The Philadelphia 76ers, who hold a 11-5 record, have gotten off to a nice start with all things being considered. They’ve experienced a fair share of load management for key players early in the season and the starting five is still fairly new to one another and will take some more time to develop the right chemistry. But looking at the grand scheme of things, Philadelphia’s current roster could use some help. Yes, moves will be made to add some depth and shooting at the deadline but it’s about time the Sixers develop a player from within.
Outside of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, player development has been quite disappointing over the past few years or so. Yes, guys like Landry Shamet and Robert Covington were sent away in trades but there still should be more young talent on a team that accumulated so many draft picks over the course of the last 5yrs.
Without the maturation of Pascal Siakam, a late round pick in 2016, Kawhi and Toronto don’t win a NBA title last year. Player development within an organization is essential for success and it’s time that the Sixers put emphasis on it.
Who Could It Be?
Josh Richardson may be the most clear candidate on the roster. Not only is the 26yr old apart of the starting lineup but he has been fairly productive early on. The newly acquired guard is averaging 16ppg as the 4th scoring option and also plays stellar defense on the other end of the court. Like many players trying to make that next jump, his consistency is an issue. If he’s able to score at a consistent basis moving forward and be effective from 3pt range, Richardson could really become something special.
Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle are probably the only other two legit candidates on the roster. Both being 1st round picks, the Sixers likely saw this upside although they probably weren’t banking on it. Thybulle is a defensive specialist which is already an elite trait of his at the NBA level which is rare for a rookie. On the other end of the court though, he’s not great. I’m sure Philadelphia’s staff is already on it but Thybulle needs to develop an identity on offense. Becoming efficient on the catch and shoot is obviously the first step but if he learns how to create his own shot he could be a very dangerous player.
Zhaire Smith on the other hand is an interesting candidate and the one that excites me the most. His elite athleticism is what propelled him up so many draft boards just a couple years ago. Of course his NBA career was halted due to the usual Sixers rookie curse which leads us to today where he’s mainly stationed in the G-League. Should he be down there? No, I think he’s good enough to be on the NBA roster but it’s not necessarily a bad thing as he’ll be getting much more minutes after missing a big chunk of his rookie season.
Smith doesn’t really excel at anything outside of his athletic ability. He plays above average defense which stems from that athleticism but he still needs work in just about every department. His potential is exciting though. Zhaire is only 20yrs old in his 2nd NBA season. For a guy who was just a 3-Star recruit that played Center at the high school level just 3yrs ago, he’s very good. If Zhaire and the Sixers staff keep honing in on his development he could become a polarizing player in this league.
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Jordan is the founder of Sports Are Philly and a graduate of Misericordia University.
You can follow him on Twitter @darealjlaw.