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17 questions for 17 players ahead of NBA’s unofficial start

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Monday will likely be about talking for the Sixers, who will hold their annual media day to unofficially lift the curtain on the 2022-23 season before heading to Charleston for training camp.

That marks certainly one of the primary opportunities to ask players, coach Doc Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey in regards to the Sixers’ upcoming quest to contend for a championship in a competitive Eastern Conference. They used an energetic offseason to reshape their supporting forged around MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and perennial All-Star James Harden.

In that spirit, here is one pertinent query facing each Sixers player because the season begins:

Embiid has been quite deliberate in his development into certainly one of the NBA’s dominant players. He has implemented off-the-dribble moves inspired by Kobe Bryant. He has been a defensive force in the center. He has develop into more of a vocal leader.

Last season, it was clear Embiid desired to prove his durability, which he believed was the first outside knock against him. He played in a career-high 68 of 82 regular-season games (nine of those absences were because of being in COVID-19 health and safety protocols) and led the NBA in scoring with 30.6 points per game. That anchored the Sixers as they navigated the Ben Simmons saga and trade-deadline acquisition of Harden.

And yet, unlucky injuries plagued Embiid in the course of the playoffs. He tore a ligament in his thumb within the Sixers’ first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, yet continued to play with it stabilized with tape on his hand and wrist. But in the ultimate minutes of Game 6 of that series, Embiid sustained an orbital fracture and concussion when he took a Pascal Siakam inadvertent elbow to the face. He missed Games 1 and a couple of of the subsequent round against the Miami Heat, and the Sixers lost the series in six games.

After ending because the MVP runner-up to the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic for the second consecutive season, Embiid said he now not cares in regards to the league’s most prestigious individual award for which he previously campaigned. He’ll likely say winning a title, and being in top form for the playoffs, will likely be his sole focus this season.

But what does that appear like day-to-day? Does he take more “load management” games in the course of the regular season? Defer more in-game to preserve his energy long-term? Or does he go along with one other full-throttle approach?

Even with limited time to determine chemistry with recent teammates post-trade, Harden ranked second within the NBA in assists last season (10.3 per game) and have become an impressive pick-and-roll partner with Embiid.

Missing, nonetheless, was the explosiveness that made Harden such a dynamic scoring weapon for a decade. He struggled to get past defenders off the dribble and finish on the basket. His three-point percentage (33%) was the worst of his profession, and his field-goal percentage (41%) was his lowest since his rookie season.

Harden acknowledged in a July interview with Yahoo! Sports that his hamstring was still not right last season. Now he’s coming off his first full offseason since before the pandemic, allowing him to heal and construct proper conditioning for the season’s grind.

The Sixers don’t need Harden to hold the identical offensive load that he did in Houston. But rekindling the threat Harden was with the ball in his hands would make the Sixers’ offense much more lethal.

» READ MORE: Daryl Morey partners with Shane Battier’s foundation to bring college prep program to Camden High

Maxey is certainly one of Philly’s hottest current athletes, and expectations will remain high following a breakout 2021-22 season.

Maxey immediately made an impact together with his speed and flair while stepping in as the start line guard during Simmons’ holdout. He was an insane shooter in the course of the second half of the season, ending 42.7% from three-point distance. His ability to attain in bunches and gregarious personality immediately endeared him to a passionate fan base.

Many consider Maxey has All-Star potential. Though the Sixers don’t need him to be a prototypical point guard alongside Harden, Maxey said after last season that he desired to work on his handle and decision-making to create shots for himself and others. Maxey also has work to do as a defender, where he is of course at an obstacle due to his 6-foot-2 frame.

After a rocky begin to the 2021-22 season, Harris discovered his area of interest post-Harden trade and, especially, in the course of the playoffs.

He became a dangerous spot-up shooter. He was an impactful defender, the top of the ground where he once struggled. And he was the emotional center of the Sixers.

Will 2022-23 be more about continuing to settle into that role, fairly than shifting it midstream? One difference: Harris will now be playing alongside Tucker, who’s more of a bully-ball forward than the rangy wings (Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green) who were previously within the starting lineup.

When Embiid proclaimed the Sixers didn’t have a player like Tucker, the front office responded by … signing Tucker in free agency.

On the court, Tucker brings defensive versatility and the power to knock down corner three-pointers. But his toughness and earned respect as a self-made veteran are also why he immediately impacts locker rooms.

He was the missing player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who added Tucker on the 2021 trade deadline after which won the NBA championship. He played last season for the Miami Heat, who finished first within the Eastern Conference regular-season standings despite a bevy of injuries. And he has experience with Harden during their Rockets days, when he earned his repute as a top-notch role player.

Even at age 37, it is going to be interesting to observe Tucker’s tangible and more subtle influence on his teammates. We already know Embiid will likely be on board.

Melton was the primary addition of the Sixers’ offseason, once they traded their 2022 first-round draft pick and the injured Green for the fifth-year combo guard.

Melton was a rotational player for the upstart Memphis Grizzlies, a tough-minded defender with long arms who can knock down open shots and rebound at a high level for his position. But he slipped out of the rotation in the course of the playoffs, making him a candidate to be moved.

Melton’s aggressive style and flexibility could provide the perfect jolt for a Sixers’ second unit that was oft-maligned last season.

» READ MORE: Montrezl Harrell is latest sign that Daryl Morey and Sixers learned from their Miami meltdown

The athletic wing frolicked within the starting lineup last season and was an NBA second-team All-Defense selection for the second consecutive yr.

Yet Thybulle struggled in the course of the postseason, acknowledging he lost some confidence and rhythm when he couldn’t play in road games of the Sixers’ first-round series against Toronto because he selected to not get vaccinated against COVID-19. Playoff defenses left him wide open, clearly regarding him as a non-threat on offense.

Has the offseason helped him improve on that end of the ground? Thybulle briefly showed glimpses of being effective while playing off Harden, using cuts and rolls to get free on the basket. But that approach never gained traction, and his shooting (31.3% from long range) remained unreliable.

Perhaps the more pertinent query — again — is that if Thybulle stays on the roster for your entire season. His age and defensive prowess keep him because the Sixers’ most attractive trade asset. The Inquirer reported that the Sixers tried to deal Thybulle to the Rockets on draft night for veteran Eric Gordon, who would bring more of an offensive punch.

Niang set profession highs in scoring (9.2 points per game), rebounds (2.7 per game), assists (1.3 per game) and field-goal attempts (7.4 per game) in his first season as a Sixer, while shooting 40.3% from beyond the arc.

Yet a knee injury torpedoed Niang’s shooting in the course of the playoffs, when he missed 21 of his 25 long-range attempts in six games against the Heat.

Upgrades across the Sixers’ second unit means there mustn’t be as much on Niang’s shoulders this season. His job will likely be to bomb away, constructing off the way in which Harden consistently set Niang up following the trade.

Reed’s high-energy play and commitment to rebounding immediately made him a fan favorite. And he received an enormous opportunity in the course of the playoffs, when he was a comparatively effective backup center behind Embiid (and, briefly, DeAndre Jordan).

That would have signaled Reed had earned more trust to maneuver into that role full-time. However the Sixers recently signed Montrezl Harrell, a veteran and former NBA Sixth Man of the Yr under Rivers with the Clippers, to presumably occupy that spot.

It is sensible why the Sixers would want more experience behind Embiid, an approach last season that worked well with Andre Drummond but not with Jordan. Sooner or later, though, consistent game reps will likely be one of the best ways for Reed to take the subsequent step in his development and prove that he’s (or will not be) an NBA rotation player. It’s fair to wonder how way more prepared Reed would have been for last yr’s playoffs if he had gotten more minutes in the course of the regular season.

How the frontcourt pecking order shakes out will likely be certainly one of the more intriguing training camp storylines.

Harrell was a late addition to the Sixers’ free-agent class, partially because he recently had a felony marijuana trafficking charge reduced to a misdemeanor possession charge to which he pleaded guilty.

He was the NBA’s Sixth man of the Yr in 2019-20, averaging 18.6 points and seven.1 rebounds per game. He boasts a fiery playing style and personality, though he’s an undersized defender at 6-foot-7. He can also be a former teammate of Harden, playing his first two seasons in Houston from 2015-17.

Harrell’s numbers have dipped since that profession season with the Clippers, including while splitting time between the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets last season. Perhaps some familiar faces may also help Harrell reestablish himself as certainly one of the league’s more productive reserves.

Korkmaz filled in admirably as an emergency point guard when injuries and COVID decimated that position. But his primary job is to shoot, and a career-worst percentage from three-point distance (28.9%) caused him to fall out of the rotation.

Korkmaz was adamant during exit interviews that he had identified the problem and would fix it in the course of the offseason. That was perhaps backed up by a powerful performance while playing for Turkey in EuroBasket, other than a scary incident when he was allegedly attacked by members of the Georgian national team and state police.

How those offseason adjustments translate to the NBA level remain to be seen. With the Sixers’ bench additions, though, Korkmaz will have to be a dynamite shooter as a way to carve out a spot within the rotation.

» READ MORE: Sixers guard Furkan Korkmaz attempting to move on after off-court EuroBasket altercation

Milton’s first dose of bad luck got here around this time last yr. After looking more comfortable running the purpose than Maxey in the course of the preseason, Milton sprained his ankle during a practice just before the opener. Later, a back injury kept Milton out for weeks.

In consequence, Milton never fully gained rhythm, averaging 8.2 points on 42.9% shooting in 55 games. Now, Milton is on an expiring contract and has likely slipped down — or out — of the Sixers’ rotation. The road map to contributing this season begins with staying healthy.

House had certainly one of the NBA’s more circuitous journeys last season. He was waived by the Houston Rockets, spent 10 days with the Recent York Knicks, then parlayed three 10-day contracts with the Utah Jazz during COVID’s omicron variant surge right into a legitimate role as a rugged 3-and-D reserve wing over 25 games.

Naturally, House can also be a former Rocket with a history with Harden, Tucker and Morey. This appears like an appropriate environment to re-establish his profession for a full season.

The Sixers enter camp with 17 players under full contracts, and can need to scale back that to fifteen by opening night.

Joe is one player on the block, first due to logistics. His contract is currently nonguaranteed, but becomes guaranteed if not waived by the opener, per HoopsHype.

Joe is coming off a wonderful Summer League stint, when he shot a blistering 60% from three-point range in Las Vegas. But he also has not been capable of consistently crack the rotation in his first two NBA seasons. Though his defensive effort is admirable despite being undersized, his 35.5% profession field-goal shooting percentage (and lack of creation off the dribble) was not ok at this level.

With the Sixers’ offseason additions, it appears Joe has an uphill climb to make this roster.

Harrell’s signing could also affect Bassey, the second-year big man who logged 168 total minutes over 23 regular-season games last season.

The athletic rim protector was an All-Defense performer within the G League, though his offensive game is less developed. Now, he’ll seemingly must leapfrog two frontcourt players to get legitimate minutes in 2022-23.

» READ MORE: Breaking down the Sixers’ place within the Eastern Conference after an interesting offseason

It has all the time been a protracted game with Springer, who was certainly one of the youngest players on an NBA roster last season.

His natural physicality, quickness and tenacity on defense are tantalizing. His offense — including his shot selection and confidence to read the sport — is a piece in progress. That was apparent previously two Summer Leagues.

It’s tough to examine Springer getting much playing time on the Sixers roster. But after trading their 2022 first-round pick (and their 2023 first-round selection as a part of the Simmons-Harden deal), Springer may very well be the longer-term prospect through which they invest.

The reigning G League Most Invaluable Player was a little bit of a surprise addition on the primary night of free agency.

Queen’s shot an inconsistent 34.9% from the ground during Las Vegas Summer League. It would be interesting to see how he matches among the many Sixers’ retooled bench unit.

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