The Philadelphia 76ers underwent a full makeover this summer hiring a new president of basketball operations (Daryl Morey), head coach (Doc Rivers), and a host of new faces to the roster. General Manager Elton Brand spent the entire 2019-20 season left to rue humungous contracts to Tobias Harris and Al Horford as the latter failed to work in tandem with superstar Joel Embiid.
Now, Brand and the new-look 76ers have a chance to fulfill its potential behind a new-look front office and coaching scheme. It’s been a disappointing last two years for Philadelphia, but the 2020-21 season promises to be spectacular.
Philadelphia 76ers Look to Fulfill Potential Behind New Regime
Flashback to 2019-20
As mentioned earlier, the Philadelphia 76ers were marred by some horrendous deals from the 2019 offseason. Harris was given a five-year, $180 million deal followed by a four-year, $109 million contract to Horford. To put it simply, the pieces did not fit.
Harris struggled mightily in the playoffs, averaging 15.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and four assists on an abysmal 38.3 percent shooting and 13.3 percent from three. The 27-year-old floundered as the team’s secondary scoring option after star guard Ben Simmons went down with a knee injury. There was no playmaking on the floor and the Boston Celtics throttled the life out of the 76ers in the first round.
Horford was another problem. Signed to form a huge front line with Embiid, the pair was uncomfortable every time they saw the floor together. The Sixers assumed Horford could play power forward due to his ability to shoot the long ball. However, the big man has played most of his career at the five and chewed up valuable space when Embiid went to work on the block. The experiment was a complete failure to put it lightly and contributed to Philadelphia’s ugly 2019-20 campaign.
Philadelphia 76ers Finally Acquire Shooting, Move Horford
Morey made a royal entrance by making a bevy of moves in the offseason. He was able to move off Horford’s bloating deal as well as surround Embiid and Simmons with shooters.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS OFFSEASON TRANSACTIONS
Acquired Danny Green, Terrance Ferguson from OKC for
Al Horford, #34 pick (Theo Maledon), 2025 Future FRP
Acquired Seth Curry from DAL for Josh Richardson, #36 pick (Tyler Bey)
Signed Dwight Howard (FA)
Signed Justin Anderson (FA)
— THUNDER MONEYBALL (@geola388) December 4, 2020
Seth Curry is one of the league’s premier shooters, converting on 45.2 percent of his triples on five attempts per game. Danny Green, although streaky, shot 36.7 percent from three in the regular season and is also an excellent team defender.
Terrance Ferguson is a reclamation project from the Oklahoma City Thunder who had a tough 2019-20 season with off-court issues. He arrives in Philadelphia looking to re-establish himself as a three and D rotation player but needs to find some consistency. Ferguson made just 29.2 percent of his threes last year but was solid in 2018-19, making 36.6 percent. Additionally, he shot 38.9 percent against the Portland Trailblazers in the 2019 playoffs, so it’s up to him to revive his career.
Philadelphia Must Meet Expectations this Year
The Philadelphia 76ers are now in a position to make some real noise in the Eastern Conference. Gone are the Brett Brown days of no pick and roll and the Sixers addressed shooting needs in the offseason. Philadelphia has no more room for excuses and its two stars must lead the way.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons MUST Show Up
For the past couple of seasons, pundits have questioned whether the Embiid and Simmons tandem is conducive to winning. John Clark of NBCS released a graphic to support this notion.
Sixers stats this season with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and without
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) February 27, 2020
The graphic heavily favors having Embiid as the focal point of the team as opposed to the duo. Simmons alone still produces a positive net but the rating with both on-court raises eyebrows.
When Embiid and Simmons first burst onto the scene in 2017-18, they were effective with shooting around them. Morey has done a terrific job replicating a roster similar to that of 2018, so it’s now or never for the duo.
Top Five Record in the NBA
For the past three years, Philadelphia has one of the best NBA teams. In the Eastern Conference, they finished third in 2017-18, third in 2018-19, and had their worst result last year, finishing sixth. With this new roster, the 76ers should be amongst the NBA’s elite.
Since the Embiid-Simmons combination came to life, the 76ers have been overrated the past two years. Analysts from large networks like ESPN’s Stephen A Smith constantly talked up the Sixers like they were legitimate. Last season, it was just plain ugly but this year, it’s realistic to believe they will be a top-five team in the NBA.
All things being equal, Philadelphia will be competing to be one of the NBA’s elite this season.
Top 3 Defense
Embiid and Simmons are both excellent defenders and the pair will anchor the team’s defense. Since 2017-18, Philadelphia’s team defensive rating has been inconsistent.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS DEFENSIVE RATING
2017-18 – 103.9 (3rd)
2018-19 – 109.0 (14th)
2019-20 – 108.4 (8th)
2020-21 – ?
It's crazy PHI had a Top 3 DEF 3-years ago. If they are truly going to be a dominant force, they need to get back to their elite defensive ways.
— THUNDER MONEYBALL (@geola388) December 4, 2020
When the Sixers made their surprise run in 2017-18, it was on the back of stifling defense. Simmons clamped the perimeter and Embiid manned the paint. Philadelphia has the personal to be a top-three defense in the NBA this season with the additions of Green and Ferguson.
Both are terrific defenders who can exist on the floor together due to their ability to shoot the rock. The 76ers need to get back to their suffocating defensive style and strive to be a top-three defense.
A Big Philadelphia 76ers Season Will Tell the Tale
With a new regime in place, the 76ers are poised to have a bounce-back year after disappointing last season. Morey has done a terrific job upgrading the team’s perimeter offense, acquiring a mix of veterans and young talent while also signing depth inside. A new voice in Rivers should help as will the return of pick and roll actions for Simmons and Embiid.
At just 24 and 26 years of age, it’s unusual to say that it’s now or never for Simmons and Embiid. However, they have promised the Earth and under-delivered for the last two years. With fans and pundits questioning the fit between the two, they really need to make it work this year.
I suspect they will en route to a Top 3 record in the Eastern Conference.
Record Prediction: 50-22
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