What’s already been a topsy-turvy season for the Philadelphia 76ers shifted as soon as once more Thursday, when the staff introduced All-Star guard James Harden had suffered a proper foot tendon pressure. Sources instructed ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Harden is predicted to overlook a month.
Philadelphia, which is 4-5 getting into Friday night time’s recreation in opposition to the New York Knicks, is looking for a rhythm after a disappointing begin for a gaggle that was retooled this offseason round its stars and constructed for a championship run.
So what does Harden’s foot damage imply for him to the 76ers? How will MVP contender Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Co. deal with the subsequent a number of weeks? Listed below are 5 questions on Philadelphia — and the place it goes from right here — because the franchise seems to struggle out of an early season gap.
MORE: The place Philly lands in ESPN’s newest NBA Energy Rankings
1. What’s subsequent for the Sixers whereas Harden is out?
A troublesome stretch within the schedule is simply forward. After dealing with the Knicks, the 76ers have a run that features:
And that is simply main into Thanksgiving — after the vacation, Philly faces the red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers, the Hawks and the Memphis Grizzlies.
In different phrases: The 76ers will not be easing into life with out Harden.
The worry for Philadelphia is lacking chunks of time might be the brand new regular for Harden, who turned 33 in August and has performed the eighth-most minutes of any energetic NBA participant.
Throughout the eight full seasons Harden starred in Houston (2013 to 2019) he missed a mixed 29 video games, and by no means missed greater than 10 in a single season.
Harden is one among two gamers averaging a minimum of 10 assists this season, together with Suns guard Chris Paul. As well as, the 76ers have an help alternative fee of 55% when Embiid, Harden and Maxey share the ground, in keeping with Second Spectrum monitoring information.
That fee drops to 43.8% when Harden is just not on the ground, which might rank within the backside 5 within the league.
2. Will November be the month of Maxey?
Getting into Thursday night time’s motion, Maxey had performed an NBA-high 340 minutes this season, with Harden’s 331 minutes coming in second. Philadelphia has infrequently sat each on the similar time and sometimes has had them taking part in collectively.
For the subsequent few weeks, the 76ers are going to develop into Maxey’s staff full-time so far as lead ballhandling duties go. What already was a prolific begin to the season — Maxey’s factors per recreation have shot as much as 24.2 from 17.5 final season — will evolve right into a heavier burden on his shoulders.
Tyrese Maxey reveals up in a giant method for the 76ers, giving them their second win of the yr behind a career-best 44-point efficiency.
Per Second Spectrum, when Maxey shares the court docket with Harden and Joel Embiid he averages 16.7 photographs per 100 possessions. When he is on the market with simply Embiid that quantity almost doubles to 32.3.
“It’s amazing how he’s in year three now and he’s confident, he’s running his team, he’s playing like an All-Star,” Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal stated Wednesday after beating Maxey and the 76ers. “He’s super talented and the game is only going to continue to slow down more and more for him, which is even scarier.”
Maxey got here into the season tapped as a significant breakout candidate. This will probably be a chance for him to not solely assist hold Philadelphia’s offense — which at the moment sits fourth within the league — buzzing with Harden sidelined, however to point out he can fill the elite playmaking void alongside Embiid.
3. What model of Embiid will the 76ers get?
This season was speculated to be about Embiid’s dominance and the way Philadelphia had lastly assembled a roster across the celebrity large man that made sense at each ends of the court docket.
By means of the primary two weeks of the season, issues have not gone in keeping with plan.
Embiid has already missed three video games — together with the previous two for a non-COVID sickness — and has disclosed that he was coping with a case of plantar fasciitis over the summer season which helped contribute to his sluggish begin to the season.
Embiid remains to be averaging 27.2 factors per recreation on 53.2% capturing from the sector, however Philadelphia remains to be floundering close to the underside of the league in protection — extra on that in a bit — and Embiid has grumbled concerning the ball not transferring round the best way he’d prefer it to be.
“We just have to keep playing off of each other,” Embiid stated after the 76ers’ opening-night loss to the Boston Celtics. “The ball can’t stick … We’ve got to just keep moving the ball, going to the second action, and it just doesn’t stop at the pick-and-roll.”
Heading right into a stretch the place Philadelphia will face off in opposition to a flurry of star-powered groups, it will likely be as much as Embiid to hold it ahead. With the depth of expertise throughout the Japanese Convention this season, no contender can afford a tough few weeks. And Philadelphia’s below .500 begin up to now has solely exacerbated the necessity for issues to begin turning round in a rush to fulfill this group’s lofty preseason expectations.
4. Will Tobias Harris discover his offensive position?
Philadelphia’s highest-paid participant (Harris is making greater than $37 million in 2022-23) has been a relative afterthought on offense this season. His factors per recreation (13.4) and photographs per recreation (10.7) are his lowest since his second season within the NBA.
Harris is an especially extremely paid spot-up shooter, as greater than half his makes an attempt have come from 3-point vary and his free throw fee has plummeted.
“He obviously has to get used to … not touching the ball as much as he has in the past,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers stated of Harris after Wednesday’s loss to Washington. “And I really think he’s trying to do that … We still want to feature him on the post when he has a matchup.”
There will probably be lots extra alternatives to function Harris now.
He had arguably the perfect stretch of his profession late within the 2021-22 common season and into the playoffs, filling in no matter gaps have been obligatory alongside Philadelphia’s stars after the staff acquired Harden from the Brooklyn Nets on the commerce deadline.
Harris, who has averaged a minimum of 17 factors per recreation every of the previous 5 seasons, now has a chance to search out his place in Philadelphia’s offense subsequent to Embiid and Maxey whereas Harden works his method again.
5. About that protection…
Whereas the fast thought is changing Harden’s offensive manufacturing, the woes on the different finish of the court docket (the 76ers rank twenty third in defensive score this season) are alarming for a staff that added 3-and-D gamers P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton and Danuel Home within the offseason.
Earlier than the season started Embiid declared he wished Philadelphia to be the perfect defensive staff within the NBA, however the 76ers have began the season permitting greater than 13 factors per 100 possessions greater than the league-leading Bucks.
And on that entrance, Maxey has been a minimum of a part of the issue. Within the 340 minutes he is been on the court docket this season, Philadelphia has allowed 115.6 factors per 100 possessions. However within the 92 minutes he is been on the bench that quantity has plummeted to 105.8, which might be the fourth-best defensive score within the league.
Harden being out might imply extra minutes for defensive stopper Matisse Thybulle, regardless of lengthy standing points on the offensive finish that compelled him out of coach Doc Rivers’ rotation.
“Defensively, we have to connect better,” Embiid stated after Philly dropped a 3rd straight recreation to open the season in opposition to the San Antonio Spurs. “We’re not guarding the ball well. We need to work on that. It’s a fairly new team and it’s going to take time to get everyone on the same page.”
ESPN Stats & Info’s Matt Williams contributed to this story.