Buying or selling the Philadelphia 76ers as championship contenders in the Eastern Conference.
When Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers joined the Philadelphia 76ers during the offseason, there was much hype surrounding this team. How could such two great minds not figure out how to make it all work with as much talent as a Sixers have had and compiled over the last few seasons?
It was too good to not work and many were quick to jump on the Sixers bandwagon and categorize them as a true contender heading into the 2020–21 NBA season. And that’s exactly what the Sixers have been throughout the regular season. For the most part, they’ve been too good not to work.
For the majority of the season, the Sixers have been atop the Eastern Conference standings. They currently in a fight with the Brooklyn Nets to finish with the top seed in the East heading into the postseason.
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Joel Embiid has looked like a true NBA MVP candidate and if it wasn’t for his missed games due to injury, he probably wins the award this season. You can make the case that he’s been the most important player in the East this season. His running mate, Ben Simmons, has been tremendous on both ends of the floor and should be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
This dynamic duo has worked this season in Philadelphia and the supporting cast has been good enough when needed. Specifically, they’ve stepped up in a big way in the 11 recent games that Embiid was forced to miss due to injury. During those 11 games, the Sixers went 8-3.
It’s unexpected success such as those 11 games that should give this team confidence that they can – or should – emerge as true contenders to make it out of the Eastern Conference this season. In years past, the Sixers don’t go 8-3 in 11 games without Embiid. Something has changed; this team is different.
It’s certainly a development that will help give this team confidence heading into the playoffs. That is not to say that the team doesn’t need Embiid to be healthy, but that there are other avenues to victory for this team in the postseason. The Sixers can’t win a championship without a healthy Embiid, but championship teams can win in a myriad of ways.
That’s what the Sixers have proven this season.
Even though the Sixers didn’t make a substantial move at the NBA Trade Deadline, George Hill should give this team some flexibility in the backcourt heading into the playoffs. He’s a solid addition even if he won’t have the same impact that a potential trade for Kyle Lowry would’ve had.
Statistically, the Sixers have been up-and-down on offense this season. It’s their defensive prowess and success on that end of the floor that has solidified them as a contender and has helped them rise up the East standings.
The Sixers are ranked second in defensive rating and sixth in net rating. Offensively, they’re middle-of-the-pack, ranked 14th.
The big question for this team is how their offense will look when the game slows down even more in the playoffs. With Embiid, the answer to your question generally is great. But as we seen in the past, Embiid has needed a second option to help take the load off him.
In the past, that’s where Ben Simmons has fallen short. Whether that’s due to injury, his lack of aggressiveness, or the lack of a consistent jump shot. If the Sixers are going to make another deep playoff run which possibly ends in an NBA Finals appearance, that’s something that certainly has to change.
The Philadelphia 76ers are evolving into a true contender in the Eastern Conference. They’ll have to prove it in the postseason, however. This team can win a championship this season. Question is, will they be able to put it all together when it matters most?