New Year’s resolutions for the Sixers as 2024 begins

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, left, and Joel Embiid react after a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

As the Sixers put 2023 behind them, here are some resolutions the team should strive to maintain in 2024.

The year 2023 is officially in the books; it was a year of mixed emotions for the Philadelphia 76ers, not unlike how many feel when they look back on their own year-end recap. Last year, the Sixers saw highs such as Joel Embiid’s long-awaited MVP award, but once again, the team fell to pieces during the second round of the NBA playoffs, like a Crumbl cookie in milk.

As 2024 is set to begin, the Sixers begin the year an impressive 22-10, but there are still some areas of opportunity. In the spirit of the season, here are some New Year’s resolutions for some in the Sixers’ organization.

Joel Embiid: Carryover regular-season success into the playoffs

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) watches from the bench as the 76ers fall behind the Boston Celtics during the second half of Game 7 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Joel Embiid is once again among the top performers in the NBA. Following up on his 2022-2023 MVP campaign, the Sixers’ star center has somehow improved on his stellar campaign, but for all this regular season success, questions surrounding his playoff performance remain.

The narrative of Embiid’s postseason play is often overblown, but over the past two seasons, the argument has proven somewhat more valid.

Averaging 31.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists over the past two seasons, Embiid has seen those averages plummet to 23.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in the playoffs. One obvious reason has been the inopportune injuries Embiid has suffered in both of those seasons. Even still, it is a drastic difference, one which has been a primary factor in the Sixers’ inability to make it out of the second round.

For many reasons, the team’s success, to reward the long-patient fans, and his own legacy, among a few, there must be improvement from Joel Embiid this postseason. If he is able to remain healthy, there should be no excuse this is not the year that his regular season dominance translates to the playoffs.

Tyrese Maxey: Maintain All-NBA level of play

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) drives to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Yes, personal accolades are not as important as team success, but they don’t have to come at the sacrifice of it either. This season, Tyrese Maxey has been a revelation, averaging 26.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game.

His efficiency has dropped some, slashing 45.8/38.3/87.3 compared to last season’s 48.1/43.4/84.5, but that drop is understandable given his increased responsibility as a shooter and ball-handler. From last season to this season, Maxey has seen his field goal attempts increase from 15.2 to 19.7, his three-point attempts increase from 6.2 to 8.3, and his touches per game from 68.5 to 87.0 per game.

Maxey is also one of only three guards to average more than eight assists and fewer than two turnovers per 100 possessions (min 15 games), joining Mike Conley of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Tyus Jones of the Washington Wizards. Factoring in his impressive scoring, Maxey is the only player in the league to do so while averaging 30 or more points per 100 possessions.

At this point, it would be a shock if Maxey is not named an All-Star. Not only that, but he’s pushing to be a serious contender for an All-NBA spot if he can keep up this level of play.

Tobias Harris: Let your three flag fly

Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) celebrates his 3-pointer as Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

For the Sixers’ defacto third star, as controversial a title as that is at times, the focus for Tobias Harris should be improving his attempts from range. Currently averaging just 3.4 attempts from deep per game, Harris is shooting the fewest threes of his Sixers’ career, tied with the 2020-2021 season, the team’s first under former head coach Doc Rivers.

Harris has been integral to the Sixers in many ways this season, from his off-court leadership to his producing on the hardwood filling in on nights Joel Embiid has been absent. As Embiid looks to make his return to the court, the Sixers will need Harris to alter his latest role, as he has done many times before for the team.

The biggest area of improvement is in resolving Harris’ unwillingness to shoot from deep. While it’s well-known by now that he is more comfortable with the ball in his hands, unless an alternative source of volume shooting is acquired by the trade deadline, it is necessary for Harris to embrace what Joel Embiid has been telling him all season, which is to be decisive, especially from beyond the arc.

Daryl Morey: Add a multi-purpose role player by the deadline

Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey speaks during a news conference at the team’s NBA basketball practice facility, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After the acquisition of Toronto Raptors wing OG Anunoby by the New York Knicks, the NBA trade landscape is beginning to take shape. Although there have been rumors of the Sixers’s star hunting heading into the deadline, there are few available names, if any, worth sacrificing the team’s pool of assets ahead of a 2024 offseason that could see the Sixers pounce in either free agency or the trade market.

In the place of another star, adding one more depth piece that fits differently than the rest should be the strategy for president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. Among those needs are that for a secondary ball handler, a volume shooter, and a strong perimeter defender with capable size.

It may not be enough to simply check off one of those boxes either. For the Sixers to truly accomplish their goals, Daryl Morey may have to acquire a multi-talented player by the deadline. That is no small feat, and the difficulty is only multiplied as the Sixers will look to maintain future flexibility in any potential deal.