76ers Players with Most at Stake During 2022-23 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 15, 2022

76ers Players with Most at Stake During 2022-23 NBA Season

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 02: James Harden #1 and Tobias Harris #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers look on against the Miami Heat during the first half in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at FTX Arena on May 02, 2022 in Miami, Florida. 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 Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    As a franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers are all-in on the 2022-23 NBA season.

    Even still, some of their players will feel increased pressure to perform.

    Whether the incentive is to improve future earnings outlooks or rewrite legacies, the following three players could find it particularly pressure-packed under the spotlight.

James Harden

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 10: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Miami Heat during the first half in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at FTX Arena on May 10, 2022 in Miami, Florida. 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 Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    James Harden earned some brownie points over the summer when he left some money on the table to create enough wiggle room for the front office to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. in free agency.

    "I told [76ers president of basketball operations] Daryl [Morey] to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over," Harden told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That's all that matters to me at this stage."

    Harden should take a positive narrative into the season, but that could be wiped out quickly by a sluggish start. All eyes are on him after he posted some uncharacteristic numbers in recent years, and everyone will be watching to see whether his issues have been injury-related or are signs of outright decline.

    Once the 82-game marathon is finished, Harden will face even more heat as he looks to improve his less-than-stellar playoff resume.

Tobias Harris

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA, USA - MAY 8: Tobias Harris of Philadelphia 76ers is seen during NBA semifinals between Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States on May 8, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
    Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Tobias Harris might not be the most consistent player, but his season stats don't move around much.

    Since 2017-18, he has averaged between 17.2 and 20 points per game, 5.5 and 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 and 3.5 assists. His shooting rates almost always land somewhere between above-average and really good, while his defense typically scores around serviceable.

    He's the kind of player you'd think would fly under the radar, but his contract won't let that happen. He is objectively overpaid at $37.6 million, per Spotrac, and his salary only looks more bloated after Harden's arrival and Tyrese Maxey's emergence pushed Harris lower on the offensive pecking order.

    That's why his name keeps bouncing around the rumor mill and why he's often scapegoated when things go wrong. He might handle an essential role for the team, but his pay rate paints him as more of a luxury.

Matisse Thybulle

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA, USA - MAY 12: Matisse Thybulle of Philadelphia 76ers in action during NBA semifinals between Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States on May 12, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
    Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    It wasn't long ago that Matisse Thybulle looked like he'd be a fixture in Philly for years to come.

    His disruptive defense gave the unit some bite, and his transition finishing was a big momentum burst. The problem is, once the playoffs rolled around, teams would exploit his offensive limitations and force Philly to reduce his floor time.

    This past postseason, he logged just 15.2 minutes a night—or 10.3 fewer than in the regular season. The Sixers were outscored with him on the floor in eight of the nine playoff contests he played.

    He took the fast track to the trade rumor mill shortly thereafter, and he has been there ever since. He is technically extension-eligible right now, but it's hard to see Philly feeling any urgency to secure his future, so 2023 restricted free agency is likely in the cards. In other words, he might have tens of millions on the line this season.

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