NBA Disney Contenders or Pretenders: Philadelphia 76ers

Following a four-month hiatus as a result of COVID-19, the NBA is getting ready for a long-anticipated league restart. Beginning on July 31st, the top 22 teams will compete at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Given that there will be a secured “bubble”, concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and no fans, it’s safe to say that this will be a season finish unlike any other. Taking the unique NBA landscape into consideration, the Last Word on Pro Basketball staff continues this contenders or pretenders series with the Philadelphia 76ers.

NBA Disney Bubble Contenders or Pretenders: Philadelphia 76ers

Playing at a Neutral Site Without Fans

Throughout the 2020 season, the 76ers have proven that they are one of the best teams playing at home. They possess a league-best record of 29-2 when playing in Philadelphia. They feed off the energy of their fans and play like one of the league’s premier teams.

On the road, however, is a different story. When playing outside of Philadelphia, the 76ers are one of the worst teams in the entire NBA with an abysmal 10-24 record. They simply aren’t the same team without their home fans there to energize them. This holds especially true for star center Joel Embiid. Embiid is arguably the most talented center in the entire NBA and feeds off the energy of his fans. On the road, however, he has been considerably worse.

This makes playing at a neutral site a bit more interesting as they won’t have fans there to give them a boost. This could potentially cause them to struggle, but maybe not as much as you may think. While they won’t have their fans to energize them, there also won’t be fans of opposing teams to bring them down. It’s all going to depend on whether they can be more disciplined than their opponents.

Shooting Struggles

Perhaps the most needed skill in today’s NBA is the ability to convert from beyond the arc. This has also been one of Philadelphia’s biggest weaknesses throughout the season. While they aren’t horrendous shooting the three, they only rank 14th in the league. For a team looking to compete for the title this season, they’ll have to do much better than that. Losing J.J. Redick in the offseason was a major loss for this organization.

Another major concern for this team is who do you give the ball to hit a clutch shot at the end of the game? The 76ers do possess two stars in Embiid and Ben Simmons, but neither of them excels at shooting the ball from range. Josh Richardson is solid from three but has never been a very clutch player throughout his career. That makes Tobias Harris their best option, but is that who you really want leading your team at the end of the game?

Philadelphia isn’t a bad team shooting the ball. They hit a respectable percentage and have done enough to secure a spot in the playoffs. If a game gets into a shooting battle though, don’t expect Philadelphia to come out on top.

Consistency From the Stars

If the 76ers truly wish to contend this season, then their star players are going to need to show up and do it consistently. Throughout the season both Embiid and Simmons have shown flashes of true greatness. Simmons has his limits, however, as he has arguably the worst jump shot in the NBA. This hinders him and gives teams a solid gameplan to defend him. Embiid, on the other hand, has shown flashes of not only greatness but also that he could one day be the best player in the NBA. The problem is that it has only been flashes so far. Neither player has shown that they can sustain their success for a long period.

In order to succeed in the Disney bubble and prove that they have what it takes to win it all, Simmons and Embiid will have to be consistent. If they only show up for half the games expect a first-round playoff exit.

Philadelphia 76ers Verdict: Pretenders

Of all the teams that were labeled as pretenders, the 76ers are by far the best team. They have the potential to be contenders. With their roster, you can never rule them out, but they have too many flaws to be labeled as contenders. Until they prove that they can win away from home and that their stars can play with some consistency they are nothing but pretenders. Things could change, but don’t count on seeing the 76ers in the finals this year.

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