Offseason NBA Power Rankings: 6. Philadelphia 76ers

The NBA offseason has finally begun.

Until the next news bomb bursts.

This is usually the slow phase and could still be. The preliminary design process, with its trade talks and roster decisions, ended. The draft came and went, followed by the usual revamping of free agency rosters, along with a healthy number of trades.

When the summer league is complete and front offices generally head to beaches and golf courses – albeit with cell phones handy – things generally go quiet.

But Kevin Durant is still with the Brooklyn Nets, although he’d rather not be. Russell Westbrook is still in Los Angeles, although the Lakers might prefer it if he wasn’t. Jazz’s rush to emulate the Thunder and Rockets’ rebuilding process hasn’t settled on a deal to extradite Donovan Mitchell, but that could happen as well.

Now that enough has been completed, it seems time to reflect on how the closed deals have changed the NBA power structure, from the Champion Warriors changing role players to the second-place Celtics strengthening for the annual Lakers Tournament bring drama to keep up with the resurgent team down the hall.

The countdown of teams likely to reach the playoffs:

6.Philadelphia 76ers

Record 2021-22: 51-31

Warm welcome: F PJ Tucker (free agent), F Danuel House Jr. (free agent), G De’Anthony Melton (trade), F Trevelin Queen (free agent).

Welcome back: G James Harden.

As long as: C DeAndre Jordan, F Paul Millsap, G Myles Powell, G Danny Green.

With the option to go for his contract and pull out over $47 million, James Harden opted to make $33 million instead. It was an unusual entrepreneurial decision that could be assessed very differently depending on one’s point of view.

For 76ers general manager Daryl Morey, Harden’s partner from the Rockets’ days, it was savings that led him to consider former Rockets teammates PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr.

For the NBA, that was reason to look into whether Harden was given assurances of a indemnity contract or whether the Sixers were rash in their negotiations with House and Tucker in violation of the manipulation rules, with ESPN reporting that the league has begun an investigation.

But for the Sixers and their chances of asserting themselves, it could mean more than just the perks of adding a couple of Harden’s running buddies from Houston and cementing a rotation that was missing after the trade to get Harden off the nets.

Harden’s financial haircut may have helped the Sixers roster, but he also showed a determination to pursue postseason success that eluded him. If he was willing to make that financial commitment, albeit short-term, he’ll likely continue the offseason commitment to come back in better shape to get back to his level of play at Houston and Brooklyn.

Harden gave little hint of this until the end of last season, leaving the Sixers to rely on MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and fast-improving Tyrese Maxey. Nothing wrong with that. Even with Harden playing only a minor role as host, Embiid can be so dominant and Maxey so explosive that the Sixers can win many games and earn a playoff berth.

To hold their ground, the Sixers need Harden to be a superstar again.

Harden looked like those days were over. But there was a time when there was talk of another of his former Rockets teammates, Chris Paul, also struggling in the season after suffering hamstring injuries before embarking on some offseason changes and has shown he can during had a lot more left of its time than many thought slowly -moving, off-season.

If Harden is similarly tapered, the 76ers are contenders. He can still be a playmaker, but the idea of ​​defending an effective and aggressive Harden while providing the defensive attention needed to deal with Embiid, last season’s champion averaging 30.6 points per game, could be a big challenge for the opponent.

With Embiid controlling the boards and defending at the all-defensive team level, the Sixers can be better positioned defensively. The addition of Tucker should help with this right away, pairing well up front with Tobias Harris, with both teams stopping them from helping Maxey, Harden, and Embiid too much.

House and De’Anthony Melton should fill out the second session with Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton and Georges Niang, although the Sixers need to determine if Paul Reed is ready to be Embiid’s backup at center. This group could have enough shooting, which the Sixers lacked after trading for Harden, to take advantage of Thybulle’s defensive excellence.

The NBA will weigh how Morey has put together his Rockets reunion, with Harden, House, Tucker, Melton and Trevelin Queen all having Rockets ties. But the league’s investigation, even if it leads to the slap the Bulls and Bucks received last season, won’t change Harden’s apparent determination to return to the more important memory of their time together in Houston than familiar faces to play.

If Harden even comes close to that level of play, Embiid can lead the Sixers the rest of the way to fight status. After trying thunder, missiles, and webs, that seems to be Harden’s plan.

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12. Toronto Birds of Prey
11. Dallas Mavericks
10. Memphis grizzlies
9. Minnesota Timber Wolves
8. Brooklyn Networks
7.Miami Heat

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