Philadelphia 76ers – Contenders or Pretenders?

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The Philadelphia 76ers have had somewhat of a mishmash of a season including the Ben Simmons drama to the later acquisition of superstar James HardenJoel Embiid and the remaining group, however, have done an excellent job at steadying the ship. As the playoffs approach, the new-look 76ers are ready to show the league what they’re made of.

Philadelphia 76ers – Contenders or Pretenders?

Current Standings

Philadelphia is in the midst of the battle for first place in the Eastern Conference along with the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks. At this point, it can go either way. The issue here, however, is that Philadelphia can get the number one seed as easily as they can fall to four.

With this being said, it’s essentially certain that the 76ers will have homecourt advantage in the first round. The Eastern Conference is a gauntlet, however, so taking a top seed is crucial.

Strengths

This roster has seen plenty of changes. For this reason, it’s still to be determined but their main strengths are. Simmons never played, and while Harden arrived, other major contributors such as Seth Curry and Andre Drummond departed as well.

The main strength, of course, has been the MVP-caliber play of Embiid. The numbers he’s putting up are monstrous. Embiid is averaging about 30 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and over one block and one steal per game. His shooting split of 49/36/82 is also very impressive. Embiid gets sent to the free-throw line at a very high rate, and a center shooting 82 percent is stellar.

Philadelphia is also a top-ten three-point shooting team in terms of percentages, making close to 36 percent of these shots. Curry was elite at this, but the team still held on to shooters as well as added Harden (who is actually struggling to a degree from deep this season).

Two other statistics that the 76ers stand out in are turnovers and blocks. They average the second least amount of turnovers per game while blocking the seventh most shots per game.

Weaknesses

As much of a force as Embiid is on the boards, Philadelphia actually ranks 29th in the league in rebounds per game. DeAndre JordanPaul Millsap, and Paul Reed are the primary backup options at the five. Sure, Jordan and Millsap held illustrious careers, but they’re not major factors anymore.

Tobias Harris and Georges Niang feature at the four. The two can be offensive weapons, but they’re not great rebounders.

Offensive statistics are skewed due to roster changes but the 76ers aren’t amongst the top in points per game. Their overall field-goal percentage is relatively low as well, only above other potential playoff teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Toronto Raptors.

Harden, of course, should improve the offense. With that being said, he’s in arguably his worst form since bursting out as an NBA superstar years ago.

Philadelphia 76ers X-Factor

Tyrese Maxey is the x-factor on this team.

Embiid is a surefire MVP candidate as well as a potential NBA first-teamer. It’s never a surprise to see Harden drop 30+ points. The difference between winning and losing a playoff series may very well come in the hands of Maxey.

He’s breaking out this season, averaging about 17 points, three rebounds, and four assists per game. Maxey can score in a variety of ways and is an interesting fit alongside Harden.

In the past, Harris was the third option on this team who could make a difference. He’ll score in double-digits, but it’s unlikely that he’ll explode. Maxey still has plenty of tantalizing potential that he can unleash in the playoffs.

The Final Verdict for the Philadelphia 76ers

Considering all the roster movement and the fact that Embiid kept the 76ers amongst the NBA elite, Philadelphia is a contender. They’ve always been on the fringe, as Simmons had limitations next to Embiid’s superstardom, but now Harden is in the mix.

Harden is averaging close to 23 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assists for the season. These kinds of consistent numbers next to Embiid form a terrific duo. Harden will have to up his shooting from deep for Philadelphia to truly succeed, but he’s certainly capable of this.

 

Main Image: Embed from Getty Images