The Philadelphia 76ers may have just lost in disappointing fashion to one of their main rivals last night and subsequently dropped from the in-season tournament, but no one will be nitpicking on that given that the team is off to a hot start to their campaign with a 10-4 win-loss card, still good for a deadlock for second in the East.
Behind Joel Embiid reprising his Most Valuable Player-level play from a season ago, up-and-coming guard Tyrese Maxey looking all but certain to be an All-Star with his exponential growth in Year 4, and even Tobias Harris turning in a career year so far, the 76ers seem poised to remain in the upper echelon of contenders — all these despite summer-long prognostications of the team facing a steep decline.
New head coach Nick Nurse has also been one of the biggest keys behind Philly’s blazing start, with the former Coach of the Year instilling a new offensive identity that has better optimized the roster. That being said, the 76ers are not perfect, and their biggest weakness could actually be one that completely sinks them later if left untended.
Why the 76ers should mitigate their biggest weakness as soon as possible
As of writing, the 76ers are dead last in the league in bench minutes, allotting just 15 per game. Clearly, Nurse and the coaching staff have been hesitant on giving a considerable serving of court time to the second unit, which explains why the team has three players in the Top 20 in minutes per outing, with Maxey leading the entire association in that department.
Now, Nurse has always preferred doubling down on his starters and giving them very heavy minutes since his Toronto days — much to the chagrin of many post-2019 NBA Finals — but that has still come quite surprising given that Philadelphia touts much better depth than his Raptors teams.
Before this season began, we mentioned that the 76ers may have just created the league’s most formidable bench. While that could still hold some credence due to the litany of proven veterans and young contributors riding the bench, the coaching staff seems to not share the same vision. However, that is far from ideal.
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The truth is, Philly’s core is not particularly the most durable one. Embiid has never played more than 68 games in a season. Maxey himself missed 22 games last season due to injury. For better future-proofing, one might argue that it would serve them well for the coaching staff to better maximize the team’s depth and assuage the starters’ minutes whenever possible.
In addition, fortifying the bench also comes with a lot of benefits. Not only can it give the team a better look at potential combinations that could give them an edge in certain matchups, but it would also ensure that the rest of the second unit can remain sharp enough to still maintain leads at the least and capably fill in whenever injury arises or anyone is pestered with foul troubles.
Ultimately, while the Philadelphia 76ers are thriving under Nick Nurse, it would indisputably be for the better if the coaching staff trusts the bench more than they have to keep the main guys from being overburdened and to equip the team better for tactical purposes down the road, especially in the playoffs.