NBA: Ranking the top 5 Eastern Conference contenders

NBA Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NBA Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

No. 4: Philadelphia 76ers

After the acquisition of James Harden, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ chances of making the finals were at an all-time high. However, there are real reasons to be concerned about Philadelphia, starting with the performance of the former Net.

In the month of March, Harden’s averaged 22.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 9.2 assists on 40.4 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc. This includes an embarrassing 3-of-17, 11-point performance against the Nets in a 29 point loss. With his playoff reputation, it’s fair to question his role on a contending team.

Obviously, Joel Embiid is the heart and soul of the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s having an MVP-quality season and will finish in the top three voting at the very least. Beyond that, what do the 76ers have going for them?

Tyrese Maxey has shined in his second season, but will likely get taken advantage of on the defensive end come playoff time. Tobias Harris has struggled to live up to his max contract, hitting only 36 percent of his 3-pointers on 3.6 attempts per game.

In the playoffs, the 76ers will need productive wing defenders to match up with the likes of Durant, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and even Jimmy Butler. Philadelphia has one likely candidate for that job, Matisse Thybulle, who’s a better help defender than he is on-ball. Additionally, with him on the court, the 76ers’ offense is not at its best, with opposition declining to guard the poor-shooting wing.

Obviously, Harden and Embiid are the most talented duo in the league and could dominate their way to a finals appearance alone. However, there are real concerns with the supporting cast and defensive matchups that may cause Philadelphia’s season to end sooner than expected.