering the bold assessment of Philadelphia’s roster, Rivers made sure to qualify his statement.
“If you think you’re gonna just do it with talent in this league, you’re nuts,” Rivers said.
Rivers’ point is spot on. Talent does indeed matter. The Golden State Warriors won the NBA title last season due in large part to its stable of seasoned stars: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
But the Warriors also benefitted from a deep roster that included Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II and Jonathan Kuminga. Likewise, the runner-up Boston Celtics rode their Finals run on a healthy mix of stardom in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but also able contributors in Marcus Smart, Grant Williams and Robert Williams.
For Philadelphia, talent has never been an issue. But the team has yet to prove that the sum can be greater than its otherworldly parts. And Rivers has his work cut out for him next season to find team cohesion.
Rivers: ‘We Have to Become a Team’
Rivers also noted in his presser that the Sixers must work hard to “become a team.”
That’s the case more so than ever after Philadelphia added no fewer than four new faces to the roster this summer. Harrell, Danuel House, De’Anthony Melton and PJ Tucker should go a long way toward bolstering Philadelphia’s depth. Those players have to get on the same page regarding play calling, defensive philosophy and on-floor chemistry, which only comes with time.
Fortunately, several Sixers do have experience playing together, even if not in Philadelphia. James Harden hooped with House, Tucker, and Harrell in Houston, while Rivers coached Harrell in Los Angeles for the Clippers.
A level of familiarity will help to foster that chemistry. But as it stands, the Sixers have a handful of players returning and a handful showing up to camp in the red, white, and blue for the first time.