5 Sixers with the most pressure on them heading into NBA playoffs

Holiday sixers
Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) passes the ball behind his back against Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The Philadelphia 76ers finished the season with a 54-28 record, their best since the 2000-01 season. They are third in the Easter Conference, have the NBA’s leader in scoring and passing, and are one of three teams ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

However, there is arguably more pressure on the Sixers than any other team around the NBA. The national media and Philadelphia fans have embraced a “prove-it” mentality regarding the playoffs with no amount of regular season success able to cure this.

So the Sixers will now enter the postseason with an opportunity to change the narrative surrounding them. As the franchise searches to get past the second round for the first time since that 2000-01 season, in which they fell to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, there will be great pressure on the current core. Slipping in the second round again has the potential to have catastrophic results regarding the future of the franchise.

As the team embarks on the playoff journey, here are the top five members of the Sixer organization who will feel the pressure the most as each matchup matters more.

5. P.J. Tucker

More than any other player on the Sixers roster, P.J. Tucker reserves the right to show up only in big moments. He is the only player on the roster with a championship ring on his finger and the intangibles, leadership, and experience he brings were more motivating than his on-court play to handing him the three-year contract this offseason.

However, it has not been the smoothest season for Tucker. Across 75 games, he averaged just 3.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and attempted just 1.9 three-pointers per game. While his impact and style of play have never been properly reflected in the box score, the limits of this have been pushed this year.

In fairness to Tucker, he has stepped up when the team has needed him most. He knocked down three fourth-quarter three-pointers in the recent victory over the Boston Celtics. He also had a season-high 16 rebounds in the previous matchup with the Celtics as well as changed the game by matching up with Nikola Jokic in the second half of the Sixers’ victory over the Nuggets earlier on in the season.

His defense and experience will be necessary for the postseason. The P.J. Tucker signing was never one that could be judged through the regular season and now starts the true test of how he will be evaluated. The former champion was brought to Philadelphia to take them to another level in the postseason, and it is up to him to help make this possible.

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 Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

4. Daryl Morey

If he did not believe the Sixers had a legitimate chance of winning a championship, Daryl Morey would not be involved in the Philadelphia 76ers organization. This is the biggest missing checkmark on his already impressive resume and, as his Twitter bio states, opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.

It was a surprising move when Morey took control of the Sixers organization after he stepped down from the position in Houston. He originally cited the desire for family time as his motivating factor but the opportunity in Philadelphia was too good to pass up.

Morey deserves a lot of credit for his management of the team since he joined in 2020. He drafted Tyrese Maxey with his first selection for the Sixers, dumped the Al Horford contract, added some intriguing complementary players such as De’Anthony Melton and Jalen McDaniels, and maneuvered through the Ben Simmons holdout situation better than most could. Flipping Simmons for James Harden continues to look like more of a steal with each passing day, and it is no coincidence that Joel Embiid has had his two best seasons playing next to the 10-time all-star.

The chips are now in the middle and it is to be seen if this Sixers team that Morey assembled is ready for the postseason challenge. While he may have the least amount of control over the outcome of anyone on this list, he will be near the top of the list for blame or praise depending on how things shake out.