Sixers: Projecting the 2022-23 starting five and bench unit

James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Sixers have made several important moves this offseason, from the re-signing of James Harden to the complete reinvigoration of the supporting cast. Daryl Morey’s savvy financial maneuvering (with help from Harden) has put Philadelphia in a much better place after a disappointing end to 2021-22.

Joel Embiid is the sun around which the Sixers’ solar system orbits, but Doc Rivers has some critical personnel choices to make ahead of next season. How can he get to most out of Harden and Embiid simultaneously, and which groups work best when one of Philly’s two stars is operating solo?

With the obvious caveat that Morey could make further moves to bolster the rotation, he’s an early project of next season’s starting five and bench unit.

Sixers starting point guard: James Harden

It goes without saying that James Harden will captain the ship for Philadelphia next season. The former MVP and 10-time All-Star took a pay cut to help Daryl Morey flesh out the roster, but he’s still one of the most handsomely paid players in the league. He struggled relative to expectations last year, but he remains extremely productive all around.

The Sixers have lacked elite-level halfcourt creation for ages. Harden was a much-needed solution last season, providing Joel Embiid with his first real pick-and-roll partner while also boosting the shooting percentages of practically every player stationed around him. For the first time since Jimmy Butler, the Sixers had a proper table-setter — a player who posed both a scoring threat and a passing threat. Harden lacked his accustomed juice as a scorer, but his basketball I.Q. is absolutely transcendent. Nobody reads the floor and processes the game quite like Harden.

Even if he can’t return to MVP form — and that would be asking a lot considering Harden’s recent injury history and the deluge of minutes played over the years — the Sixers will benefit immensely from Harden’s ability to uplift teammates and make the game easier. Philadelphia has long struggled to make the easy, simple plays in clutch situations. Harden helps tremendously in that area.

Harden’s new contract has bought him some real goodwill with the fanbase. We will see if he can back it up on the court — he’s still making well north of $30 million per season — but there’s every reason to believe he can. His clear commitment to winning, along with the improved roster around him and increased time to develop chemistry, sets the stage for a strong 2022-23 campaign from the 32-year-old.