Sixers: 3 players who have to step up after 0-3 start

Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports /

Will the real Montrezl Harrell please show himself?

Montrezl Harrell’s defensive shortcomings are well documented and no one in the Sixers fanbase expects him to be a key contributor once the playoffs come around. But for his entire career, Harrell has feasted in the regular season — a dominant interior finisher who crashes the glass with reckless abandon. Harrell’s unfiltered energy and effort made him a true standout in the preseason and evidently won him the backup job behind Embiid. After three games, however, Doc Rivers has to be rethinking that decision.

Harrell has played a total of 23 minutes. He is -10 in those minutes, which does not do justice to just how bad the veteran has been. Granted the Celtics and Bucks are exceptionally high level opponents, but Harrell has simply been unwatchable. He’s invisible on offense and all too transparently bad on defense. His lack of size and quickness completely tanks the second unit, to the point where Philadelphia has hardly been able to stomach him for more than 2-3 minutes at a time.

So, that has to change. And fast. Harrell has the potential to be a genuinely important and productive bench player, at least in the regular season. He fits like a glove next to James Harden on offense, but that holds very little weight if he can’t get the defense in check. He should be more passable against lesser opponents, but the Sixers very quickly pivoted away from him against San Antonio too. If Harrell can’t stay on the floor against the Spurs, his odds of staying on the court in any matchup would appear slim.

If Harrell has regressed to the point of ineffectiveness, then Paul Reed should get the perpetual nod behind Embiid. If not, it’s time for Harrell’s infectious energy and appetite for chaos to shine through. He can absolutely help the Sixers’ current bench scoring woes if he can figure out how to keep it together on defense.