Will any young Sixers make a leap?


Defining 2022-23 Sixers questions: Will any young Sixers make a leap? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The 2022-23 Sixers will start their season on Sept. 27 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Before training camp begins, we’re looking at questions that will define the team’s season and ultimately determine whether the Sixers advance past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001. 

We’ve examined the following so far: 

Next up: Will any young Sixers make a leap? 

The Sixers might require a pleasant surprise or two.

Though they made no picks in this year’s NBA draft, the Sixers do have three players 21 years old or younger in Jaden Springer, Charles Bassey and Tyrese Maxey. Major internal development would be fantastic and increase the odds of deep playoff success.

For last year’s conference champions, that looked like Robert Williams III becoming an every-game starter and All-Defensive Team player; Grant Williams making over 40 percent of his threes and draining seven in the Celtics’ Game 7 win over the Bucks; Jordan Poole mounting a strong Most Improved Player campaign.

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has gone out of his way to voice optimism about the Sixers’ youngsters. In the wee hours of draft night, he said the Sixers expected Springer to take a “huge step” in his second season. On the Takeoff with John Clark podcast, Morey said, “The biggest inflection point is probably we need Maxey to take another step forward” and “I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it given how much time he puts in.” 

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Let’s start with the teenager (until Sept. 25). Unless serious injury misfortune hits the Sixers, it does not appear Springer is on the verge of rotation minutes despite his defensive talents. He missed 11 of 12 three-point tries in summer league and is clearly a work in progress as a ball handler and decision-maker. It would make sense if much of that work again happened in the G League.

As for Maxey, he’s well past the point of catching anyone off guard. You can’t understand his speed until he’s hit the turbo button and jetted past you, but the league is aware of Maxey’s dangerous burst. And it’s not exactly wise to dare a player who hit 42.7 percent of his triples last season to fire away.

Asked about Maxey before the Sixers’ final regular-season meeting last year with the Bucks, Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer deadpanned, “I hope he doesn’t play tonight.”

Entering training camp, one intriguing question with Maxey is how effectively he can leverage the muscle he’s gained this offseason. If we had to choose a specific area where Maxey will most improve, drawing free throws would be a top contender. Absorbing James Harden’s expertise and earning something closer to a “star’s whistle” should accelerate his natural growth.

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Maxey’s defense on ball handlers will also be key. De’Anthony Melton is excellent defensively, but his playoff track record is neither long nor sparkling. The same is true for Matisse Thybulle. If Maxey improves at fighting through and over screens, provides some bothersome ball pressure and makes sharper reads off the ball, the Sixers would be thrilled.

Bassey racked up G League accolades last year — All-Rookie Team, All-Defensive Team, All-NBA G League Second Team — but he’s on a depth chart that now includes P.J. Tucker, Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed.

What’s the best-case scenario for Bassey? If he stands out as a rim protector, fouls a bit less and takes advantage of preseason pick-and-roll reps with Harden, perhaps Bassey will merit minutes over more experienced players. He’s in a difficult spot, though.

Not counting two-way players Julian Champagnie and Charlie Brown Jr., thirteen Sixers are on fully guaranteed contracts, per Spotrac. Reed, who served as Joel Embiid’s top backup last postseason, has a non-guaranteed deal, as does Isaiah Joe. Trevelin Queen and Bassey’s contracts are partially guaranteed. The Sixers must cut down to 15 players (and their two-ways) before the regular season.

A few other Sixers could certainly qualify as “young.” Reed turned 23 years old in June. At his exit interview, he was determined to increase his strength and vertical leap. Results in both areas sure wouldn’t hurt, especially alongside an adept lob passer in Harden.

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Joe is also 23 and was the Sixers’ best player in summer league. Melton, who celebrated his 24th birthday in May, went from a 29.4 percent three-point shooter over his first two NBA seasons to 38.8 percent over his last two. Thybulle, Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz are all 25, seeking consistent performances and consistent playoff roles.

Of course, the large majority of the Sixers’ youth spotlight is on Maxey. Through his first two seasons, there’s been very little to suggest that’s a bad thing.



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