3 players who could break into 76ers starting lineup

De'Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
De'Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
Danuel House Jr. (Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports)
Danuel House Jr. (Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Philadelphia 76ers lost several key free agents over the summer and James Harden is gone in spirit. Even with depth waning, these players could break into Nick Nurse’s starting five. 

The Philadelphia 76ers are off to the worst possible start to Nick Nurse’s first season as head coach. James Harden is determined to fracture the locker room until he gets his wish, a trade out of Philly. If Harden does eventually get traded, the return will probably pale in comparison to the player Philadelphia is sending out. Another year of Joel Embiid’s prime down the drain.

Daryl Morey is a bonafide genius. He revolutionized NBA front office work and spearheaded the analytics movement in Houston. He gets credit for building the best offensive team of his generation, maybe all time. He also gets credit for navigating that god-awful Sixers roster he inherited after the 2020 season, not to mention the whole Ben Simmons snafu that belied this Harden debacle.

But, at the end of the day, the Sixers were able to get to the second round before Morey arrived. Since he has arrived, Philadelphia has done nothing but fall painfully short of the conference finals. Embiid’s prime is waning — the heart and soul of ‘The Process’ is almost 30 years old — and with Harden in saboteur mode, the crowning achievement of Morey’s Sixers tenure is quickly turning into his biggest mistake.

So, what can Nick Nurse do with his new group? That’s the big question hanging over all of this. If Nurse can unlock Embiid in the postseason while getting another leap in production out of Tyrese Maxey, maybe none of this noise matters. Nurse is a certified genius on defense and he understands how to place his stars in a position to succeed on offense. The Raptors weren’t able to generate much offensive punch in the later years of Nurse’s tenure, but that was on the front office more than the coaching staff. Embiid, Maxey, and whatever is left of the roster should guarantee the Sixers an above-average scoring profile.

Let’s talk through players who could break into Nurse’s starting five, with or without a Harden trade.

Philadelphia 76ers player who could break into starting lineup: Danuel House Jr.

P.J. Tucker is 38 years old. He was barely good enough to hang onto a starting spot last season. Another year of miles on his body probably won’t help. Tucker still has the respect of coaches around the league due to his toughness and corporate knowledge, but he’s not the same elite on-ball stopper he was in Houston. He’s not the same offensive player either. Last season, his 3-point volume plummeted and his indecision frequently tanked the offense.

And thus, we arrive at Danuel House Jr. It’s not that House was particularly great in 2022-23. He spent a good chunk of the season out of the Sixers’ rotation. He is, however, eight years younger than Tucker. He’s also a proper wing, listed at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, who can defend two through four. There aren’t many such players left on the Sixers’ roster.

House is as vanilla as 3-and-D wings come, but that might be enough to get him a spot in the starting five. He takes a lot of 3s and makes them at a half-decent clip (33.6 percent last season, but 36.2 percent for his career). He should probably cut some of the step-backs and awkward dribble improv out of his game, but House mostly commits to spot-up jumpers and backdoor cuts. He will screen, move, and make the right pass more often than not.

On defense, the Sixers got real mileage out of House late in the season. He can guard his man at the point of attack and he doesn’t get played off the floor on offense. That has been all too rare an achievement for Sixers wings in recent years. House is a player to watch, especially if the 3-point numbers perk back up. His primary competition for minutes — Georges Niang, Jalen McDaniels, Shake Milton — all left in free agency.