Philadelphia 76ers: Potential Lineups Against The Oklahoma City Thunder

Mar 18, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Nik Stauskas (11) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 111-97.Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Nik Stauskas (11) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 111-97.Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

With the final preseason game off the books, the Philadelphia 76ers will look to their season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Philadelphia 76ers will go against an MVP favorite in Russell Westbrook and the weakened Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder may not be a top seed in the West anymore, but they could still easily be a top 15 team in the NBA. The Sixers will go into the game with some key injuries, and the lineups are not yet set in any way.

The Thunder have been rolling with a pretty steady preseason lineup, starting Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, and Andre Roberson in a three guard lineup. Rookie Domantas Sabonis and anchor at center Steve Adams took front-court duties with Enes Kanter off the bench.

The same lineup will be seen in the regular season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers will have obvious matchup problems in the back court. As of now, T.J. McConnell is the frontrunner to be the starting point guard after the Jerryd Bayless injury and Sergio Rodriguez‘s shaky preseason. He’s the best defensive point guard on the roster to put in front of Russell Westbrook, although far from able to shut down the elite guard.

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Oladipo’s offense is seemed to be in a reform stage, trying to find an outside game to compliment his ability to get to the rim. Still in the works of becoming a complete offensive player, Oladipo can be handled somewhat effectively by Gerald Henderson, if he is fully healthy. Henderson’s offense next to McConnell, isn’t the most attractive option but it the hope is the focus shifts to the bottom three offensively.

Andre Roberson‘s length makes him a nightmare for opposing players. His perfect counterpart may be Robert Covington. Covington’s length make him difficult shooter to defend, and his assignment on defense won’t be as tasking. Roberson can find streaks of good shooting, but is not the most consistent option from the outside. Covington may not put up scoring numbers in this matchup, but his outside game will be important to open up the offense for the big men.

Sabonis is a skilled offensive big who shows soft touch around the rim. He does struggle with defending the outside however, which is why Dario Saric is the clear option to start. Offensively he brings versatility the Philadelphia 76ers don’t have in any other healthy player. His ability to shoot outside and create offense for himself is exactly what the Sixers need to exploit what may be the only clear favorable matchup the team has. His passing ability is another plus to how the offense could move against this pretty staunch defense.

That leaves Joel Embiid guarding Steven Adams. With Embiid’s rust shaking off at an incredible rate, it may be tempting to call this favorable towards the Sixers. But Steven Adams will flourish into a top 10 center, if he hasn’t already reached that feat. Adams’ defense and rebounding is superb and his offensive game is more polished than it should be at age 23. Embiid’s first test won’t be an easy one, and Adams could even prove his rust still hasn’t shaken off.

This leaves Enes Kanter and Jahlil Okafor off the bench. Both big men can take advantage on offense against a weaker second unit. They have major issues on the defensive side of the ball, but that will be minimized against usually weaker bench scoring. Kanter and Okafor may be the key difference makers in the final score.

So, as stated above, the Sixers’ potential best matchup lineup looks like this:

PG – McConnell

SG- Henderson

SF- Covington

PF- Saric

C- Embiid

This lineup will bank on three players to take the load on offense, as the backcourt will be useless on the offensive side of the ball with two mobile guards defending them. Here’s another potential lineup:

PG- McConnell/Rodriguez

SG- Covington

SF- Saric

PF- Okafor

C- Embiid

This is a tall ball lineup to say the least. Covington will be able to hold his own defending Oladipo, and Saric’s height at small forward will force Roberson to stay on him. Covington will go up against a much shorter Oladipo, freeing up his shooting stroke. Okafor’s defensive problems will go up against a rookie big in Sabonis. He should be able to take advantage of the matchup with the ball as well. The spacing may even be better in this lineup, and if Okafor can find a rhythm with Embiid it may even be a mainstay starting lineup.

This final lineup will be one focused solely on speed, but could bring up some problems defensively:

PG- McConnell

SG- Rodriguez

SF- Covington

PF- Holmes/Grant

C- Embiid

Leaving Saric off this lineup gives the bench an incredible ability to score with an Okafor pairing, but will mean the guards will have to stagger throughout the rest of the game. Richaun Holmes and Jerami Grant play well in transition and give a great defensive matchup for the Philadelphia 76ers against Sabonis.

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The lineup experimentation will be entertaining and, at times, sickening. The beauty of another lost season is win totals are once again outweighed by assessing talent and chemistry. With Noel undergoing surgery and Simmons returning in January, the Philadelphia 76ers will see a rotation of lineups until the mid point of the season and it will start with the first game of the year.