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The 76ers Boosts Defense for Championship Hunt

After a number of years falling down the hill and the inability to move past the Eastern Conference Semis in the past five seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers now have a rotation headlined by star power and versatile defenders worthy of competing in the NBA Finals. Based on reports, they have one of the most talented pick-and-roll duo in basketball with superstar center Joel Embiid and former scoring champion and playmaker, James Harden leading the way. Philly’s starting five projects to remain the same with third-year guard Tyrese Maxey, All-Defensive selection Mattise Thybulle and fringe All-Star Tobias Harris rounding out the lineup.

PG: Tyrese Maxey / De’Anthony Melton SG: James Harden / Matisse Thybulle SF: PJ Tucker / Danuel House PF: Tobias Harris / Montrezl Harrell C: Joel Embiid / Paul Reed The versatility in this Sixers roster is scary 😳 — The Lead (@TheLeadSM) September 6, 2022

However, President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey returned to his roots this offseason by methodically maneuvering the salary cap and making a savvy trade to bring in four new rotation pieces who expertly fit the needs of this team and its superstars. Instead of drafting another rotation hopeful, Morey opted to flip the Philadelphia 76ers’ draft pick and the injured Danny Green to Memphis for combo guard De’Anthony Melton, a two-way menace coming off the best season of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies. Similarly, P.J. Tucker adds a dimension of on-ball impact that Philly will hugely benefit from come playoff time. With brute strength, unrelenting effort and immense IQ, Tucker is a defensive cog that cannot be understated. He was an essential member of the Miami Heat rotation a year ago and played a pivotal role in securing Milwaukee’s 2021 NBA Finals victory. His experience and unique set of skills make him a contender to start games in the postseason. Also joining the roster are center Montrezl Harrell and forward Danuel House — two players who entered the league with Morey’s Rockets and have experience doing the dirty work like rebounding, hustling, defending and scoring without high usage. Harrell, who won the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2020, just might be the best bench center in basketball. Playing with elite creators on the Philadelphia 76ers, this could be a resurgent season for Trez.

I’m bout to enjoy Philly I hope they feel my energy and passion for the game each night! Thanks for taking that chance on kid! — Montrezl Harrell (@MONSTATREZZ) September 10, 2022

Much Needed Boost in Defense Last year, Philly leaned too heavily on Embiid to uphold their defense, especially in the absence of Ben Simmons, who was a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. But with the recent additions, they not only have depth, but they will have a disruptor on the floor at all times. Players like Tucker and Melton ensure that the Sixers can rest their starters without fear of giving up huge scoring runs as they have in the past. Furthermore, every one of these players complement the stars in one way or another. Three of them played with Harden at some point in the past and signed on to do it again, which is a sign of their trust in him as a leader and the team’s direction under Morey.

Daryl Morey and the 76ers keep acquiring old Rockets players: > James Harden > PJ Tucker > Danuel House > Trevelin Queen > and now Montrezl Harrell — SB Nation (@SBNation) September 6, 2022

Besides Harrell, who is a fearsome pick-and-roll threat, all of these new additions can stretch the floor effectively and won’t command the ball too often, allowing Embiid and Harden to remain the focal points of the offense without conflict. Melton will help get the ball in Embiid’s hands while Tucker makes it easier for the team’s anchor to defend the rim in drop and zone coverages. Eastern Conference Title in Sight? The resulting effect of defined roles and effective division of labor is that these role players will conserve their energy and stay fresh for the postseason through their low usage on offense. With the boost the team’s depth has received and by so doing making the defense a priority again, the Philadelphia 76ers pose a threat to capture the Eastern Conference this season. Entering his first full year with the team, Harden will likely further build chemistry with his teammates, while the remaining four starters will capitalize on the continuity afforded to them by Morey’s team-building strategy.

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