Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Philadelphia 76ers look quite a bit different than where they stood one year ago.
Ben Simmons is gone, replaced by James Harden. Tyrese Maxey looks primed to continue his meteoric rise towards an All-Star nod. PJ Tucker should bring some swagger and defensive identity. The bench unit sports three newcomers in De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House, and Montrezl Harrell.
But despite all the change, one thing has remained constant: Doc Rivers. Or, as Sixers fans might say, painfully constant.
On Thursday, The Athletic released its fan survey, designed to gauge Sixers fans’ “feelings on what transpired over the past few years of Sixers basketball.” The answers are graded on a one through five system, with 1 equaling a total lack of confidence and 5 being complete and utter faith.
One question asked Sixers fans to rate “how much confidence [they] you have in head coach Doc Rivers and his staff.”
The results were alarming — a whopping 53% of the 1,120 respondents rated their confidence as below average (or worse) with a one or two. Roughly one-in-three (33%) gave Rivers a mediocre three rating. And a slim 14% said Rivers was doing an above-average or excellent job, giving him a four or five.
According to The Athletic’s Sixers writer Rich Hofmann, the data wasn’t a shock.
“The coaching staff ranking this low did not come as a major surprise. Rivers is not a particularly popular figure in Philadelphia, through some fault of his own and also because the Sixers fan base seems to be demanding when it comes to their coaches. In almost an exact reversal from the front office, only 13.9 percent gave a positive (four or five) vote,” Hofmann wrote on September 8.
It might not be “a surprise” to Hofmann, but the Sixers need everything to come together next season if they are to beat out a crowded Eastern Conference.
Daryl Morey, Sixers Front Office Given Glowing Praise
If Rivers’ fan perception sits at one end of the spectrum, then Daryl Morey and the Sixers’ front office exists on the exact opposite side. Nearly 87% graded Morey as doing above average (or better), with a four or five. By contrast, less than 3% of the respondents viewed Morey as doing a below-average job in Philadelphia.
It’s an unsurprising sign, given the fact that Morey has helped orchestrate several key moves for the Sixers since joining in 2020. He held out for the right Ben Simmons deal, linked back up with James Harden, and overhauled the bench by offloading an ACL-injured Danny Green.
But Morey’s greatest gift might have been unearthing Tyrese Maxey late in the first round of the draft a few years ago. Hitting on Maxey eased the pain of losing Simmons’ playmaking. It also replaced the dour and temperamental Simmons with Maxey’s irresistible and brilliant smile.
How Will Montrezl Harrell Fit into Rivers’ System?
One of Morey’s latest moves was to sign free agent center Montrezl Harrell. Harrell will slot in nicely as Joel Embiid’s backup, providing depth and talent to a position starved for it last season.
It also comes with risks, as far as Doc Rivers is concerned. Rivers has a history of overplaying veteran backups, often to his own demise. It’s Rivers’ complete faith in guys like DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap that have doomed the Sixers before.
While Harrell should provide some nice backup minutes, the risk that Rivers get addicted to the Former Sixth Man of the Year is certainly there. No, he won’t take time away from Embiid, but Rivers’ failure to adjust by keeping his personal favorites on the court won’t earn him any more respect from the fans.