Sixers: Preseason grades for every player

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

The Philadelphia 76ers went 4-0 in the preseason, setting the tone for what promises to be an exciting new season. Joel Embiid only made two appearances, but he looks every bit his normal self. Meanwhile, there were plenty of encouraging signs from both James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. And that’s without even breaching the new and improved supporting cast.

Of all the Embiid-era teams, this is the best opening night roster. Never have the Sixers felt closer to title contention, except maybe in 2019 when we were all convinced Al Horford and Josh Richardson would crystallize the greatest defense of all time. Unlike 2019, however, the Sixers actually coalesce on paper. The talent and the fit are both strong from top to bottom.

While some preseason wins were more convincing than others (and, in the grand scheme of things, going 4-0 in the preseason doesn’t count for much), plenty of positives (and a few concerns) surfaced. With Tuesday’s regular season opener fast approaching, let’s grade every preseason performer who’s still on the team.

Sixers preseason grades: Starting five

B-. . C. 76ers. JOEL EMBIID

In two preseason appearances, Joel Embiid looked perfectly fine. He didn’t bring his A-game (which is probably smart in the preseason), but we saw enough. Embiid remains one of the most dominant scorers the game has ever seen. His size, mobility, and skill level is unmatched. He will be more active defensively when the games count. As for the James Harden partnership, there’s still room to grow. It’s not completely organic right now, but there’s every reason to believe two of our generation’s most talented players will figure it out.

76ers. JAMES HARDEN. B. . G

James Harden looks mostly the same as last season. He showed more burst getting downhill, but looked nowhere near his MVP form of years past (not all that shocking when one considers the mileage on his body). He also incorporated the mid-range jumper in a serious way, with mixed results. It’s a good shot to have in his back pocket, but I’m not convinced it should become a full-on staple of his game. Like Embiid, Harden probably wasn’t flooring the gas pedal. We should get a better sense of where he stands physically once the regular season begins.

G. 76ers. TYRESE MAXEY. A.

For three of four games, Tyrese Maxey was far and away the best player on the court. He looks even better than last season. He’s taking more 3s with more confidence and he’s starting to show signs of life as a facilitator. The braver Maxey gets with the ball — the more he’s willing to assert himself in the offense, looking for his own shot and seeking out playmaking opportunities — the more deadly Philly’s offense will be.

B+. . F. 76ers. TOBIAS HARRIS

Tobias Harris didn’t put up gaudy numbers, but there were plenty of positive indicators for the season ahead. First and foremost is his confidence behind the 3-point line. Harris is firing away like never before, continuing the progress he made after Harden’s arrival last season. If the Sixers get this quick-trigger, snappy-and-precise version of Harris, it will be quite hard to contain them offensively.

A-. . F. 76ers. P.J. TUCKER

P.J. Tucker didn’t score a lot of points, but that’s not how you judge his value on the court. Tucker is the glue holding Philly’s starting five together. His defensive communication and hustle leaps off the screen. Plus he’s guarding the opposing team’s best player every night: Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Gordon Hayward. That kind of versatility helps a lot. He’s doing all the small things to help win basketball games, and that should only become more apparent in the regular season.