For all of the work done this summer to boost the Philadelphia 76ers‘ bench, one fact still remains: come playoff time, the star power at the top of the roster will decide games.
And the Sixers have no shortage of excellence at the top of the roster. Joel Embiid is coming off an MVP runner-up campaign and scoring title, James Harden still boasts legendary playmaking, and Tyrese Maxey would have been taken in the lottery in a redraft. In Embiid, Harden, and Maxey, the Sixers have an enviable mix of youth, experience, and star power.
And barring an unforeseen disaster, Embiid and Harden will both earn All-Star nods this season. Maxey might be well on his way, as well. And if the Sixers send three All-Stars to the midseason festivities, they’ll match the total sent by the Golden State Warriors last season. A few months later, the Warriors bested the Boston Celtics to win the Finals.
But according to Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report, the Sixers might find themselves not chasing the 2021-22 Warriors, but rather the Golden State of 2018-19. That season, the Warriors sent a whopping four All-Stars to the midseason game.
Could the 76ers Have Four All-Stars Next Season?
In 2018, the Warriors sent Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant to the All-Star Game. They became the first team with four All-Stars since the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks.
Each one of those players clearly deserved the honors: Curry and Durant were in the middle of their legendary primes, Thompson put up 22 points per night on 40.2% from three, and Green was cementing his status as one of the best defenders in NBA history. They were a legendary quartet of basketball brilliance. But can the Sixers match that?
According to Buckley, it’s at least possible.
“Embiid is a lock and Harden should be something close to it. The only questions are whether Maxey and Harris can elevate to that level,” Buckley explained.
“If Maxey’s third-year leap looks anything like his second, he might be a shoo-in, too. As for Harris, he has hovered around star-caliber production in the past but never gotten the call. That could change this season if he ups his efficiency, adds a pinch more volume and helps the Sixers to an NBA-best record before the All-Star break.”
Between Maxey and Harris, the latter is the real kicker. He’s never earned an All-Star nod and his best days might be behind him. The volume that Buckley mentioned has regressed over the last three seasons and his PER took a major hit last season.
But what if Philadelphia starts off red-hot, besting the Celtics, Bucks, and Heat in the Eastern Conference? Harris would certainly have a shot, so long as he also proves that he is indispensable to that success. Back in 2018, Thompson, Curry, Durant, and Green were individually crucial ingredients to the Warriors’ success. Harris needs to stake his own case for the Sixers next season.
The only problem? The ideal Sixers lineup might not involve Harris at all.
Mapping Out the ‘Ideal’ 76ers Lineup
Last week, John Wilmes of RealGM took a deep dive into the Sixers’ projected rotation for next season. And in it, he made a strong case for benching Harris in favor of De’Anthony Melton, a versatile defender that the Sixers traded for this summer.
“Without Harris, the roster does theoretically make more sense: imagine the big bruising frontcourt of Embiid and Tucker, complemented by the jarring contrast of Maxey and Melton’s athleticism, with all of it orchestrated by Harden’s shimmering basketball brain. That’s the ideal that the most optimistic of Sixers forecasters have in mind,” wrote Wilmes.
If prognosticators are already subbing out Harris for capable backups, it does not bode well for his chance at an All-Star nod. That said, Utah’s Mike Conley looked destined to be an excellent player that never earned an All-Star selection before earning a surprise nod in his 14th season two seasons ago.
In Conley’s case, the Jazz blitzed the league for the best record in the East and he proved to be an able backcourt partner for rising star Donovan Mitchell. All to say, it’s never too late for everything to fall into place for a player, even Harris.