The Sixers dropped to 12-10 on Wednesday with an embarrassing performance in Cleveland. It was all Cavaliers from the jump, them shooting over 60 percent from the field (and over 50 percent from 3) while the Sixers’ offense sputtered in gloriously dismaying fashion. Joel Embiid led the team with 19 points and six assists, but it just wasn’t enough.
Thankfully reinforcements are on the way. James Harden is expected to return as soon as next Monday in Houston. The veteran guard has only appeared in nine games so far this season, averaging 22.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 10.0 assists.
Harden’s return will no doubt boost the offense, but it does pose a striking predicament for Doc Rivers and the Sixers’ coaching staff: what happens to Shake Milton? The 26-year-old is playing the best basketball of his career right now. Does he return to obscurity in the second unit, and if not, how can the team maximize his skill set without sacrificing production from the core superstars?
The answer might be simple: to stagger Milton and Harden, even once Maxey returns. That would allow Shake more opportunities to handle the ball and pace the offense. Meanwhile, Maxey is much more comfortable playing off of another ball-handler than Harden (and, frankly, Shake isn’t good enough to take the ball out of Harden’s hands).
More Sixers news
The Sixers have played great basketball of late, the Cleveland game notwithstanding. The entire roster deserves credit, but the bench mob has been truly special. We covered three players in particular who have outperformed preseason expectations.
We also have more Shake Milton content: his future role with the franchise is uncertain, but he certainly feels like a long-term starter… for another team.
You can also read Bryan Toporek’s excellent coverage of the Sixers’ bench mob over at Liberty Ballers, and how their recent success could equate to higher trade value ahead of the February deadline.
The NBA schedule could look different in the near future. It was recently announced that by 2023-24, the league schedule could feature 80 games if the in-season tournament in approved (it is widely expected to pass into NBA law, of course).
Elsewhere in the association, injures are starting to creep into the picture. Ben Simmons will miss his next three games at least for the surging Nets, while the Timberwolves will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for 4-to-6 weeks after he suffered a right calf strain. The latter in particular could have profound implications on the NBA standings.
Also, in Boston, it’s feeling more and more like Jayson Tatum is the man to beat in the MVP race. He dropped 49 in Boston’s victory over Miami on Wednesday, with the Celtics continuing to look drastically better than every other NBA team.