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What's next for the Philadelphia 76ers?

The Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics, then fired head coach Doc Rivers two days later.

Game 7 got ugly in the second half as the Celtics went on a 28-3 run in the third quarter to comfortably win 112-88, once again leaving Sixers fans with their heads in their hands following another heart-wrenching, frustrating postseason loss. 

Not to mention the fact that Jayson Tatum dropped 51 points to bury the Sixers almost single-handedly.

This was a disappointing end to the Sixers’ season, who had aspirations of an NBA title, especially with MVP winner Joel Embiid on their roster and a clear route to the Finals should they get past Boston. 

Now heading into the offseason, questions must be asked regarding their roster, which starts with the future of James Harden and the newly-vacant head coaching position after Doc Rivers was fired on Tuesday. 

Will James Harden return to Philly?

Early reports suggested that Harden returning to play for the 76ers could be directly linked to whether or not they brought back Rivers as the head coach. The 33-year-old can opt out of his deal and enter free agency, if he pleases.

Rivers was fired from the Philly job on Tuesday, the first domino to fall that could have a big impact on Harden's decision, as well as the immediate and long term future of the franchise who will need to hire its 10th head coach since 2000. 

The 76ers haven't reached the conference finals since 2001. 

Since becoming the head coach of the 76ers, Rivers accumulated a regular season record of 154-82 (.653). 

However, in the playoffs, he is just 20-15 (.571) and has failed to get out of the second round for three consecutive seasons. 

Where do the Sixers need help?

The Sixers have a solid core of Embiid, Harden, Tobias Harris, and Tyrese Maxey, but after those four players, the offensive production drops off significantly. 

Add in the fact that if Harden does opt out, the 76ers are going to need some help. 

A good way to do this is through free agency. 

Adding depth looks to be the focal point, especially in the forward position. 

They could even use another center, as when Embiid went out for a time during the playoffs, the Sixers were short of cover.

A lot of these decisions going forward will likely depend on Harden’s decision whether or not to return, but they are worth noting as they just could not get enough production, especially when Embiid and Harden were struggling toward the end of the series with Boston. 

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Tyrese Maxey continues to step up

Embiid and Harden are the most well-known players on the Sixers, but Maxey has quietly become one of the most reliable players on this team. 

During the regular season, Maxey averaged 20.3 points per game. 

This ever so slightly increased to 20.5 points per game in the playoffs. 

It is also worth noting that Maxey was the second-leading scorer for the 76ers in the playoffs, behind only Embiid. 

The former Kentucky guard did most of his damage from behind the three-point line, shooting 40% in the playoffs. 

This was a huge boost to help the 76ers get as far as they did, especially when Harden had an off night shooting the ball. 

Again, if Harden leaves the Sixers in the offseason, expect Maxey’s numbers to continue to improve. 

Since being drafted in 2020, Maxey has seen his points per game average increase every year, from 8.0 points in 2020/2021 to 17.5 points in 2021/2022 and now to 20.3 points in 2022/2023. 

Other than Embiid, Maxey should start being considered a focal point of this offense. 

He is still very young but has already had some big moments in his career. 

He also could very well be the difference between the Sixers making a deep postseason run in the future or flaming out in the second round, as they have been known to do in recent seasons.

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