The Sixers will almost certainly be without Ben Simmons this season. Here are three players who will have to step up this season.
With training camp approaching, the Sixers still have a lot of uncertainty surrounding their roster, with the Ben Simmons trade drama still unsettled. Who knows if Simmons will show up at camp, for the preseason, or at all. With that being said, three Sixers will need to step up to help keep this team in contention, assuming Simmons does not report and a trade does not happen.
Matisse Thybulle has continued to develop nicely through his first two years in the NBA. He has wreaked havoc defensively since he was a rookie and last season made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team while only playing 20 minutes per game. Thybulle averaged career highs in steals (1.6) and blocks (1.1) per game. He also averaged 3.9 ppg and just under 2 RPG. During his third season, he will have to continue to improve defensively while playing more minutes. Without Simmons, he will likely share the assignment of guarding the opponents’ best perimeter player with Danny Green.
Thybulle will also have to improve offensively. He shot 30 percent from beyond the arc on just two attempts per game. He will have to increase his volume and shoot a better percentage for the coaching staff to really keep him on the floor. If Thybulle can improve to a legitimate “3 and D” threat and shooting league average, he could possibly supplant Danny Green in the starting lineup.
Tyrese Maxey had a solid rookie season averaging 8.0 ppg, 2.0 APG, and 1.7 RPG in just over 15 minutes a night. Some nights Doc had Maxey in the rotation, and on other nights, he was not. In-game 6 of the second-round series against the Hawks, Maxey stepped up when his number was called and helped the Sixers force a game 7. Maxey showed multiple times last season that he could get to the rim and put pressure on the defense.
During the NBA Summer League, Maxey showed a lot of confidence in his perimeter shot. He can get to the rim at will, but his shooting will need to improve for the Sixers to trust him to run the team. With Simmons’ future in limbo, there is a solid chance that Maxey ends up being the team’s starting point guard. Maxey should be able to use his speed as a one-man fast break and open up transition threes for his teammates in a similar fashion as Simmons has in the past. If he can improve his perimeter shooting from last year and provide some more playmaking, he can really help this team win.
Tobias Harris had a pretty good season last year and should have been named to the All-Star team. He averaged 19.5 ppg, 6.8 RPG, and 3.5 APG and just missed the 50/40/90 club. Harris also had a pretty good postseason, only having two “bad” games during the Sixers’ run. Harris will have to make another leap in his play without Simmons in the lineup and no trade insight. He will be a true number two option and will be the best player on the team on nights when Joel Embiid doesn’t suit up. That is a lot of pressure for a player who has lived on the edge of average and good. Make no mistake, Tobias Harris was good last year, and there is an expectation that he will step up to the challenge of the upcoming season.
Harris will have to increase his scoring average to about 24 ppg while grabbing over 9 RPG. He will also have to become a better playmaker for the team with the potential absence of Simmons. He will have to make more passes in transition and out of the post to create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Tobias Harris made strides last season on the defensive end and seemed to make that a point of emphasis again this offseason. This year, he will be leaned on heavily defensively to guard the opposing team’s best wing/forward. Harris has a chance to really show he can live up to his contract and be the second-best player on a contending team.
With or without Simmons, the Sixers seem to be betting on their returning players improving with similar roster construction as last year. No matter what happens with the trade drama, the three players mentioned above need to take another leap in order to keep this team in contention.