As the Philadelphia 76ers open the second half of their season on Thursday evening against the Grizzlies, there is some time to reflect on the first half of the year and how each player has performed.
While some players have lived up to expectations or even exceeded them, others haven’t stepped up to the plate like fans had hoped.
Here are grades for the six players that have seen majority of the starter minutes for the 76ers this season.
Joel Embiid: A+
Joel Embiid has been his dominant self this season, never letting his team down when healthy. He is averaging 33.1 points (second in the NBA), 10.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists offensively.
The big man is once again an MVP candidate. There seems to be no way to slow Embiid down, especially when he’s in a rhythm.
Embiid isn’t just scoring a lot of points; he’s doing it efficiently. His 53.7% field goal percentage would set a career high.
It’s not just on offense, either. Embiid is averaging 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game, anchoring a 76ers defense that has been among the league’s best.
He may have come into the year with high expectations after finishing second in MVP voting in back-to-back seasons, but Embiid has done nothing but surpass those expectations, displaying true two-way dominance to carry his team to the Eastern Conference’s third seed.
James Harden: A-
Many questioned if James Harden had lost his step physically all offseason after he clearly lacked burst going to the rim most of last season.
He may not be back in Houston form, but Harden has done just about everything you can expect from a 33-year-old star guard.
With Harden, you have to start with the playmaking. While he’s always been a great passer, he’s truly taken his passing abilities to new levels with the 76ers, and he’s averaging a league-leading 10.8 assists per game this season.
The pick-and-roll game with Embiid is possibly the deadliest in the league. While Harden isn’t a volume scorer like he once was, he’s more than capable of stepping up to put the ball in the basket when his team needs him to, averaging 21.4 points per game.
The passing, secondary scoring and basketball IQ from Harden has been excellent for the Sixers. While he didn’t earn an All-Star bid, he has surely been in the mix of the East’s best guards this season.
Tobias Harris: C+
Since he signed his five year, max contract with Philadelphia in 2019, Harris has always been under fire for not performing enough.
The problem isn’t that he is a bad player; his contract is merely too large for what he brings to the team.
Harris has shown repeatedly that he can score when he has the ball in his hands. This season, that’s been exactly the problem, though; his role has completely changed with Harden and Embiid dominating touches.
At times, he’s been a perfect third/fourth scorer, displaying efficient catch-and-shoot ability. At other times, he seems like he doesn’t know how to fit into the 76ers offense. Defensivelu, he’s nothing special, but his strength makes him a solid wing defender.
Working Harris into the offense more is a big X-factor for the rest of the season in Philadelphia. He’s sacrificed a bigger role for this team to win, and to maximize his abilities, he has to consistently get time with the ball, even if it means playing with the bench guys more.
PJ Tucker: C
PJ Tucker was brought to Philadelphia for a few reasons: his energy, defensive ability and shooting from deep.
Looking at his numbers this year won’t tell the full story. Defensively, the 37-year-old has shown up for every big matchup and still can put on the clamps when he needs to.
But Tucker has become somewhat of a negative on offense, and it’s become an issue. He rarely shoots the ball, even when open, allowing defenses to sag off of him.
The hustle from Tucker has been a big plus for the 76ers. He’ll chase after loose balls and crash the offensive glass with energy.
If he would start to shoot the ball more when he’s open, Tucker would create a more balanced 76ers offense. He’s lived up to his expectations when it comes to defense and intensity, though.
Tyrese Maxey: B-
Tyrese Maxey is still just 22 years old. After displaying some serious scoring talent last year, some fans may have set their expectations a bit too high for him.
Similar to Harris, Maxey can sometimes struggle to find a fit in the offense because of Harden and Embiid’s dominance. But most of the time, he’s a star scorer.
Maxey is a blur in transition, an efficient three-point shooter and a great finisher around the rim. While he has played off the bench more recently, he’s proved that no matter what, he’ll play the game at his pace and find a way to score.
He still has some smaller areas to improve, but Maxey is an effective scorer and continues to get better as he reaches his prime years.
De’Anthony Melton: B+
De’Anthony Melton is included with the starters, as he has started in 45 games this season. Also an offseason acquisition, he has brought a great all-around game to the 76ers.
Defensively, he’s a perfect fit. Because Maxey and Harden don’t excel on that end of the floor, Melton is often matched up against great guards. Yet he’s among the league leaders in steals per game with his 1.7.
On offense, he’s also a good fit because he can mesh so well with Harden and Embiid. He’s shooting 40.1% from deep this season on 5.4 attempts per game, helping space the floor for the rest of the offense.
Melton has been huge for the 76ers because of his versatility. With the stars on the floor, he can defend and shoot the three. With them off, he can handle the ball and help run the offense a bit.
The trade of Danny Green and the No. 23 pick in last year’s draft for Melton has been a big win for the Sixers with 25 games left in the regular season.
Featured image courtesy of Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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