With the Eastern Conference and the NBA in general rapidly approaching an unforeseen level of parity, teams are doing their earnest to try and stay ahead of the curve amid a style of play that’s also rapidly becoming monotonous. That tighter competition will be felt by all, but the Philadelphia 76ers are especially in need of a way to rise above the field and hopefully hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy after years of consistent underachievement in the playoffs.
The talent pool is wider than ever before, so it’s almost imperative that teams double down on imposing their play style onto their opponents and forge an identity off of it. And this is one thing that the 76ers should unearth early next season and potentially dominate in their own way.
The Philadelphia 76ers can go counter-culture next season
Pace-and-space basketball has basically been a trend since the last decade that it’s now a sport-wide norm. That is unlikely to change as a league-wide principle moving forward, but Philadelphia can implement a quirk that will not only make them different, but also possibly more dangerous and well-rounded as a team.
With Joel Embiid already on board, the 76ers should double down on not only playing big, but also staying big. Last season, the team almost always surrounded him with four perimeter players, but this season under Nick Nurse could give them an opportunity to experiment with the more unconventional.
The new head coach has already raved about Paul Reed’s potential as an all-around big man capable of being a factor in many departments and is in fact poised for a bigger role altogether. Currently, he’s projected as Embiid’s primary backup, but slotting him in as his partner in the front court could be intriguing.
Now, this isn’t new with the likes of Cleveland having found recent success with “tall-ball”, but it is certainly a way to maximize the 76ers’ components. Giving Embiid more run with another big man means more cramped up space with Reed not yet having a reliable stroke and even Mo Bamba still hit-and-miss from downtown, but it also opens up a new dimension both offensively and defensively.
High-low, big-to-big actions, for example, could unlock Embiid’s passing and Reed’s finishing and vice-versa and allow the 76ers to have a more versatile offense without the need of having to rely on Embiid and, say, Tyrese Maxey to do so much of the heavy lifting. Defensively, Embiid, Reed, and Bamba are mobile enough to cover a lot of ground in coverages and bolster the team’s rebounding.
Of course, resorting to PJ Tucker and Tobias Harris as the nominal power forwards is still an option and allows Philly to be more malleable, but those players aren’t expected to chalk up significant roles beyond this season. Perhaps the more sustainable avenue is to try and foster an identity forged on Embiid’s brilliance as a big man.
Fortunately, unlike in previous seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers now have a very flexible and highly resourceful tactician who will not be afraid to swim against the tide when needed. Hopefully, a taller configuration can be a viable option for the team stylistically and give them a blueprint to win, even in a non-conformist fashion.