After another early exit from the postseason last May, the Philadelphia 76ers -- under the stewardship of president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand -- were active over the offseason. The team added four new faces to the regular rotation -- P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell via free agency and De'Anthony Melton via trade. Those guys were brought in to add some toughness and versatility around a core consisting of Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris.
The Sixers werefor the moves. However, a quarter of the way through the season, the results have been underwhelming. Philadelphia sits at just 12-12 through 24 games despite lofty preseason expectations, they have the league's third-worse bench production-wise, and the new faces have struggled to contribute consistently.
Let's start with Tucker, the team's marquee offseason addition. Now, it needs to be said that Tucker obviously wasn't signed for his offensive abilities. Instead, it's his defensive versatility and tenacity that has made him a hot commodity among contending teams, and those traits have been on display in Philly. The Sixers had the league's top-ranked defense in the month of November, and much of that can be credited to Tucker, who can toggle between post and perimeter play, and is often tasked with slowing the opponent's top threat.
But, basketball is a two-way game, and Tucker has been absolutely invisible on the offensive end. He had a string of four straight -- and seven of eight -- scoreless games in November. In the process, he set the record for the most consecutive scoreless games while playing at least 25 minutes per performance since minutes were first tracked in 1951-52, per ESPN.
A main issue is that Tucker is rarely even looking to score -- his 1.6 three's attempted per game is his lowest attempt average in a decade and the three total shots he's taking per game is the least he's attempted in a full season since his rookie year. Most of the time, Tucker treats the ball like a hot potato and tries to pass it off as quickly as possible. If he's not spoon-fed an open corner 3-point attempt, he's probably not going to score.
Tucker isn't the only reason that the Sixers have struggled on that end of the floor at times this season, but he certainly hasn't been a remedy. It doesn't matter how good you are defensively, you have to be able to contribute something on the offensive end. The only silver living with Tucker's offensive play so far this season is that he's still converting his attempts from long range at a solid rate (39.5%) when he takes them, so defenses are hesitant to leave him in order to double elsewhere. Still though, having a guy that plays starter's minutes contribute next to nothing on offense hurts.
Tucker is going to continue to see major minutes because of his defensive contributions, but Philadelphia's offense is going to continue to struggle to reach its full potential unless he can find a way to be more active offensively.
While Tucker has struggled to generate offense, Harrell has struggled to find minutes in general. The veteran big man has appeared in 20 games for the Sixers, but he's averaging just 12 minutes per performance-- the lowest mark since his rookie season. Recently, he has been relegated to Philadelphia's third string center behind Joel Embiid and Paul Reed. His most memorable moment of the current campaign -- the following the Sixers victory over the Bucks in Philadelphia last month -- didn't actually even occur during a game. That pretty well sums up his season so far.
Harrell has never been a great defender for his position, and that hasn't changed in Philadelphia. He doesn't possess the lateral quickness to switch out onto perimeter players freely, nor the size to offer real rim protection. Combine that with his limited skillset on the offensive end, and it's not too tough to see why he hasn't seized the role of Embiid's backup.
Doc Rivers, who has previous experience coaching Harrell, and historically leans on veterans, has opted to go with Reed. The same Paul Reed that Rivers was extremely hesitant to give much real run to last season. That's pretty telling. Harrell can be useful and productive in bursts, but if the Sixers were hoping he could serve as a primary backup, that hasn't been the case.
House hasn't moved the needle much either. He's playing 18 minutes per game, but contributing just 4.9 points and two rebounds during that time while shooting just 35 percent from long range. His contributions have been inconsistent, and he's yet to find a real groove in a Sixers uniform. He does offer length and some versatility defensively, but he hasn't displayed the discipline to be a real differencemaker on that end.
House was never going to be more than a guy that came off of the bench and knocked down some three's for Philly, but he hasn't even really been that, as he's averaging less than one made shot from long distance per game. If he can bump that number up, his value to the Sixers will also increase, but so far, it's been marginal.
Out of the four players that the Sixers added over the offseason, Melton has been the most impactful. Melton has started in 15 games and he's averaging career highs across the board: 10.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and two steals per game. He's provided solid perimeter defense on one end, and reliable floor spacing on the other -- he's knocking down two triples per game. In addition to his shooting, he's also expanded his game as a playmaker, as evidenced by the 3.4 dimes he's averaging. He's quickly established himself as an integral part of the team's rotation, and that isn't likely to change.
A quarter through the season, the Sixers still have some time to figure things out, and for their new additions to bear more fruit. The team has been hampered by injury issues to their key players early in the season, as Embiid, Harden and Maxey have all missed time due to various ailments. The hope is that things will iron themselves out a bit when the roster is at full strength. If that doesn't happen, though, Philadelphia's front office might have to look to make more moves prior to the trade deadline in February.