What if the Sixers new lineup doesn’t perform as expected?

The Sixers once again have championship aspirations after adding Al Horford and Josh Richardson to their already blossoming core. Elton Brand has created a super-sized lineup that projects to be a defensive juggernaut in the upcoming season. Horford and Richardson fit nicely next to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris on paper but what if their on court fit isn’t as clean?

Horford has primarily played as a center throughout his NBA career. He was a natural power forward coming into the NBA out of the University of Florida, where he played next to Joakim Noah. While Horford may have been a power forward who was forced to play center early on in his career, that isn’t the case anymore.

He is perfectly tailored to be a modern day center. He can knock down 3 pointers, protect the paint and pass out of the high or low post. Someone only needs to look at a tape of him playing against the 76ers and guarding Joel Embiid to know how perfect of a center Horford is for today’s game.

Moving him to the four will require him to guard smaller and more agile players than what he’s used to guarding. Horford shuffles his feet well for a big man but will he be able to keep up with the likes of players such as Pascal Siakam and Draymond Green? What about LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard when teams decide to go small?

Age is another factor that has to be taken into consideration. Horford isn’t as quick or springy as he once used to be. Forcing a 33-year-old who’s mostly played center throughout his career to become a forward could cause some issues. 

Josh Richardson is another new addition to the team. He’ll presumably be replacing JJ Redick in the starting lineup. Richardson will be a nice upgrade over Redick defensively, who was often targeted by opposing teams. With that being said, what Redick often lacked on defense he made up for on offense. 

Redick shot 39.7% from deep for the Sixers. Having that dead eye shooting was crucial to the Sixers offense last season. They would often run dribble handoffs between Redick and Embiid in the half court when they couldn’t find anything else.

Trying DHOs with Richardson and Embiid won’t work. Richardson shot 35.7% from 3, which is just about average. He is more of a catch and shoot type than he is a motion shooter like Redick was. The Sixers may struggle to create in the half court without the Redick-Embiid DHOs. Not to mention, Simmons lack of shooting only adds to the potential clutter that could happen in the half court.

As a result of adding Horford and Richardson into the starting lineup, Tobias Harris will be moved to small forward. In a similar fashion to Horford, Harris was seen as a “tweener” coming into the league. It’s become evident that he’s most effective as a power forward. Harris isn’t quick enough to guard athletic forwards. It’s why playing the four spot suits him so well. He spaces the floor well and you can hide some of his defensive deficiencies. As a small forward, Harris will be required to defend more athletic players as well as be guarded by them. He won’t have some of the mismatches that playing power forward provided him.

Obviously, it isn’t likely that this team fails to succeed together. Horford won’t be playing the bulk of his minutes as a four but rather a center when Embiid takes a seat on the bench. Richardson isn’t the shooter Redick is but his defense should create more fast break opportunities for the team. Harris can shoot with the best of them and while he might struggle defensively, he has the right players around him that it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

On paper, this Sixers team complements each other well but what transpires on the court could be completely different. So what do they do if things don’t work out the way they had planned? We could be looking at yet another reshuffling of the deck.

The Sixers have so much potential next season but there is a slight chance that this super-sized lineup gets exposed. Elton Brand and Brett Brown will have to think quickly if things begin to look messy. Hopefully the product they’ve put together works the way it should because this team looks like the most complete iteration of themselves that they’ve had in years.

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