Are the Sixers built to follow the Nuggets blueprint?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Merriam-Webster defines a copycat as one who imitates or adopts the behavior or practices of another. The term “copycat league” is more synonymous with football than it is basketball but the NBA is definitely a copycat league. When a team wins a championship suddenly every other team looks at how they did it and tries to copy their recipe for success as much as possible. Can the Sixers look at this year’s NBA Champion for answers?

Let us take a look at how the Denver Nuggets built their Championship roster.

The most noticeable thing when you watch the Nuggets, especially when you listen to players talk is that they love each other, they truly love being a team. There is no jealousy between Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic; there is no you take a turn I take a turn. Lots of players say they just want to win, it’s not about stats. The Nuggets actually play that way. Yes, Jokic is a near 7-footer who can get a triple-double in his sleep but he is truly just as happy to take a back seat if Murray is going off.

The other thing that is very noteworthy in the “super team” era is that, as much as can be in the NBA, this team was built through the draft and supplemented by trades and strategic free agency additions. I think it is also worth mentioning here that there is a trend in recent years of teams winning by building this way and not just throwing money at top-tier free agents or trading for a disgruntled superstar. I’m looking at you Milwaukee.

So let us take a look at the similarities between the 76ers and the Nuggets in terms of roster construction. The obvious first comparison is the Sixers duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Embiid has proven that, while he may not be the same level of a playmaker as Nikola Jokic in every aspect, he is on the same level as an overall talent. The concern is that Tyrese Maxey’s career arc may not match up with Embiid in the same way that Murray matches with Jokic. There is also the concern that although still very young Tyrese Maxey may be at, or near, his ceiling already. While he has greatly exceeded expectations to this point in his career the 76ers need Maxey to take another step forward if they hope to take that next step as a team.

The next similarity is former Orlando Magic teammates.

Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon fill a similar role on their respective rosters. While Aaron Gordon fits better with Denver as far as knowing when to step up and be aggressive, Tobias Harris is a better shooter. While they fill similar roles offensively Aaron Gordon seems much more comfortable in his role with the Nuggets and is the type of defender that the Sixers want Tobias Harris to be. Aaron Gordon defensively takes so much pressure from the other Nuggets players by routinely drawing the match-up with the opponent’s best player.

One of the biggest differences is the stability the Nuggets have had in the Head Coach position. A lot has to do with the expectations they have in Philadelphia versus where Denver was as a franchise when Mike Malone was hired. The stability of the same voice building a system over multiple seasons can not be ignored, and maybe the Sixers can find some stability in Nick Nurse.

Overall the Sixers seem to have built a team more closely similar to Denver than many other NBA rosters. They also have a variety of role players who fit well with what they are trying to do in Philly. The odd man out in this Nuggets-Sixers comparison is James Harden. That can be viewed positively or negatively. Either the Sixers have an extra element that they don’t have in Denver or seemingly more likely, maybe Harden is a piece that can be turned into some high-level role players and or extra draft capital to continue to build and push this Sixers team forward.