On April fools, it seems like once again, the Sixers have somehow become one of the biggest jokes in the NBA. After claiming the number 1 seed, the Sixers have lost three straight games, with the most recent to the 20-55 Detroit Pistons 103-94. James Harden continues not to be able to find a consistent rhythm on offense, and the bench continues to show little to no support. Maybe those two coincide, but I will focus my efforts on a different topic: the backup center position. This isn’t anything new for Sixers fans; in fact, the first article I ever wrote for Sixers Nation was that the backup center position has always been why the Sixers have never made past the 2nd round.
So in a year where you might have solidified that problem with Andre Drummond, he was in Sixers fashion, eventually traded away in the James Harden deal. To cover up for his loss, we signed DeAndre Jordan and got back Paul Millsap in that trade. Maybe Sixers Twitter can give you an answer better than I can, but let’s say those two haven’t performed that great. DeAndre Jordan, a career 67% FG, is shooting just 47% with the Sixers and averaging 3.8 points per game. Well, Paul Millsap, here is a tweet to describe his play so far.
According to https://t.co/ElSYPqQVMN’s matchup data from last night, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 points when Paul Millsap was his primary defender.
Millsap registered just under 2 minutes as Giannis’ primary defender.
— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) March 30, 2022
Most Sixers fans want Doc Rivers to play B-Ball Paul (Paul Reed), and while I am not against it, I am for something else: small ball. Once again, we are talking about when Joel Embiid is off the court. Here is a lineup I think the Sixers should try out.
PG: James Harden
SG: Danny Green
SF: Matisse Thybulle
PF: Tobias Harris
C: George Niang
This is a very similar lineup that Harden was accustomed to when he was in his prime while playing for the Rockets. Harden and surrounded by shooters. This gives the Sixers a ton of options on offense. First, the spacing; as stated, Harden is surrounded by shooters who should give him more room in the paint to finish around the rim. When I am watching Harden play, he has lost a step. Still, the spacing hasn’t exactly been there for him like in past years because the Sixers aren’t surrounding him with shooters then are playing Harden, Jordan, and Thybulle together, which clogs the paint because teams are not guarding Thybulle when he is on the floor daring him to shoot. This wouldn’t happen in this lineup due to Niang playing that PJ Tucker small ball five role.
Second, the next question you would ask next would be who would be at that dunker’s spot that Harden excels at passing to? Matisse Thybulle is the answer; with Niang, Green, and Harris on the floor, three players that shoot over 35% from 3 and around 40% since the acquisition of James Harden, the floor should be plenty spaced for when Harden drives. Thybulle is athletic enough to jump and catch alley-oops from the dunker’s spot. This wouldn’t be anything new for Thybulle, as when Embiid is being doubled, it is always Thybulle who is cutting through the lane looking for easy buckets; he would be doing the same just from the baseline.
In the long run, I think the Sixers need to eventually find a backup center for Embiid. Still, with the playoffs only two weeks away, Doc Rivers need to find an answer to this five-year-long problem, and going with Harden’s strengths is the best way to find a solution. Will Doc adjust? History says no, but maybe he will read this article and change his mind.