5 Options for Sixers at No. 23 Overall in NBA Draft

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Now that the Philadelphia 76ers know they will have their first-round pick in this year's NBA Draft, it is time to take a look at some prospects who could interest them. The team is in great need of athleticism and wing depth, and there is plenty of players fitting the bill who could potentially be available at their pick. Here are five potential options for the Sixers at No. 23:

E.J. Liddell, Ohio State

2021-22 stats: 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 49% field goal percentage, 37.4% 3-point percentage

Player comparison: P.J. Washington

Height: 6 feet, 7 inches; Weight: 240 pounds

Liddell is a prospect who can help the Sixers improve in a ton of areas they struggled in last season. He plays with a level of toughness and intensity the Sixers were lacking last season, especially in the postseason. He showed improvement in each of his three years at Ohio State, especially in terms of his scoring ability. He improved his 3-point shooting, going from 19.2% as a freshman in 2019-20 to knocking down 37.4% on 3.8 attempts per game as a junior this past season. He can score at all three levels and finish through contact, making it difficult for opposing teams to be able to defend him.

He also excelled defensively at Ohio State. He has the timing and athleticism to potentially be an elite shot blocker. He recorded 2.6 blocks per game this past season and averaged 1.6 blocks per game in three years at Ohio State. He is a bit undersized, but he showed some defensive versatility by being able to play center at times for the Buckeyes while also being able to switch onto some smaller defenders. He does need to improve his foot speed defensively, but the promise and potential is there for him to be a multi-positional defender.

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Sixers to Select at No. 23 in NBA Draft After Brooklyn Defers Pick Until 2023

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers finally know the status of their first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. The pick was included in the package sent over to the Brooklyn Nets in return for James Harden at this season's trade deadline. The Nets had until June 1 to decide whether they were taking the Sixers' 2022 first-round pick at No. 23 overall or instead taking the team's 2023 first-round pick. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to break the news the Nets were deferring the acquisition of the pick to 2023.

The Sixers officially now own the No. 23 pick in the first-round of this year's NBA Draft. Philadelphia's president of basketball operations Daryl Morey now has to decide how the Sixers will use the pick. They could go the route of keeping the pick and attempting to draft an impact player at No. 23 overall or he could use it as a trade chip to try to acquire a veteran player. If the team chooses to keep the pick, there are multiple solid wing players who would potentially be available that could help the Sixers such as Ohio State's E.J. Liddell or Baylor's Kendall Brown.

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What Does James Harden's Potential Future With Sixers Look Like?

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers, after another second round playoff exit, are left with many questions about the roster moving forward into this offseason. At the top of the list is the future of James Harden: Will he stay in Philadelphia? If he does, what will his next contract look like? What version of Harden will the Sixers be getting if they do re-sign him? A lot of what the Sixers do this offseason will be determined by what president of basketball operations Daryl Morey chooses to do with Harden.

Harden has some options for how his next contract can play out. He has a $47.3 million player option for next season. If he picks that up, he would then be eligible for a four-year, $233 million contract extension that would have the Sixers paying him $61.7 million in the 2026-27 season. If he does not pick up the player option, Harden would hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.

It would make sense for Harden to pick up the player option since there are not many other good teams who would be able to give him that type of money. Harden, after the Sixers' season ended in the Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat, did verbally commit to accepting the player option.

"I'll be here [Philadelphia]," Harden said. "Whatever allows this team to grow and get better and do the things necessary to continue to compete at the highest level."

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Joel Embiid Named to 2021-22 All-NBA Second Team

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Joel Embiid has been selected to the All-NBA Second Team, totaling 414 points, including 57 total votes for First Team. Accompanying him on the Second Team will be Ja Morant, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Durant.

Embiid finished with more total points than Jayson Tatum, who made the All-NBA First Team, but was held back from making the First Team due to the NBA's rule about "players who received votes at multiple positions were slotted at the position at which they received the most voting points."

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Despite Another All-Defensive Honor, Matisse Thybulle's Future With Sixers is Uncertain

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Matisse Thybulle is just 25 years old and on Friday, for the second consecutive season, was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. Despite that, his future with the Philadelphia 76ers remains uncertain going forward. Deciding what to do with Thybulle is just one of many important decisions president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will have to make in order to propel this roster into true championship contention.

Thybulle, a defensive specialist, stepped into the role of being the Sixers' best perimeter defender this season, averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in 25.5 minutes per game. He has a knack for finding his way to the basketball often by disrupting the passing lanes. He is a risk-taker who plays an aggressive style of defense which at times can cause him to get beat while at other times allows him to make some brilliant defensive plays. Overall he is one of the NBA's best young talents on the defensive end of the floor.

Despite his strong defensive play, he is clearly a flawed player. He cannot stay on the floor because he is an offensive liability. He scored just 5.7 points per game and has failed to make enough improvements to be at least a semi-productive player offensively. There were countless number of times where he was on the floor and the opposing defense left him alone because he poses no threat.

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Rivers Set to Remain Sixers Head Coach, for Now. Was it the Right Call to Bring Him Back?

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Many Philadelphia 76ers fans remain frustrated after yet another unceremonious second-round exit from the playoffs. The Sixers were ousted from the playoffs by the Miami Heat after putting together two lifeless efforts in Games 5 and 6. They were outworked by Miami, and by the end of the series it was clear who the better team was.

A lot of the players brought up a lack of mental toughness in the days following the end of their season. It was evident the Sixers lacked the requisite emotion, intensity and effort throughout Games 5 and 6. This resulted in, among other things, calls from the fanbase for Doc Rivers' tenure as the team's head coach to come to an end.

President of basketball operations Daryl Morey came out during his end-of-season press conference last Friday and, with Rivers seated next to him, seemingly put all the noise to rest with a simple "Yes" when asked if Rivers would remain the team's head coach next season.

However, Morey's public endorsement of Rivers failed to quell the noise and rumors regarding the Sixers potentially parting ways with Rivers. Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, both from ESPN, added some more information about Rivers and the Sixers. Shelburne, on "NBA Today" last Friday, mentioned how the money (Rivers has three years remaining on his five-year, $40 million contract) is key and it is important they came out and presented a united front.

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One Major Flaw Sixers Have to Correct This Offseason: Lack of Mental Toughness

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

As their playoff elimination sunk in, one common phrase kept getting tossed around by players throughout the Philadelphia 76ers' roster: Mental toughness.

Their loss to the Miami Heat in the second round exposed a lack of mental toughness as one of the team's core issues. The Heat played a much more tough, physical style of basketball throughout the series. Miami's roster is built around toughness, physicality and resiliency. The Sixers are severely outmatched in all three of those areas.

For all of the Sixers' roster weaknesses and questionable coaching decisions throughout the series, the team ultimately came unglued due to a lack mental toughness, a far greater trait necessary for all championship teams to have. Tobias Harris, after the team's 99-90 loss on Thursday in Game 6, reflected about how the team's lack of mental toughness cost them against the Heat.

"Mental toughness," Harris said. “I think so. Just mental toughness. That part of it, I don’t think we have yet. Seeing the Milwaukee game yesterday [Wednesday against the Celtics], that’s a team that’s been through the fire, being able to fight and keep going. At times for our group, too many things just affected us as a whole. We drop our heads too much. Our body language at times is crappy. We needed that to be better throughout this series. And I think that hurt us in this series.

"Our mental toughness for sure hurt us against that group. And they did a lot of things to kind of challenge that — the hustle plays, the 50-50 basketballs, everything. The physicality by them, as well. We needed to be better as a collective group at just holding our head and just fighting, just going right back at it. And I don’t think we did a great job of that."

The Sixers showed some resiliency at different times throughout the season, headlined by a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference at 51-31 despite the Ben Simmons drama surrounding the team for much of the year. Joel Embiid, who by the end of the series against Miami looked physically beaten down, missed the opening two games against Miami before ultimately playing through both an orbital fracture and torn ligament in his thumb.

However, the Sixers as a team fell far short in the toughness category necessary for winning a championship. After battling back to even the series at two games, they collapsed and put together a pair of listless performances in Games 5 and 6. The team lost Game 5 by 35 points and, with their backs up against the wall, stepped out on the court with no intensity and essentially rolled over for Miami in Game 6. The Sixers were out-rebounded by 14 in Game 6 while playing with zero aggression. It was an inexcusable effort made all the worse with it coming with their season on the line.

Embiid, after the team's loss in Game 6, also did not shy away from talking about the Sixers' need for more toughness. A lot of his comments centered around P.J. Tucker, a player on the Heat who centers his game around playing with toughness, intensity and energy.

"When you have size and toughness, that goes a long way. You look at someone like P.J. Tucker, great player, but it's not about him knocking down shots, it's about what he does, whether it's on the defensive end or rebounding the ball," Embiid said. "Defensively, plays with so much energy, believes that he can get from point A to point B, and he believes that no can beat him, and he's tough. He's just physical and he's tough, and they have a few of those guys.

"Since I've been here, I'd be lying if I said we've had those type of guys. Nothing against what we have, it's just the truth. We never have P.J. Tucker, that's really what I'm trying to say. I think physicality, once you get to the playoffs or the later rounds, you need that, you need those guys that are really tough."

As Embiid noted, the Sixers' loss to the Heat made it clear they need an infusion of toughness and grittiness to the roster. The Heat, with few exceptions, beat the Sixers up and down the floor with relative ease. Changes to the roster will need to be made this offseason to build a more resilient, tough and balanced team. However, Embiid also looked inwards and carefully discussed how the onus is on the players to motivate themselves and perform at a high level.

"I believe that we have the right people. I think at some point you got to stop looking at coaching or front office, you got to look at the players," Embiid said on Thursday. "Maybe they're just not good enough. I'm not trying to blame anybody. The players also got to do their jobs, it doesn't matter how much a coach or GM talks to you or try to motivate you, if you still go out there and don't do your job, and the other team is more physical than you, that's on the players.

"I don't think at this point we should need anybody to motivate us. This is our job. If you're really serious about winning, I don't need anybody to be in my ear about playing hard and doing my job. This is what I get paid for and I love doing it."

Gripes can be made about the coaching from Doc Rivers, who the team announced will be retained through at least next season, throughout the series against the Heat. However, Embiid correctly goes into how it is not the coach's responsibility to motivate the players to play with energy and intensity out on the floor.

The next few months will be filled with people throughout the organization contemplating many uncomfortable questions about the roster and what can or needs to be done to improve it throughout the coming offseason. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey will have his hands full attempting to correct some of the team's major flaws, including a lack of mental toughness. When asked in his joint press conference with Rivers on Friday about what the team's primary goals will be this offseason, he did not commit to any specific answer.

“Defensively — very important,” Morey said. “I guess the reason I’m pausing … is I often feel like if you go into the offseason with, ‘We need to fix X,’ you end up closing off potential opportunities and avenues. And it’s also the day after [elimination], so I just think I need to meet with Doc and his staff and our staff, and just really get a full picture on what they’re seeing before I give an answer like that [on areas to improve the roster].”

There are many questions and things to improve on throughout the Sixers' roster. As was made clear both through the team's performance against Miami and the effective case being made from both Harris and Embiid after Game 6, adding more toughness to the roster needs to be near the top of the list of offseason priorities moving forward.


Sixers' Danny Green Diagnosed With Torn ACL and LCL

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The hits keep on coming for the Philadelphia 76ers. Just one day after their season ended, wing player and veteran Danny Green was diagnosed with both a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee.

The injury looked brutal in real time. Joel Embiid crashed to the floor after attempting a layup, rolling up onto Green's leg and causing him to go down in a lot of pain. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported during Game 6 there was some fear about the severity of the injury, and the MRI today confirmed those fears.

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Daryl Morey Announces Sixers Will Keep Doc Rivers as Head Coach

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Despite all the rumors and speculation surrounding Doc Rivers' future, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey came out and put all of that to rest. When asked by a reporter during their exit interview on Friday afternoon about if Rivers would remain the Philadelphia 76ers' head coach next season, he responded with a simple "yes."

Even though the Sixers endured another disappointing second-round exit in the playoffs, Rivers will be sticking around as the team's head coach for at least one more season. His contract is currently set to go through the 2024-25 season at $8 million per year.

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3 Observations: Sixers' Season Comes to an End After Brutal Performance in Game 6

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers, with their backs to the wall in Game 6, failed to perform and earn a Game 7 back down in Miami. The Heat took care of the Sixers in relatively easy fashion on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, disposing of them 99-90 in Game 6.

Jimmy Butler powered the Heat with another great performance, finishing with 32 points and eight rebounds.

Joel Embiid finished with 20 points while grabbing 12 rebounds for the Sixers. James Harden, who was brought in mid-season to help push the Sixers over the top, finished with just 11 points and nine assists while turning the ball over four times.

The Sixers were outplayed in every facet of the game from their intensity and energy level to controlling the basketball and shooting well from three-point range. It was a disappointing way to end the season for the Sixers.

The Sixers have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2001. Here are three observations from the season-ending loss to the Heat in Game 6:

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