After back to back preseason wins for the Philadelphia 76ers, the Sixers showed us a glimpse of their potential. Nearly from top to bottom, this team is revamped. Last Tuesday, Shake Milton stole the show as the Sixers cruised past the Boston Celtics. On Friday night, the Sixers, led by Milton and Dwight Howard, overcame a large deficit to take down the Pacers. New coach Doc Rivers seems to have helped find a balanced identity to the team so far. The Sixers will need to capitalize on his impressive coaching resume to make a run this season.
As Philadelphia fans, it’s almost required to overreact over every game; we all do it. With the preseason in the books and the regular season merely days away, what are some of the top takeaways we can look at before regular season tip-off?
Sixers’ Rookie Tyrese Maxey Starts by February
Okay, this is pretty bold. The Sixers were able to steal the rookie from Kentucky on draft night after he fell down to pick 21. Since then, Maxey has looked electric in his glimpses of NBA action so far. His NBA ceiling is sky-high, which he proved in his two preseason games. In the win against Boston, Maxey had an impressive 8 points and 3 assists in 12 minutes of work. On Friday night, Maxey earned his way to 11 points and 5 boards in 17 minutes against the Pacers.
His performance likely was expected by the Sixers as well. Maxey has been raved about by the entire organization, as he’s been making strong impressions at camp. He has the makings to be an instant fan favorite. However, Maxey will likely hit a slump at one point and we’ll have a section of the fanbase throwing him in the trade machine.
Looking at the Sixers’ starting lineup as it is now, he could step into either Danny Green or Seth Curry’s spot. Curry, who has been a career bench player, has thrived in that role. Green has played a starting role for the majority of his career, which throws a wrench into things as well. However, Maxey could easily outperform either of these guys as we cross into the new year. His athleticism and ball-handling capabilities could make him a better option come February. He should move up to be the second or third guy off the bench early, so that, or an injury to Green or Curry, could earn him a consistent spot into the starting lineup.
Shake Milton is a Sixth Man of the Year Candidate
This one is not *as* bold as the Maxey point. Milton has been the leading scorer in both preseason games, and has looked impressive. Fellow PSN writer David Esser has been on the Milton bandwagon since his time in the G-League, and is finally proving to be a key part of this team’s roster.
Coach Doc Rivers has a history of making the most out of his players, which makes him such a great coach. More specifically, Rivers has been at the helm for a number of Sixth Man of the Year award winners, which only assists Milton in his development.
With the starting rotation as it is, Milton likely won’t get many starts this year if Ben Simmons stays healthy. However, Milton is going to be the top option off the bench. He is a pure scorer who can handle the ball, and has shown us how he can provide a spark. With Coach Rivers “literally telling Milton to ‘just be Shake,'” Milton could be in for a career year off the Sixers’ bench.
The Sixers Will be a Top 5 Bench Scoring Team
To poach directly from an article put out by PSN’s Sean Barnard:
As Doc Rivers put it after the recent Pacers game, “There are going to be nights where our bench is going to win us games.” This was put on full display in the recent preseason matchup as the Sixers bench poured in an impressive 67 points in the victory. While this was a preseason game and the minute splits favored these bench guys getting extra time, the ability that his been flashed speaks volumes for the potential of the team.
Obviously bench scoring is going to be skewed following a preseason game. Starters are not playing, so the bench is going to be in full effect. However, 67 points is no small feat. Among all teams who played only two preseason games, the Sixers paced teams with an average of 60.5 ppg. The three teams in front of them played three preseason games, but they did not trail them by much.
With all of these new pieces on the team, the Sixers finally look like they have a capable roster and coaching staff. Obviously, much of their success will lie in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. However, depth is what makes teams so good down the stretch, and the Sixers finally have scoring depth.
We can see how the Sixers fare in some meaningful action come Wednesday night. They’ll play host to the Washington Wizards at 7 pm EST, with coverage being on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Buckle up, Sixers’ fans, it’s going to be a fun ride.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
Avid Philly fan and future educator
Student at Stockton University