Philadelphia 76ers 2020 Playoff Preview
Updated: Aug 16
One of the most interesting teams in the NBA this season has been the Philadelphia 76ers. After leaning into size and defense last summer with the signings of Al Horford and Josh Richardson, they were thought to be a force in the East and the most worthy challenger to the Milwaukee Bucks.
As we all know, that didn't quite happen. The Sixers finished the regular season with a 43-30 record, putting them at sixth in the East. Their defense was good, not great, and their offense was below average.
Joel Embiid, Al Horford and Ben Simmons had a very tough time fitting together, posting a net rating of minus-1.0 as a trio. Deploying two of them at a time has shown promise, but with Simmons set to miss most of the playoffs with a left patella injury, we won't get to see that through.
Biggest Strength - Size. The Sixers start no one under 6'5" in their starting lineup, and amongst backups who could be in the rotation, only Raul Neto is smaller than that. In addition, the frontcourt of Tobias Harris, Horford and Embiid is one of the biggest in the playoff bracket. Philly wants to physically dominate, and they have the bodies to do it.
Biggest Weakness - Cohesion. Philadelphia has had a ton of moving parts all season, and even when they had everyone together, the fits weren't great. Their current starting lineup of Shake Milton, Richardson, Harris, Horford and Embiid has played only 76 minutes together to this point—and almost all of it has been in The Bubble.
Team’s X-Factor - Guard play. This probably would've been the case regardless of Simmons' health, as the Sixers have turned to the bargain bin for ballhandling and shooting. A lot of the playoffs comes down to improvisation, which the Sixers know well from Jimmy Butler's heroics last spring. Now they'll be relying on Milton, Richardson and Alec Burks to not only become basketball alchemists, but also hit a lot of threes off the catch from Embiid post-ups.
Player to Watch - Glenn Robinson III. Robinson's plus shooting and solid wing defense make him a welcome addition to any playoff rotation, especially one that is missing its best wing defender in Simmons. He might even be a starter at some point if the matchup calls for it.
Estimated Playoff Run - First round exit. They are set to play the Boston Celtics in round one. And while they have a great size advantage over Boston, their best chance to guard Jayson Tatum is gone. A lot of things have to go right for them to escape the first round, including but not limited to: Embiid dominating against a top-five defense for 40 minutes a night, everyone around him making 3s off the catch consistently, and someone being a reliable check to Tatum. The odds aren't great.