The Philadelphia 76ers have finally done it. Ben Simmons is no longer a member of the team, and President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey and superstar James Harden has officially been announced as the newest member of the 76ers alongside fellow Brooklyn detractor and former All-Star Paul Millsap.
The payment for James Harden was large, but not as large as many people initially thought it would be. Heading out was Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks. Ben Simmons leaving is only good. Seth Curry leaving stings, but Harden feasibly replaces him in the shooting department at a much higher volume. The picks were expected to be sent away, so while it doesn’t feel great, it was necessary.
Oddly enough, minimum contract backup center Andre Drummond will probably be what the Sixers miss the most as they have no other proven players behind Embiid in the traditional sense. There are three possible options on the roster as currently constructed.
First, the Sixers could look to the underused Paul Reed, last season’s G-League MVP. So far in his NBA career, Paul Reed has been someone who puts in productive minutes but can never seem to crack the rotation. Over the last two years, Reed has played only 47 games, yet he has excellent per 36 statistics. He is averaging 13.0 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game on 55.9% shooting from the field. His production in the G-League has also been fantastic. Now it’s up to Doc Rivers to let Bball Paul play.
In terms of unproven players, no player on the Sixers is more unproven than the 53rd overall pick from last season other than maybe Jaden Springer. For as unproven as he is, though, his per 36 stats are even more impressive. He is currently averaging (per 36 minutes) 14.3 points per game and 13.4 rebounds per game on 65.1% shooting from the field. If he gets the chance to play, he may be a fun asset for the Sixers to use on Embiid-less nights.
Paul Millsap is the only veteran on the Sixers list who could play backup center. Despite playing primarily power forward, his defense and versatility would allow him to soak up some minutes in a small ball rotation. Besides his stint with the Nets, Millsap was averaging 9.0 points per game in Denver in just over 20 minutes a game. His shooting splits during that time were 47.6/34.3/72.4, proving that, just last season, he could contribute to a winning team in the right situation.
Millsap’s ability to stretch the floor also shouldn’t be overlooked either. During his four seasons in Denver, Millsap shot 37.1 from beyond the arc, giving Jokic and company great kick-out opportunities. Harden and Maxey would be able to do the same thing on the nights without Embiid, and with Embiid’s improved passing, when the two play together, Embiid will have another player to kick it out to in double teams.
Overall, the 76ers got better with the James Harden trade. Significantly better. It hurts to lose out on players that meant so much to the organization, but it does feel good to have gotten great value for Ben Simmons. It’s up to the Sixers now how they replace Curry and Drummond, whether it’s giving Paul Reed a fair shot, letting Charles Bassey try to maintain his efficiency, or using the proven but undersized veteran in Paul Millsap.