Grading every Sixers player at the All-Star break

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots over New York Knicks guard Evan Fournier (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The All-Star game is behind us, and the break couldn’t be coming at a better time for the 38-19 Sixers. Between injuries, some tough losses, coaching challenges, and communication breakdowns, the team has had more than their fair share of setbacks thus far. Yet they’ve still managed to secure the third seed in the East, and are just 3 games back from the lead. Here’s an overview grading every player’s performance the season at the All-Star Break:

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Joel Embiid: A+

Let’s start with the easiest one, shall we? Despite the fact that he’s no longer interested in individual MVP awards, Embiid’s performance this season absolutely puts him in that conversation. He’s led the league for most of the season in points per game, averaging a whopping 33.1, and was the first player to have multiple games scoring 50 points or more. His mid-range jumper rivals that of his 2020-2021 season, and his on and off-court leadership has catapulted the Sixers’ defense into one of the most efficient in the league. Somehow, Embiid continues to find ways to improve every season.

Tyrese Maxey: A

It’d be easy for the 22-year old guard – who battled through a brutal ankle injury and missed over a month – to be pretty miffed to return to a bench role. But this is Tyrese Maxey we’re talking about here. While many players would feel slighted, Maxey’s taking this new role as an opportunity to be a difference-maker. With his speed and agility, Maxey coming off the bench is like a secret weapon. He’s a starting caliber player coming fresh into the game against either second-unit defenses or worn down first-units. No wonder the team is 18-6 since his return.

James Harden: A-

This may seem a bit unfair given Harden’s explosion in production since his return from a right foot tendon strain, but prior to being sidelined the future Hall-of-Famer was wildly inconsistent for the Sixers. His scoring ranged from 11 to 37 points in the first ten games of the season, while his assists ranged from 4 to 17 in that same timespan.

Still, Harden’s averaging 21.4 points, 10.8 assists, and 6.2 rebounds on the season, and notwithstanding a couple off shooting nights, he’s been a stud since his return. He’s done an incredible job meshing with Embiid, finding the balance between scoring and passing, and he and De’Anthony Melton have becoming one of the most fearsome backcourts in the East. 

Tobias Harris: B+

It’s easy to count out Tobias Harris – anyone who’s ever taken one look at his contract and compared it to his scoring production has thought of it as a waste. But his paycheck aside, Tobias’s consistency and veteran leadership during a wildly inconsistent season has quietly been tying this team together all season thus far. He stepped up in a major way throughout all the injuries, most notably leading the team to a major upset against the Brooklyn Nets in November when all three of Embiid, Harden, and Maxey were hurt.

And after seemingly constant adjustments to his role in the years he’s been on the Sixers, he’s finally settled into a role in what he does best – making quick shots off the catch-and-shoot and from mid-range. That said, Harris’s production has slowly but surely slid since he arrived in 2018, and his 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists are his lowest on the Sixers yet. Though his size offers an advantage defensively against smaller, mismatched guards, he often doesn’t have the same level of lateral quickness against players closer to his size. But overall, Tobias is a lynchpin for this team both on and off the court – maybe a B++ would be a fairer grade!

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 17: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21), Philadelphia 76ers Guard James Harden (1), Philadelphia 76ers Forward P.J. Tucker (17) and Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris (12) huddle during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on January 17, 2023 at Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

P.J Tucker: C+

Oh, P.J. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? We knew who he was when we signed him. We knew that Tucker wouldn’t be a primary contributor offensively, and in fact, most of his utility as a rough-and-tough defender would come during the playoffs. Of course, we weren’t expecting that he wouldn’t score a single point in 17 of the 55 games he’s played for the Sixers this season.

That said, the Sixers have won 13 (80%) of those games, and Tucker is well-known as a player who contributes in ways that can’t be measured on a statline. The January game against the Denver Nuggets was a prime example – Tucker switched on to guarding Nikola Jokic in the second half, freeing up Embiid to provide much-needed rim protection against Aaron Gordon. And in fairness, most Sixers watchers weren’t expecting the 37 year old to start every night and play 30+ minutes every game.

Having Tucker come off the bench, especially in non-Embiid minutes, to limit opponents from closing gaps in leads could be a key role for him for the rest of the season into the playoffs. While a C+ may be higher than some folks would rank him, Tucker’s value depends almost exclusively on strategically utilizing him – which is a coaching decision, not his.

De’Anthony Melton: A

This is a pretty consensus one. De’Anthony Melton is performing exactly as we’d hoped, functioning as a true two-way guard who shoots especially well from 3. He’s also remained a consistent top 5 player in the league in steals, despite coming off the bench for the first part of the season. With both Maxey and Harden losing significant playing time due to injuries, Melton has provided much-needed backcourt depth for the Sixers and is sure to be a staple in the rotation for years to come.

Shake Milton: B+

It’s hard not to marvel a bit at Shake Milton’s career. He’s one of just four players remaining on the team since the ill-fated 2018-19 season, along with Embiid, Harris, and Furkan Korkmaz, despite being picked all the way at number 54 that year. Despite a whirlwind of ups and downs, has remained remarkably consistent off the bench. His minutes have been a bit all over the place, but his veteran leadership was a lifesaver during the decimation of the Sixers’ backcourt in the fall.

Averaging 9.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, Shake remains one of the few true bench players you can reliably trust not to completely blow leads during non-Embiid minutes. He’s proven his value, and with his free agency pending, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a borderline playoff team in need of depth made a solid offer for him.

Oh, and remember when he did this?

Georges Niang: B

This is probably the toughest player to grade on this list, because when it comes to the 6’7″ wing, you don’t ever really know exactly what to expect. On the whole, his three-point shooting has been solid around 40%, and though he’s by no means a top-tier defender, he’s improved markedly in his shots blocked and balls stolen. In fact, he’s just 2 blocks and 8 steals away from breaking his personal records, both of which were set last season.

But all that said, his scoring production varies wildly – there are games where he doesn’t score at all for the Sixers, and then there are those where he puts up double digit numbers. And then, there’s his issue with fouling. Niang is in the bottom five on the team of total minutes this season, but in the top five for total personal fouls, and has gotten himself in foul trouble multiple times this season despite averaging less than 20 minutes per game. Still, his 8.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game is a difference-maker, especially during the stretches of injury the team has had thus far.

Furkan Korkmaz: C

Poor Furkan. Genuinely. After years of showing some offensive promise, the additions of Georges Niang and De’Anthony Melton have largely obscured the need for him to be a meaningful part of the rotation. The combo-guard has played just 25 games for the Sixers this season, leading him to request a trade – to no avail – before last week’s deadline.

He’s the longest tenured Sixers player outside of Embiid, and it’s easy to forget he’s still only 25 years old. He still has the potential to provide meaningful scoring production off the bench for any team – and while he hasn’t done much so this year at just 3.8 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game, very little has been invested into his player development. Hopefully, someone will do right by Furkan and bring out the best in him.

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Furkan Korkmaz (30) dribbles the ball in action during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

Montrezl Harrell: C

Honestly, Trez has probably exceeded most Sixers’ fans expectations this year. This year’s entry in Joel Embiid’s roladex of backup centers is also the smallest, at just 6’7”, making non-Embiid minutes against bigger rotations like the Toronto Raptors a challenge. But despite his defensive challenges, the veteran big can hold his own in terms of shooting – he’s averaging 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. Our backup center options could be better, but they could also be a whole lot worse.

Paul Reed: B-

There’s really only so many times and so many different ways you can say it – BBall Paul can only reach his potential with legitimate NBA rotation minutes. Reed had a strong showing at the beginning of the season when Embiid was hurt – averaging 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 points, and 1.3 steals in 15 minutes per game in November. Yet his time on the court has slowly declined since, as Montrezl Harrell has become the default backup center. But Paul’s defensive dominance shouldn’t be forgotten – remember when he had six steals in a game?! He’s a hidden gem, and although he struggles offensively, his body control has gotten noticeably better and he can be a meaningful contributor for the Sixers in the playoffs.

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Danuel House, Jr: C

Does anyone know what’s going on with Danuel House? The veteran forward was brought in this season primarily to bolster the Sixers’ shooting during non-Embiid minutes, yet he’s played in just 33 games thus far. While he had a nice run early in the season (he shot nearly 40% from 3 in November), his role has slowly dwindled and his scoring production has been meager at best.

After a couple brief stints on the injury report, House’s conditioning lagged a bit, breaking some of his slightly more productive streaks. But as the season gets down to the wire, there’s a chance he sees those minutes increase again, especially as head coach Doc Rivers looks to finalize his playoff rotation.

Jalen McDaniels & Dewayne Dedmon: N/A.

It’s pretty impossible to grade players who have spent virtually the entire season on other teams. But one of these two is clearly a better fit than the other. Shortly after the blockbuster Matisse Thybulle trade that netted the team McDaniels, Sixers President of Operations Daryl Morey noted that McDaniels provides similar levels of defense while also not being an offensive liability – a key issue in the playoffs. For Dedmon’s part, he could be useful in games against bigger teams, but his lack of scoring ability means that it’s unlikely he’ll get many minutes. We’ll see what’s to come in the back-end of the regular season.

How would you grade the Sixers this season? Let us know in the comments!

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AP Photo/John Minchillo