76ers Players Under Most Pressure Entering 2022-23 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVAugust 25, 2022

76ers Players Under Most Pressure Entering 2022-23 NBA Season

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    If the Philadelphia 76ers weren't already in championship-or-bust mode, they certainly entered it at some point over the last calendar year.

    Between their deadline deal for James Harden and offseason acquisitions of De'Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., they have stocked their supporting cast around perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

    Now, they just need to see a championship return on that investment. That puts two of their players under enormous pressure to perform during the 2022-23 NBA season, while a third faces the unique pressure of trying to find his niche in Philadelphia—or elsewhere.

Joel Embiid

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    Embiid has reached a point where greatness isn't the hope for him, it's the expectation.

    Clearly, he has the game to live up to those lofty standards. His 2021-22 season was basically a masterclass in two-way execution, as he averaged a career-high (and league-leading) 30.6 points on 49.9/37.1/81.4 shooting to go along with 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals.

    He's been the MVP runner-up each of the past two seasons.

    So, where does the pressure kick in? Well, he must continue to stay on the floor (his 68 games last season were a career-high) and dominate while he's out there. Then, he must also simultaneously prepare this franchise for what would be its first NBA title since 1983. If the Sixers are going to make that happen, they might need Embiid to be the best player in the league.

James Harden

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    Perhaps you've heard this one time or a million, but Harden doesn't exactly have a history of delivering under the brightest lights. Virtually all of his numbers drop during the postseason, and he's had some particularly rough moments in his clubs' most critical contests.

    Even more worrisome is that was true before his numbers started tailing off in recent seasons.

    While Harden can't dispel those concerns during the regular season, he could at least quiet some of the chatter about his recent downturn in production. It's possible the soon-to-be 33-year-old is simply experiencing an age-related decline, but it's also possible a nagging hamstring injury could be more to blame. If that's the case, he could put those injury woes behind him and force his way back into the elite ranks.

    Still, regardless of how the campaign plays out, all eyeballs will be on the Beard come playoff time. His rocky postseason resume would be thrown out the window if he has a huge postseason run and contributes to a championship. If not, this might do permanent damage to his legacy.

Matisse Thybulle

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    It wasn't that long ago that Matisse Thybulle seemed like an indispensable piece for the Sixers.

    Then, his offensive limitations grew too debilitating to ignore. As defenses sagged further off of the non-shooter, Philly struggled to field a competent offense when he was on the floor. As a result, he simply wasn't on the floor much. He averaged just 15.2 minutes in the playoffs, a deep decline from the 25.5 he logged during the regular season.

    His next stop was the rumor mill, as Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported the Sixers "actively explored the trade market" for Thybulle this offseason. He is technically extension-eligible, but Fischer added "there hasn't been traction on extension conversations."

    After adding Tucker, House and Melton, the Sixers aren't nearly as desperate for Thybulle's defense, so he needs to give them other reasons for them to play him. If not, he could face a severe minutes crunch right before hitting the open market, which is less than ideal.

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