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Philadelphia 76ers preview: How much drama will Joel Embiid tolerate?

Here’s a look at the 76ers ahead of the upcoming NBA season.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on before the game on May 14, 2023 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Ahead of the 2023-24 NBA season, DK Network is taking an in-depth look at all 30 teams. We’re going over all the big moves from the offseason, predicting the starting lineup, providing a fantasy basketball perspective, looking at relevant odds and assessing season expectations for each franchise. Here’s a look at the Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia 76ers 2023-24 Outlook

Key additions: Kelly Oubre Jr., Terquavion Smith, Patrick Beverley

The 76ers got a nice wing scorer in Oubre Jr., who is an upgrade offensively over P.J. Tucker. Smith is a volume chucker who might have utility off the bench, while Beverley can fill in as a backup guard when needed. The 76ers could only make real changes on the fringes, and they did a good job with that this summer.

Key departures: None*

There’s a big asterisk here with James Harden requesting a trade after opting into his player option. The 76ers guard didn’t get the extension he felt he deserved after making some financial sacrifices last summer, and that has spiraled into a public war of words between him and president Daryl Morey. The relationship appears to be beyond saving, so the 76ers just have to hold out for the package that keeps them in the championship circle.

Projected starting lineup

Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and Oubre Jr. should be in the starting lineup. Tucker might have more pull as the vet over Oubre Jr. but new head coach Nick Nurse might be willing to throw the younger wing in there. The point guard spot is up in the air. If Harden is on the roster for the first game, he’ll play. Otherwise, Maxey will be the point guard and De’Anthony Melton will start as the shooting guard.

Fantasy basketball player to watch: Tyrese Maxey

We saw Maxey take on a bigger role two seasons ago when Ben Simmons was holding out. Maxey took somewhat of a backseat to Harden and Embiid last year, but this could be another situation where the blossoming star adds another layer to his game. Can he command an offense effectively as a true No. 2? Will he excel in the pick-and-roll with Embiid like Harden did? These are questions the 76ers will want answers to as well. If Harden causes problems or is off the roster earlier than expected, Maxey’s fantasy ceiling goes up.

Notable odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook)

Win total: 49.5
To make playoffs: Yes -800, No +550
To win East: +750
To win NBA title: +1800

Season expectations

Imagine what is going through Embiid’s mind right now from a basketball standpoint. He’s coming off a MVP season where he averaged 31.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s 29 years old at the peak of his career. He sees the Bucks and Celtics, his primary competition in the conference, get better. And then he sees his own team in a mess of a situation involving a player that was brought in to help him win a championship.

Harden and Embiid were one of the deadliest duos in the league last year offensively. It’s going to be nearly impossible to re-create that, regardless of what Philadelphia brings back in a Harden trade. More importantly, how many more chances is this team going to get with Embiid playing at this level? And how many more times will the big man accept a season that ends short of the Finals before asking out?

There are teams waiting for Embiid to demand a trade, but the 76ers are clearly committed to him financially. There are no long-term contracts on the team outside Embiid, and there’s the chance for a clean slate. The expectation is to compete for a championship, but the path to getting in that position seems distant. Embiid has had his own issues staying healthy for the playoffs, but this off-court drama is something he can only tolerate for so long.