The Philadelphia 76ers were hoping to reemerge as title contenders in the Eastern Conference after a strong 2022 NBA offseason. Instead, they have limped out to a 5-7 start, and appear to be well behind some of the top teams in the East currently. Whether the Sixers can turn things around and change that remains to be seen.

The 76ers have a dominant trio in Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey that should make them competent each time they take the court. That simply hasn’t been the case in the early going, though. Despite all three of these players averaging over 20 points per game, the 76ers can’t find a way to pull out wins on a nightly basis.

There’s still a lot of time for the Sixers to find their way, but right now, their early season struggles paint them as a team that could be in some serious trouble. Let’s pick out three players who have contributed to the team’s slow start to the season and see why their poor play has hurt the 76ers so much.

3. Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell was brought on board by the 76ers late in the offseason in an effort to shore up their big man rotation. It’s safe to say that Harrell has been quite underwhelming to start the season, and is a big reason why Philly’s bench unit has been among the worst in the league to start the season.

Harrell has shown that he can be a passable offensive center off the bench over the past few seasons, and is coming off a season where he averaged 13.1 points per game while splitting time with the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets. Yet through 11 games so far this season, Harrell hasn’t been able to make any sort of impact for the Sixers (4.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.5 APG, 55.2 FG%).

Maybe it’s because he isn’t getting enough time on the floor, but Harrell just hasn’t looked like a good fit in the early going. This has resulted in the 76ers getting dominated once Embiid hits the bench, because they don’t really have a proper replacement for him when he’s off the court. Unless Harrell figures things out, he likely won’t be getting many minutes for Philly.

2. Matisse Thybulle

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Matisse Thybulle had a huge role with the 76ers last season despite the fact he didn’t offer much offensively. Thybulle only averaged 5.7 points per game last season for the Sixers, but he didn’t force shots, and his defense was good enough to the point where it made it worthwhile to give him minutes.

Thybulle has lost his minutes to P.J. Tucker, who is basically doing what Thybulle did last season. Tucker isn’t a strong offensive player, but his defense earns him minutes. Whether he is actually an upgrade over Thybulle is up for debate, but this season, it hasn’t really been a contest. Thybulle’s role has diminished drastically, and similar to Harrell, he’s why the bench is struggling.

The Sixers bench needs an influx of offense, and Thybulle’s putrid 1.4 points per game off the bench makes him virtually useless. Unless Tucker finds his way out of the lineup or his offensive game improves, Thybulle will likely continue to see less and less minutes, which isn’t how his tenure with Philly was expected to go.

1. Joel Embiid

Of course, the bench hasn’t been very good this season, but Joel Embiid hasn’t looked like the player he was last season either. Embiid led the league in scoring last season and was a prime MVP candidate, but early on this season he’s dealt with injuries which may or may not be limiting his impact for Philadelphia on the court.

This isn’t to say that Embiid’s numbers are bad, because they aren’t (27.8 PPG, 10 RPG, 3.4 APG, 50.7 FG%, 25.9 3P%). But Embiid’s expectations are much higher than anyone else on his team, and so far, his numbers have dipped across the board. Embiid is still impacting the game for the Sixers, but it’s not to the extent that they need him to. Embiid has high expectations, but they are reasonable, and his failure to reach them early on is concerning.

The 76ers season may ultimately rely on whether Embiid can return to form and become an MVP candidate again. Harden and Maxey have largely done their part early on in the season, but with Embiid leading the charge, their contributions may not really matter.

Embiid is the glue that holds the Sixers together, and through his eight games played, his impact hasn’t been the same as it was last season. Whether that changes anytime could be the difference between a winning or losing season in Philadelphia.