Oversized Sixers are going against the tide in small ball era


In a league that has been prioritizing small ball over the past few seasons, the Sixers are trending in the opposite direction. The team reconstructed their roster after losing JJ Redick to the New Orleans Pelicans and Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade to the Miami Heat. In return, the Sixers acquired two-way wing Josh Richardson and signed veteran big man Al Horford to a major contract. The Sixers also resigned Tobias Harris to a long term deal.

Richardson is a defensive upgrade over Redick, who was often targeted by opposing teams. He’s 6’6, long and although not the lethal shooter that Redick was, he can still stroke it from deep. 

Horford is definitely the most interesting signing of the off-season. He’s played as a center throughout most of his NBA career. However, his natural position is power forward. Horford won’t blow you away with his athleticism and superb lateral quickness. His high IQ, discipline on defense and natural instincts are what will allow him to play either alongside Embiid in the starting lineup or as the center when Embiid needs rest.

Horford playing power forward will also move Tobias Harris back to his original position which is small forward. Coming out of college, Harris was listed as a “tweener”, a player who could play either forward spot. Harris isn’t the quickest defender ever but adding Richardson and Horford to the group will allow him to make some mistakes without the team getting penalized for it.

Having such a big lineup could create some interesting scenarios for the Sixers. Most teams nowadays usually deploy a wing player at the 4 spot. The Utah Jazz, for example, recently signed Bojan Bogdanovic to be their stretch four. Bogdanovic played small forward for the Pacers last season and is listed at 6’8 and weighs approximately 216 pounds. Horford will match up against these types of players quite often when he plays next to Embiid. He’ll easily be able to have his way in the paint against wings, something that the Sixers will look to exploit. 

Another intriguing thing to think about with this oversized lineup is where opposing teams will hide their point guards on defense. Previously they would just hide them on JJ Redick. With Richardson in the lineup, it won’t be that simple. 

While a lineup this big does have its advantages, it could also have some disadvantages. Al Horford will have to check perimeter oriented wings more and he isn’t as quick as he used to be. It could be a challenge for him to keep up with smaller, more athletic players than he’s used to guarding.

The Sixers don’t really have anyone who can go and create their own shot anymore either unless you’re counting Tobias Harris. Richardson can do it a little bit as well but it’s not the same as having Redick and Butler.

The Sixers took a gamble signing Al Horford. It could pay off monumentally for the team but if the experiment doesn’t work, it could have catastrophic consequences. With this new lineup, is there a chance the Sixers could pull off a championship run while going against the tide?

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports