On paper, the Sixers’ rotation looks fairly straightforward. The starting positions seem to be fairly established, and no real competition for starting minutes seems on the table. Your probable opening day starters are:
Point Guard: Ben Simmons
Shooting Guard: Josh Richardson
Small Forward: Tobias Harris
Power Forward: Al Horford
Center: Joel Embiid
For a typical team, one might assume that a depth chart would also follow this sort of structure, but the positional versatility of the 76ers team makes it a bit more complicated than that. Two major examples of that are Al Horford and Josh Richardson.
When Joel Embiid goes to the bench
When Joel Embiid heads to the bench, he will be often be replaced at center by Al Horford, not Kyle O’Quinn, who seems to have the lead heading into camp as the first true big off the bench. With Horford sliding to the 5, the opening may come in the form of Mike Scott at power forward, OR maybe Tobias Harris slides to the 4 and someone like Matisse Thybulle, James Ennis, or Zhaire Smith come in at the small forward position.
When Ben Simmons goes to the bench
Similar to the situation with Joel, it would probably be an oversimplification to just assume that Raul Neto or Trey Burke is the first PG off the bench to spell Ben Simmons. Josh Richardson is likely to slide over at times to take point guard responsibilities when Simmons rests. That would create a hole for James Ennis or Zhaire Smith to come in perhaps at the shooting guard slot.
The entire construction of the bench seems purposeful in this way. The competition is likely fierce among the wing players in Ennis, Thybulle, Smith, and Korkmaz. They each bring different skill sets on offense and defense, and some of the determinations will be more of the “horses for courses” variety.
Against certain teams, some substitutions will make more sense than others. Brett Brown will likely be more liberal in his use of depth. Speaking with media on Wednesday, Brown stated that he expects to use a 10-11 man rotation in the first third of the season and progress down to 9 or so leading into the playoffs.
The Fight for Roster Spots
Some players are simply battling to secure a spot on the 15 man active roster. Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok are on two way deals. Pelle has an elite skill set from a rim protection and lob catching standpoint. Shayok is a wing scorer who will likely be very productive in Delaware as he adjusts to the NBA game.
Beyond that you have Haywood Highsmith, Isaiah Miles, and Jonah Bolden as players who have to find a way to jump out while also displaying an ability to play within the 76ers system. It can be a tricky feat to pull off for role players looking to turn heads.