With the first full regular season of the Embiid-Harden Philadelphia 76ers officially in the books, it is now a time to reflect on how everyone performed and project how that will play out in the playoffs. Overall, the team seemingly met expectations as they finished with the third best record in the east trailing the previous two eastern conference champions in the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.
Despite finishing behind those two, the Sixers showed a lot of promise throughout the year, and if they can put it together at the right time, they have a legitimate shot at a title this year. The players, Daryl Morey, and Doc Rivers all played a massive role in how the seasoned turned out, so without further ado, it is time for some grades.
Season grades for 76ers’ starters
Joel Embiid — A
Since A+ is a fake grade, I’m giving Embiid the highest honor possible and deservedly so. Embiid improved upon his previous two MVP caliber seasons and very well may be taking home the award this year. He led the league in scoring, while also anchoring a high-level defense, despite being surrounded by less than stellar defenders. The only critique is that Embiid is occasionally sluggish, but even that can be attributed to fatigue and injury. All Embiid needs to do is lead this team to a title and cement himself as the greatest player in franchise history.
James Harden — B+
James Harden was a disaster last year. That is to be expected in the postseason given his history, but he looked bad in the regular season. That was extremely alarming for an aging guard who has been the king of the regular season at times. This year, Harden seemed to really change about how he goes about playing basketball in a meaningful way. Rather than dribbling the air out of the basketball, not being able to get by his defender, and throwing it to a teammate for a rushed shot, Harden ran the offense with more urgency and command. It is unlikely that he can ever be Houston James Harden again, so it was nice to see him embrace what he needs to do with his current skill set.
He exceeded all expectations given how he looked last year and deserves praise. Despite that, he is still an incredibly frustrating and careless passer, which often leads to live ball turnovers, which can be problematic for a team that cannot defend the break like the Sixers. At times, Harden looks like he does not care and still raises the alarm. It is totally reasonable to be skeptical of Harden going forward despite the quality regular season play, but he has a chance to completely change the perception of who he is as a player with a stellar postseason.
Tyrese Maxey — B+
Though the team was playing poorly at the start, Maxey was on fire to start the year before getting injured and losing his role in the starting lineup to De’Anthony Melton. Whether or not benching Maxey was the right decision is another matter, but Maxey fought through the adversity as he was clearly struggling as he first adapted to his new bench role, before becoming the starter again, and finishing the season strong. For such a young player, Maxey deserves an immense amount of credit for how he overcame obstacles this year. After coming into the league as a poor-shooting prospect, Maxey has turned himself into a lethal high-volume shooter from three. Now it will be exciting to see how he impacts the team in the postseason. Thank you Mike Muscala.
Tobias Harris — C
If this was written midseason, Tobias Harris may have been worthy of an A. That is how awful he has been for the past few months. Harris looks completely lost out there, which is remarkable considering how comfortable he looked earlier in the year as he finally accepted his role. Since then, he has seemingly forgotten how to score and shoot three-pointers as he put up some of the worst stats of his career this year. It is unknown what the future holds for him on this team, but something needs to change for Tobias if this team has any hope of making noise in the playoffs.
P.J Tucker — C+
Daryl Morey knew what he was getting with Tucker when he signed him. While many fans have been frustrated with his play over the course of the season, this is who P.J Tucker is and he finished the season strong. The stats will always look bad, but he is efficient, an elite corner three shooter, does the things that do not show up in the box score, and he is still a great defender at times. Tucker was signed to be an impact player in the playoffs and he usually is, but he is almost 38 years old and had worse numbers across the board than he did last year, which leaves some reason to doubt him.