Sixers News: NBA.com releases official Eastern Conference power rankings
The NBA is officially in its “dog days” period of the offseason but we do have some new Power Rankings released earlier today on NBA.com that should have 76ers excited for the start of the 2022-23 season.
While we all anticipate a potential Kevin Durant trade, the rest of the dust has settled and we have a pretty good idea of what the majority of rosters will look like heading into next season. Here’s how NBA.com currently ranks the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers are listed as the third-best team in the Eastern Conference power rankings, trailing the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. As we all know, Boston will enter next season as the reigning Eastern Conference champions while the Bucks are now a two-years removed from winning the NBA title.
“The Sixers are the only team that’s been better than the league average on both ends of the floor in each of the last five seasons. But they’re not one of the 14 (different) teams who has reached the conference finals over that stretch.
Joel Embiid registered a usage rate of 37.5% last season. That was the fourth highest mark for any player in the 26 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. It’s topped only by the marks of three guards: Russell Westbrook (40.2% in 2016-17), James Harden (39.6% in 2018-19) and Kobe Bryant (37.8% in 2005-06).
The Sixers are one of two teams (the LA Clippers have eight) with at least seven of the 139 players who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts last season.”
How good can James Harden be?
“Harden obviously wasn’t at his best (or most aggressive) in the playoffs. He probably isn’t ever again going to be the player that competed for Kia MVP trophies every season. But, because he’s not the Sixers’ best player nor the only guy who can do something off the dribble, he doesn’t have to be that guy in Philly.
He did make an impact upon joining the Sixers last season. After the All-Star break (when Harden started playing), Embiid took 57% of his shots in the paint. That was up from just 49% before the break and, in just 21 games together, Harden had more paint assists to Embiid (52) than any other teammate had all season. Tyrese Maxey also saw the 18th biggest jump in effective field goal percentage (from 52% to 62.1%) among 204 players with at least 200 field goal attempts before the break and at least 100 after the break.
They probably gave Tucker too many years, but the Sixers have a ton of shooting around their stars. Melton (fourth in deflections per 36 minutes) and Tucker also upgrade the defense. The questions won’t be answered until Harden proves himself in the playoffs, but this team could be a regular season monster.”
Everything is subject to change, of course, but I certainly think that there is an argument in place that the Philadelphia 76ers could finish as the top seed in the Eastern Conference next season. The additions of PJ Tucker, Danuel House, and DeAnthony Melton this offseason really helped the Sixers with some much needed depth that was missing last year.
Last week, The Athletic ranked the Sixers as one of the Top 6 teams in terms of their success this offseason, giving them a final grade of an A-.
“No, the Sixers didn’t make the splashiest moves this offseason. But they did as well as I could’ve imagined considering the limited resources available. James Harden took a major pay cut in 2022-23, and he is now reunited with both P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. because of it.
The Sixers were also able to turn Danny Green’s contract and the No. 23 pick into De’Antony Melton. All three acquisitions addressed their biggest roster issue: wing defense and depth. There might be more to come, and there’s still the question of whether it’s enough to get over the hump, but this has been a quietly rock-solid offseason in Philly.”
All things considered, the Philadelphia 76ers are looking to be much better than they were at the start of last year and assuming everyone can stay healthy and James Harden can return to form, the East could very well run through Philly come playoff time in 2023.
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images