After trading away Danny Green to acquire De’Anthony Melton and signing two of James Harden‘s former Houston Rockets teammates, Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers have reinforced the team’s depth. The offseason acquisitions give Doc Rivers more optionality for the Sixers’ fifth starting spot.
The following will explore the three primary candidates to be the Sixers’ fifth starter. Additionally, it should be understood that the role could be matchup-based. Each player’s recent performance and fit with Harden, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris will be weighed.
Sixers’ starting candidate No. 1: P.J. Tucker
P.J. Tucker would give the Sixers’ starting group a direct replacement for Danny Green’s catch-and-shoot ability and three-point shooting from the corners. A season ago, as a member of the Miami Heat, Tucker shot an above-average 41.5 percent on corner threes. Across the past two seasons, 87.2 percent of his attempted threes have been taken from the corners. Additionally, in his career, 97.3 percent of Tucker’s threes have been assisted. The spacing Tucker provides will open up the floor for the Sixers’ core four to work effectively. However, this decision would move Harris to the 3, which is not his most effective position.
Last season, the 11-year NBA veteran posted his highest Usage Percentage (11.7 percent) since 2015-16. Prior to Miami, Tucker had a Usage Percentage under ten percent for three consecutive seasons. In Philadelphia, his Usage can be expected to fall below ten percent again. In a starting five consisting of four relatively ball-dominant players, it would be beneficial for the Sixers’ fifth starter to know how to maximize his production while not handling the ball, as does Tucker.
The 37-year-old’s career averages consist of 7.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game, including 36.4 percent three-point shooting on 2.9 threes attempted per game. While playing with Harden in Houston for 226 games, Tucker’s numbers were 6.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Alongside Harden, he shot 37.6 percent from three on 4.2 threes attempted per game.
Sixers’ starting candidate No. 2: Danuel House
Danuel House offers a slightly different skill set when compared to P.J. Tucker, particularly more athleticism. Interestingly, the journeyman appeared in seven games with Delaware (then the 87ers) during the 2016-17 season. Similar to Tucker, the 6’6″ wing is more than comfortable playing off-ball, with a career Usage of 14.5 percent. Also, 91.1 percent of made threes in his career have been assisted.
A differentiating factor between Tucker and House is that House has a tendency to attack the wings in transition. A wing presence on the fastbreak would benefit Maxey the most, as he is often darting down the court before the opposing defense can set up. Instead of collapsing on Maxey, the opponents will have to be more disciplined, with House in position to shoot from either wing, thus creating more space for Maxey to attack the paint. Also, House starting would allow Harris to play more of the 4, his natural and more effective position.
The 29-year-old holds career averages of 8.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game while shooting 3.3 threes per game at a rate of 36.6 percent. Alongside Harden for 102 games in Houston, House averaged 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. He also shot 37.6 percent from deep on 5.2 threes attempted per game during that time.
Sixers’ starting candidate No. 3: Matisse Thybulle
Matisse Thybulle will have to become more willing to hoist from deep if he is to crack the Sixers’ starting lineup. Currently, as a non-shooter, opposing defenses can help off of Thybulle as he is not a consistent threat to knock down jumpers. However, his cutting ability and knack for disrupting opposing offenses have proven to be useful. Like the two previously detailed players, Thybulle has a low Usage Percentage (career 10.0 percent).
Similar to Tucker and House, the Washington product has had 98.6 percent of his career made threes off of assists. A career 32.4 percent three-point shooter on 2.3 attempts per game, that number will ideally creep toward the league average in the near future. If he is able to force defenders to guard him more tightly on the perimeter, then he should certainly be locked into a starting spot.
During his three-year career, the 25-year-old former first-round pick has recorded a line of 4.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.0 block per game. In the 20-game sample playing with Harden, Thybulle’s production increased slightly to 6.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.0 block per game. Also, the defensive-minded wing shot 37.1 percent from three on 1.8 attempts per game during that span.
Newly acquired Melton was intentionally excluded from this discussion as it is widely assumed that he will be the Sixers’ Sixth Man. It would be challenging defensively to start three guards in Harden, Maxey, and Melton. However, the trio will surely share the floor at some points in certain matchups. For additional Sixers coverage and more Philly sports content, visit PhillySportsNetwork.com!