3 players who could make or break 76ers in first round vs. Nets

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

2. P.J. Tucker

The Sixers signed P.J. Tucker for this exact moment: the playoffs. With years of successful postseason play under his belt, Tucker was an obvious free agent target for the Sixers. He brought a level of experience and toughness to the starting five that was previously lacking. No one can deny his impact this season as a locker room presence and vocal leader.

That said, the on-court results with Tucker have been more varied than what fans initially had in mind. His 3-point volume is in the gutter, to the point where teams are intentionally ignoring him in the corner. Not long ago, Tucker was considered the preeminent corner 3s specialist in the NBA. Now he’s getting the Matisse Thybulle treatment.

Doc Rivers has retained trust in Tucker all season. He has never once come off the bench. He has also put together enough high-profile defensive performances  to keep the fanbase somewhat hopeful. We all remember when Tucker put Nikola Jokic, the soon-to-be MVP runner-up, in the torture chamber for an entire half. He still has the ability to absolutely obliterate offensive players with his physicality at the point of attack.

But, can the Sixers survive Tucker’s minutes if he’s basically a free pass to double team Embiid? Plus, there has been ample speculation about the Sixers using Tucker as the primary backup center behind Embiid once the playoffs arrive. Those lineups have not fared particularly well on the defensive end. Does small-ball with Tucker at the five actually prevent the Sixers from getting blasted in the non-Embiid mintues? We will have to wait and see.