Friday Gave Another Glimpse of How Special Sixers' Starters Can Be

Six games.

That's how many games the Sixers' new starting five has played together. 

That's it.

First-year GM Elton Brand didn't waste his time getting his feet wet, acquiring two star-caliber players in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. With that, Brett Brown has a difficult task in getting all the team's stars to align with just 13 games remaining.

Yet, as Friday night's win over the Kings at the Wells Fargo Center demonstrated (see observations), this has the makings of something special.

The starting five of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Butler and Harris has played a total of 97 minutes. Among current NBA starting fives that have played at least 90 minutes - a small sample size, to be sure - the Sixers' unit has the highest net rating at 22.8.

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The Sixers saw a more aggressive Butler Friday (see story), but overall, this was by far the most balanced effort they got from their new starters. When there's this much offensive firepower on the floor, it's just matter of getting everyone involved.

"I like it when we play with some level of pace and the ball moves and things are a little bit unpredictable," Brown said. "To just walk it up and call a play, I don't feel that that's how you really win. I think we had 28 assists, you know 10 turnovers, that's not too bad … 

"When you look down and you see Jimmy with 14 shots, Tobias 16, Joel with 19, JJ with 12, Ben with 12, that's pretty good distribution."

Out of the five starters, Harris is the only one that was "off" on Friday. He was 7 of 16 and just 1 of 5 from three. But the newest member of the Sixers' starting lineup has arguably been its most consistent since his arrival.

Harris has scored in double figures in every game he's been a Sixer and has played less than 32 minutes only once - a blowout win over the Lakers.

But even on a night when his shot wasn't falling, he found other ways to score. He was 2 for 10 from the field in the first half, but was more aggressive getting to the basket in the second, making 5 of 6 shots and going 4 of 4 from the line after halftime.

A perfect complement to Embiid and Simmons, the 26-year-old has fit in seamlessly.

"I would just say coach's system and the talent level that's around me has made the game easier for me to get the looks that I know I can make," Harris said. "Even [Friday], I thought in the first half I had a bunch of good looks that normally fall, didn't fall. I would just say the talent level has been the biggest thing that's helped me and helped my game. I play in the flow of the game. I play off other guys and that's a lot easier to do with the group that we have."

Harris helped fuel the Sixers' reserves as Friday night also gave us a sneak peek at what might be Brown's playoff rotation.

Brand also overhauled the team's bench, making it more postseason-ready with veterans like Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic. He also added James Ennis III, who has shined recently, from the Rockets for a second-round pick swap.

While Friday was a positive sign, the Sixers can't afford to pat themselves on the back with a tilt looming Sunday against the Bucks, the only 50-win team in the NBA. While they have little chance to catch Milwaukee, it certainly provides a litmus test for this new-look team.

"I can't wait because I think what it is, is it's a reality check," Brown said. "It really is an opportunity for us to see where we're at. That's why I like those types of games. You want to play Toronto or Boston or Milwaukee, Indiana, you can really get a gauge on where you really are at."

The Sixers' starting five looks incredible on paper. On Sunday, we'll see how it looks on the floor against the NBA's elite.

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