2019 Playoff Preview: Philadelphia 76ers
The Post-Process Philadelphia 76ers pushed all their chips into the pot this season, bringing aboard Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in two separate trades. Alongside Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and JJ Reddick, the Sixers have one of the toughest starting cores in the NBA. Sam Hinkie would be proud.
Except this star-studded super-team is anything but. Floor spacing, chemistry woes, and depth loom large as unanswered questions for Philadelphia. How head coach Brett Brown manages these issues will define the team’s ceiling this postseason.
Still, when healthy, this Sixers team impressed this season. Joel Embiid is a bonafide MVP candidate, and his supporting cast has each found moments to shine. This team has the chops to contend for a trip to the Finals, as any roster with this much talent would.
Philadelphia has just about as many star players as any team in the league. As such coach Brown will be able to stagger minutes in a way that the Sixers will have at least two All-Stars on the court at all times.
With such high-level depth, it will be hard for other teams in the Eastern Conference to keep up. What Philly lacks in depth - something we’ll discuss in a moment - it makes up for with a top-heavy roster. That’s a lot of spotlight for star players to share, but if they can do so this spring, Philadelphia will be a true force.
Unfortunately the Sixers gluttony of starpower has yet to truly impress. What on paper appears to be an historic collection of players has been awkward in practice. The floor spacing with this group is all off, and it’s not always clear who is supposed to fill what role among the Simmons-Harris-Butler-Embiid core.
To make matters worse, Philly’s bench depth is practically non-existent. That means that Brett Brown doesn’t have much in the way of options when finding favorable matchups. And to make matters worse, a single injury could devastate the Sixers.
The Sixers do not excel on offense, nor do they play stifling defense. Every win in the postseason will be hard fought. But in Embiid Philly has a true X-Factor, the sort of player necessary for a deep playoff run.
Joel Embiid is the Sixers’ crown jewel. He is truly an elite talent in the NBA, and as such, Philly’s future resides in the third-year center. Because when Embiid is firing on all cylinders, look out.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, Embiid doesn’t have much luck against his Eastern Conference peers. Boston’s Al Horford really has his number, while Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo can overwhelm Embiid just the same. On a given night JoJo may be the brightest star on the court, but it’s unclear if he can maintain that prowess for a seven-game series.
Players to Watch
Keep an eye on Jimmy Butler. Buckets has what it takes to turn the tide for Philadelphia.
It’s Butler’s willingness and ability to shoot the three-ball that is most essential. His numbers from deep aren’t terrible this year, but they certainly don’t inspire. Just a season ago, however, Butler shot a respectable 37.8 percent from three on 4.5 attempts per game. Philadelphia ranks 27th in 3PA per game since the All-Star Break; Sixers fans should pray Butler gets hot from range.
Estimated Playoff Run
Philadelphia may have caught a break this postseason. Assuming things shake out according to plan, the Sixers will face the Raptors in the second-round.
Philly did go just 1-3 against Toronto this season, which to be honest is probably a good preview of how that series would shake out. However considering the Sixers’ aforementioned issues dealing with the Celtics and Bucks, this is as good a spot to be in as the team could have hoped.
Expect a hard-fought battle from the Sixers, with each of its star players having moments of true brilliance. All the same, expect a second-round exit for Philadelphia.