When Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey joined the Philadelphia 76ers during the offseason, the only thing said was that the Sixers were trying to catch an old flame. However, the standings show otherwise. They are first place in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 15-6. They are 10-1 at home, while 5-5 at their opponents’ stadiums. This, to say the least, has been pretty good. Joel Embiid looks like an MVP candidate, while Doc Rivers looks like a safe bet for Coach of the Year. How did this happen? What made the 76ers look like a championship threat?
Daryl Morey created a contender with the Houston Rockets and James Harden. They emphasized threes over all else. They created an offense that was a better version of the Seven Second Offense created in Phoenix under Mike D’Antoni. But, like most things, it came to an end. Morey went on to greener pasture, and Harden fought his way with the Houston Front Office to travel to Brooklyn.
What did Morey do? He signed Doc Rivers as the new head coach, who left after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets. They had all of their major players resigned, e.g. Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. They also added Seth Curry from the Mavericks. Preseason was all good and stuff but when it came to playing, they did well.
Joel Embiid is averaging 27 Points, 11 Rebounds, 1 Steal, and 1 Block in 33 Minutes, shooting career-highs from the field, the line, and from 3. The fact that he is shooting 3s is scary. He’s creating a lot of open shots for shooters by passing out of doubles more effectively and decisively. He looks like a definitive MVP candidate, what Sam Hinkie envisioned all those years ago. He is far better as a post player and looks confident in the post. This is a change from last year, where it seemed that it was nervous when he was doubled teamed. This is different this year, as he looks more confident in the post.
Tobias Harris looks far better than he did when the bubble ended. He looked like a liability on both the offensive and defensive end. He did not look like the player that was so highly praised going into that bubble. Now, he looks like a definitive second option on the team. His decisiveness is most certainly the key to all of this. He’s taking shots when he’s open, plus he is draining those shots. Tobias Harris is shooting a career-high 46.1 percent on 4.8 attempts from 3 per game. His game-winner over the Lakers is a prime example of what his ceiling can be.
Is he still overpaid? Yes, but sometimes you need good money in order to get the best out of your players. He has been incredibly valuable for Philadelphia, and the offense would not be the same without him. Tobias Harris has impressed beyond his offense because his defense has also exceeded all expectations.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the first pick in the 2016 Draft Ben Simmons. Has he been good the season? No. He has a career-low in points and in field-goal percentage. He just looks passive on offense, just letting the offense run past him rather than through him. It seems as he’s given the second option to Tobias Harris. Could it change within the next couple of seasons, who knows? What we do know is that the Sixers are the team to beat this year in the East, and could be a threat for years to come. Are this thanks to Morey’s decisions? It remains to be seen.