Sixers: 3 players who have stood out in preseason

Tyrese Maxey, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrese Maxey, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Sixers who have stood out in preseason: Montrezl Harrell

There has been a lot of preseason chatter about Paul Reed’s apparent emergence as Joel Embiid’s primary backup. A very positive development in this writer’s opinion, both because of Reed’s on-court talent and because it shows that even Doc Rivers is capable of change, however slow its progress.

But let’s not oversimplify the matter: Reed’s emergence does not mean Montrezl Harrell has underperformed, or even that Harrell is undeserving of the minutes himself. That’s the thing about depth: it can mean good players with winning skill sets are seemingly neglected, kept hidden in the shadows until misfortune befalls the franchise.

Harrell would play for most teams (and he will probably scrap his way to minutes in Philly, if somewhat sporadic). He has been absolutely thrilling to watch in the preseason — to the point where it would be no exaggeration to proclaim him the best veteran backup of the Embiid era. Yeah, even better than Andre Drummond (I know I said not to put too much stock into preseason performances, to not make grand proclamations, but…).

There’s no way around Harrell’s prolific offensive talent. He’s an elite finisher at the rim, combining the raw force of an NFL linebacker with the grace and soft touch of a ballerina. It’s easy to get caught up in Harrell’s size and lack of perimeter skill, but he’s so good within five feet of the rim that it doesn’t really matter. He is geared to feast off of James Harden assists whenever he sets foot on the floor.

Defense is a major concern, and perhaps the main reason for Reed’s place above him in the rotation, but Harrell’s toughness and competitive spirit cannot go unmentioned. He made the game-winning basket in Philly’s first win over Cleveland, but only did so after flexing and smack-talking the Cavs bench for the entire fourth quarter of a preseason game. It was beautiful stuff. That kind of mildly unwarranted but completely enthralling spunk has been missing from the Sixers for a while.