Why the Sixers 4th New Starting Lineup in a Year is the Best Even Without Jimmy Butler

July 02, 2019 - 5:41 am

The Philadelphia 76ers will enter the 2019-20 season with their fourth new starting lineup in one calendar year. That's the bad news.

The good new is, the case for this new one being the best is not a difficult case to make. Let's take a look.

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PG - Ben Simmons

SG - Josh Richardson

SF - Tobias Harris

PF - Al Horford

C - Joel Embiid

 

We'll start with Josh Richardson, a 25-year-old 6'6" wing, who the Sixers are reportedly acquiring from Miami in a sign and trade for Jimmy Butler. Richardson is entering his fifth year in the NBA after playing four years at Tennessee (beginning in 2011-12, the year after Tobias Harris left).

Richardson has improved offensively in each of his four NBA seasons. Last season in Miami, J-Rich averaged 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.5 blocks on 41.2 FG% / 35.7 3FG% / 86.1 FT%. Richardson attempted 6.3 three's per game on a not-very-good Heat team with bad spacing. Richardson shot a respectable 38.1-percent on 4.7 catch-and-shoot three's per game.

Defensively, is where Richardson's impact is felt the most. He's an in-your-face on-ball, versatile, long and athletic hound. In four seasons, Richardson has 9.3 defensive win shares and defensive box-plus minus of 0.7. Richardson has averaged over 1.0 steal per game in each of the last three seasons and was 16th in the NBA last season with 4.0 three's contested per game.

Richardson is going to wreak havoc on D, run the floor, fill the lanes, and make catch-and-shoot open three's for the Sixers, benefitting from playing with a guy like Ben Simmons.

Contractually, Richardson will make $10.1 million in 2019-20 and $10.8 million in 2020-21, before a player-option of $11.6 million kicks in for 2021-22. This is a very affordable contract for Philadelphia and a tradeable contract as well, if necessary at some point down the line.

 

Next up is another new Sixer, one who we're more famaliar with, in Al Horford.

The Sixers have reportedly signed Horford to a four-year deal worth $109 million. Already 33 years old, you wonder what year four will look like for Horford, but right now he's still one of the game's best frontcourt players. Horford is a five-time all-star and a rock solid veteran who has an incredibly high basketball IQ. Horford will be able to help Joel Embiid on and off the court. On the court, by taking some backup minutes at center, and off the court by teaching him some tricks of the trade.

Horford has averaged double-figures in all 12 of his NBA seasons. In each of his last three seasons, Horford has shot over 35-percent from three on at least 3.0 per game.

Again, like Richardson, Horford will make the biggest impact on the defensive end. For his career, Horford has a defensive box-plus minus of 2.3 and a 37.5 defensive win share number over 12 seasons. Maybe most importantly, Horford gives the Sixers another body to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo in a potential playoff series.

Horford will start at the four and play some backup center minutes for the Sixers.

 

Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons we already know about.

Harris will need to progress as an elite shooting wing and step up to become the team's perimeter go to guy. Five years, $180 million is a lot of money, but he's just 26-years-old and hopefully he can grow into that contract.

Embiid will need to improve his conditioning and really lock in next season and beyond to solidify himself as an perennial MVP candidate, because to be honest, he's not there yet. Decision making (i.e, shot selection and against double-teams) need to be sharper for Embiid.

Simmons, who is likely going to sign a rookie scale max extension when the free-agency dust settles, will obviously need to develop an outside shot (stop yelling about it) and improve his free-throw percentage. Just 23 years old, Simmons doesn't ever need to be the team's first or second scoring option, but he does need to be at least some sort of threat to attempt a non-layup/dunk (stop tweeting about it). If he can get his free-throw percentage to 75-percent and develop some sort of mid-range game (we all know he needs to), that would be a win for Simmons and the Sixers entering just NBA season No. 3. Either way, Simmons is still one of--if not the--best under 23-year-old player in the league, already with a rookie of the year award and an all-star nod on his young resume.

The most exciting thing for the Sixers, is this core three--all 26 and younger--will be together for at least the next four seasons. Embiid, as currently constructed, will become an unrestricted free-agent after the 2022-23 season.

 

The Sixers' bench will consist of, at least, Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith, and Matisse Thybulle. Smith and Thybulle are both, effectively, rookies and defensive-minded wing players who are capable of knocking down open three's, we hope. Scott is a more offensive-oriented wing, who is a 36.4-percent career three-point shooter and hit some massive shots for the Sixers last season. These three actually give Philly a decent blend of offense, defense, shooting, and length off the bench in their rotation.

Philadelphia may still be looking to add another shooter. Names like Danny Green and Seth Curry have been mentioned and either would fit nicely. It seems like general manager Elton Brand did a solid job in his first free-agency.

By Andrew Porter