Projecting Joel Embiid, 76ers Stars' Ceilings and Floors for 2022-23 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 1, 2022

Projecting Joel Embiid, 76ers Stars' Ceilings and Floors for 2022-23 NBA Season

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    TORONTO, ON - APRIL 7: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers brings the ball up the floor with Joel Embiid #21 against the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their basketball game at the Scotiabank Arena on April 7, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
    Mark Blinch/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia 76ers will enter the 2022-23 NBA season with a roster arguably deserving of juggernaut status.

    Of course, this isn't the first time Philly will take a talented team into a new campaign, and the franchise still hasn't advanced beyond the conference semifinals in more than 20 years.

    The Sixers' ceiling resides in the championship realm. Their basement, if things really went awry, might be a frustration-filled first-round exit.

    Certain stars on the team have similarly cavernous splits between their best- and worst-case scenarios.

Joel Embiid

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 08: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the Miami Heat during Game Four of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center on May 8, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Heat 116-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Ceiling: MVP...and Finals MVP

    Embiid has finished each of the past two seasons as the silver medalist in the MVP voting. He could have easily taken home the hardware in either campaign, as you could argue he's the best two-way player in the Association right now.

    There isn't much room to grow his numbers at this point—beyond making more appearances—but the significance of those stats could rise if the Sixers soar around him. If he can steer a championship run, look for him to collect both MVP and Finals MVP honors.


    Floor: Misses too much time to factor in MVP race or salvage Sixers' season

    The next time Embiid plays 70 games in a season will be his first. His 68 appearances this past season marked a new career-high. His 14 absences didn't do too much damage to his season or Philly's, but doubling that number could cause real trouble for both.

    Should something strike down the 7-footer for one-third of the campaign or more, then neither he nor the Sixers will win anything of significance.

James Harden

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 12: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles the ball against the Miami Heat during Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 12, 2022 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
    David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

    Ceiling: Gets his burst back and uses it to chase down an All-NBA spot

    Harden's production has trended down the past two seasons, a span which just so happens to coincide with hamstring trouble for the 33-year-old. In other words, this could be less a case of age catching up to him than it is a simple injury and recovery process.

    If his hamstring finally heals, and his burst is all the way back, he could splash, step-back and table-set his way back on to his first All-NBA roster since 2019-20.


    Floor: Statistical decline worsens as 33-year-old has clearly lost a step

    If Harden can't get his hamstring problem under control, the Sixers have a problem. If his hamstring is fine and his numbers still don't recover, Philly's issues will exponentially grow.

    Either way, there are no guarantees his statistics will bounce back. Last season, he posted his worst three-point percentage (33.0) and second-worst field-goal percentage (41.0). If those don't improve going forward, he'll be a quantity-over-quality scorer who doesn't positively impact winning.

Tyrese Maxey

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 12: Tyrese Maxey #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles the ball against the Miami Heat during Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 12, 2022 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
    David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

    Ceiling: First-time All-Star and Most Improved Player

    The 2021-22 campaign sure felt like a breakout season for Maxey, but he could still be better. Considering he's only 21 years old and entering just his third big-league campaign, he might be nowhere near his peak.

    There might plenty of mouths to feed in Philly, but if Maxey proves he's ready for a heavier workload, the Sixers won't hold him back. If he turns his 17.5 points and 4.3 assists into something like 23 points and six dimes while sustaining (or, better yet, improving) his shooting rates, he could be a lock for both the All-Star team and Most Improved Player award.


    Floor: Three-point shooting tails off, Maxey gets lost at times on deeper roster

    Last season, Maxey bagged 1.8 threes per night on 42.7 percent shooting. One year prior, he was only at 0.5 triples on 30.1 percent shooting. Maybe he just massively upgraded as a marksman over a single summer, but it's at least possible that the regression gods will come for him and drag his connection rate closer to league average.

    If he's not a hyper-efficient option, the Sixers have enough scoring depth that they could simply look in different directions for buckets. He's too good to get totally lost in the shuffle, but there could be stretches in which Philly doesn't feel his impact.

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