The 76ers are not a contender in the East. Here’s why:
1) Their best player, Jimmy Butler, is out for about 3 months with an ACL tear and won’t be back before playoffs start; 2) Despite having one of the most talented teams in the NBA, they have yet to find their identity after trading away Jahlil Okafor (their #2 scorer), Nerlens Noel (a defensive stopper-turned-bust); 3) Without Joel Embiid on the court due to his injury problems and no go-to scorer outside of Ben Simmons or JJ Redick
The “76ers are pretenders and not contenders in the East” is a statement that many people have been making. The 76ers are currently 4th in the Eastern Conference standings, but they are not considered to be contenders yet.
The Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the upstart Atlanta Hawks in the 2020-21 season.
It was a huge upset, but the primary story in the media focused on the added drama that Atlanta’s unexpected triumph had caused between the Sixers and Ben Simmons. Currently, the front administration has not entertained any real trade talks, ensuring that Doc Rivers receives nothing from the team’s second-most costly roster spot.
Philadelphia has dropped four of its previous five games after being up and down since the season began in October. Joel Embiid has tried to carry the team, but his stats have dropped significantly since his MVP-caliber season a year ago. Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, and Seth Curry have moments of greatness, but they just lack skill when compared to the majority of the NBA’s second bananas.
Here are three reasons why the Sixers, without Simmons, are pretenders to the Eastern Conference title rather than contenders.
In a pinch, he’s your go-to person.
Even the finest big men in NBA history, such as Shaquille O’Neal’s Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s Tony Parker, had guards to depend on during important moments of the game. Given Embiid’s dominance on the block, feeding him the ball in the last two minutes and expecting him to create shots for himself and his teammates is not a good idea.
Curry has made countless clutch shots during his career, but the majority of them have come as a result of exceptional ball movement. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is missing an orchestrator who can score when defenses tighten up in the dying minutes. For example, their previous two defeats came as a result of the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets performing better in the game’s closing seconds. A team that wants to make a deep postseason run can’t afford to have lethargic offenses.
Role players must be consistent.
Harris agreed to a five-year maximum deal in the summer of 2019, but has failed to live up to those lofty expectations. He’s failed to score even 20 points per game this season, and his shooting percentage has dropped to just 45.9%. Harris’ main qualities were efficiency and durability, but he has already missed nine games this season.
Maxey had a great start to the season, but his stats have dropped. Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green haven’t been putting up regular numbers, either, with Rivers switching between the three and four positions.
Philadelphia needs multiple trustworthy role players capable of upping their skills in the playoffs to be a credible threat in the East. It’s still possible that players like Harris and Maxey may find their groove as Rivers settles into a nightly rotation, but that hasn’t happened for the Sixers this season.
Embiid cannot be the top player on a championship team.
When Embiid and Nikola Jokic were battling for MVP last season, there were whispers that Embiid may be the greatest player in basketball. There were times when he displayed a wide range of skills and proved to be an unstoppable force for any opponent. There’s no denying that he’s one of the finest players in the game, but guiding a team to the top is a different story.
Embiid continues to lack the initiative and ability to motivate his teammates and lead them to higher heights. Embiid’s offensive and defensive output is outstanding, yet he went missing for his team in a few playoff games last spring. Embiid was fantastic in Games 6 and 7 of their series against the Hawks, scoring 22 and 31 points, respectively, but the glaring figure was the eight turnovers in each of the last two games.
Simmons was singled out for criticism after Philly’s Game 7 loss, but Embiid’s late-game problems also played a role—and might do so again in a few months if the Sixers stay healthy enough to make the playoffs.
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The 76ers are pretenders and not contenders in the East. The Philadelphia 76ers have been a team that has struggled to find success against the rest of the Eastern Conference. They have only won 3 games so far this year, all of them coming against teams outside of the top 8 in their conference. One reason for their struggles is because they are simply not good enough to be one of the best teams in their conference. They also lack a true superstar on their roster, which makes it hard for them to compete with other teams like Boston, Cleveland and Toronto who have superstars like Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard respectively. Another reason why they struggle is because they do not have an elite defense or offense and rely heavily on Ben Simmons’ ability to create shots for themselves. Reference: 76ers vs nets.
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