The “trust the process” phrase is no longer in need in Philadelphia. To say the Philadelphia 76ers had an eventful 2018-19 season is an understatement. During this summer in free agency, the 76ers made key additions to the roster looking to continue their success.
Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview
Recap of Last Season
With LeBron James moving to the Western Conference, Philadelphia looked to take control of the Eastern Conference. A primary expectation was Markelle Fultz coming back from injury. With high expectations of Fultz becoming a conference elite amongst point guards, the 76ers went all-in on Fultz. However, the season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics revealed that he had not improved as expected.
Realizing they weren’t an elite team in the east, the 76ers were in need of a change. subsequently, a blockbuster trade bringing Jimmy Butler to the city of brotherly love. Although the Butler experience did not get off to a good start, the addition brought them to elite status. A new big three comprised of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Butler carried the team into February. On February 6th, another blockbuster trade was made to bring Tobias Harris along for the ride.
Unlike Butler, Harris isn’t the same ball-dominant player. Fitting seamlessly, Harris didn’t mind being the fourth man to a big three already in place. The 76ers passed the 50-win mark for a second straight season transcending into a top-five team in the NBA. Embiid finished the season averaging a monstrous 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds. Second, to Embiid, both Butler and Harris averaged 18.2 points.
Simmons took responsibility for the point guard position. Finishing the season averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. Finishing third in the East bought them a date with a division rival Brooklyn Nets. After a first game letdown, the 76ers won four straight games to close the series. A second-round loss to the Toronto Raptors came by way of a game-winning shot in game 7 from Kawhi Leonard.
Final Record: 51-31
Placement: 3rd in the Eastern Conference
The division rival Brooklyn Nets stole the spotlight during free agency, however, Philadelphia may have the last laugh. To begin with, Philadelphia retained Harris with a five-year $180 million contract. Not long after, the 76ers stole Al Horford from the Boston Celtics with a four-year $109 million contract. As a result of signing Harris and Horford, Philadelphia sent Butler to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade acquiring Josh Richardson in return.
Philadelphia did lose one noteworthy asset in free agency, J.J. Redick. Signing a two-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, Redick’s perimeter shooting will be missed. Yet, the front office brought joy to the fan base signing Mike Scott to a two-year $9.8 million deal. Scott is a streaky shooter from the perimeter but even so, he shot 41 percent from three last season. Proven valuable as a role player and fan favorite, Scott will be a key asset off the bench.
Continuing to fill the gaps, the 76ers signed Kyle O’Quinn who will be a solid insurance policy for Embiid and Horford. Another great move was re-signing James Ennis who was a major contributor off the bench last season. Ennis signed a two-year $4.1 million contract and turned down higher offers from multiple teams to return to Philadelphia. Being able to retain Ennis at a discount was especially important.
In conclusion to the 2019 NBA Draft, Sixers General Manager Elton Brand had this to say, “we went and got a player we really wanted“. Matisse Thybulle is that player Brand was looking for. “He’s the top defensive wing in the draft, and that’s what I really wanted to improve on”, said Brand. A 6’5″ shooting guard from Washington, Thybulle led the NCAA last season with a Pac-12 record-setting 126 steals.
It seems that the Milwaukie Bucks and the 76ers are the lone two pre-season favorites to win the Eastern Conference. NBA.com currently has Philadelphia as number two in the preseason power rankings in the Eastern Conference. Not only did Philadelphia better themselves both defensively and in-depth, but also in length and size.
The amount of sheer size and length on this team is incredibly noteworthy. Zhaire Smith and Josh Richardson are both tied for the shortest wingspan on the team at 6’10”. Expect this team to wreak havoc defensively by overwhelming teams with dynamic, switchable defenders.
On the offensive side of the ball, replacing players like Redick and Butler won’t be easy. At the same time, everyone on the roster is a competent-enough shooter to make up for losing both of them. Embiid and Simmons are both only getting better while Harris looks primed to have a great year.
The 76ers’ upcoming season will depend on how well they can improve on defense and keeping Embiid healthy. Above all else, they will be their division front runner now that Leonard is no longer a Toronto Raptor.
The Brooklyn Nets may have made a splash in free agency signing both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. But with Durant’s Achilles injury, the Nets aren’t expected to make a run for another year while Durant rehabs his injury. With Horford leaving Boston to join Philadelphia, the Celtics have a gap yet filled.
Therefore, the 76ers are poised to dominate the division and make a true championship run this season. If Simmons can develop an outside shot and the new pieces mold as expected, this won’t be their only championship run. The 2019-20 season in Philadelphia will be especially exciting as the 76ers set the tone for the Eastern Conference heading into the new decade.
Final Record Prediction: 60-22
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