Projecting 76ers' Depth Chart, Rotation After 2022 NBA Free Agency
The Philadelphia 76ers are coming for the NBA crown.
Whether they'll actually secure it depends on a lot of current unknowns, like Joel Embiid staying healthy, James Harden delivering when it matters most and Tyrese Maxey flying through a third-year leap.
The Sixers have little say in those outcomes, but they've done well with the things that are in their control. Like, as stretching a tight budget far enough to add both P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. in free agency. Or swinging a deal for analytics darling De'Anthony Melton on draft night.
On paper, Philly looks loaded. How will this talent translate to actual success? Let's examine that by projecting the depth chart and rotation before laying out the expectations for this team.
While the Sixers retain a large chunk of last season's 51-win team, they made enough changes to alter the depth chart in a not insignificant way.
They'll have a new starting forward and two new, potentially high-minute reserves to bulk up the bench. Throw in fresh (but familiar) faces behind Embiiid, and there are some clear separations between this team and previous versions.
PG: James Harden, De'Anthony Melton, Jaden Springer
SG: Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, Isaiah Joe
SF: Tobias Harris, Danuel House Jr., Furkan Korkmaz
PF: P.J. Tucker, Georges Niang
C: Joel Embiid, Paul Reed, Charles Bassey
There are no real questions with the starting five, though the position labels are fluid with Harris and Tucker and could be matchup-dependent. The bench could have a few fights for floor time, but we'll dig deeper into those in the next section.
If you had to gamble on Philly's minutes leader, Maxey would get my vote. Embiid, Harden and Tucker will all play a ton, but the Sixers will be cautious about not leaning too hard on them in the regular season. Maxey, meanwhile, should have a neon-green light in his age-21 season.
Coach Doc Rivers doesn't have to go 10-deep with his rotation—the lineups can be staggered to keep two of Embiid, Harden, Maxey and Harris on the floor at all times—but if he does, he could set up some interesting training camp battles.
Thybulle could be pushed for his minutes, as Philly isn't as desperate for his perimeter defense anymore and may not want to live with his offensive limitations. If there is an opening for more shooting and shot-making on the second unit, then Milton, Korkmaz or Joe could all push for that spot.
The one major question mark is the backup center spot, where Philly never found a great answer after trading away Andre Drummond last season. Reed is frisky, and Bassey is big and bouncy, but both have been foul machines and have trouble hiding their lack of polish. It would not be surprising to see the Sixers add a veteran center for a bit more stability.
Last season marked the fourth time in five years that Philadelphia has reached the conference semifinals. The Sixers also cleared 50 wins for the third time in that stretch.
Then, they deemed it necessary to strengthen their roster and add three new regulars to their rotation. The message of those moves is clear: being really good isn't good enough.
Philly has a top-five talent in Embiid. It hopes it has another top-10(ish) player in Harden. That can be a championship-level foundation, and that's not all the Sixers have to offer. It's very possible they send three players to next season's All-Star Game, as either Maxey or Harris could get an invite.
They won't be the odds-on favorite entering the campaign, but you could argue their best-case scenario rivals anyone. Anything short of a world title will feel disappointing.