Three Reasons Why the 76ers Won’t Win a Title

Mar 12, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As of March 13, the Philadelphia 76ers sit as the 3rd overall seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 45-22. They have surely emerged as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this year, behind only the Bucks and Celtics. Many around the league believe that the team has a really good chance of competing for a championship this season behind the dominant play of center Joel Embiid and point guard James Harden. However, I am not so sure for a few reasons.

Three Reasons Why the 76ers Won’t Win a Championship

1. James Harden

Harden is having a major comeback season this year for the 76ers and has been a star in the league for the better part of a decade. Averaging 22 points and a league-leading 10.8 assists in 50 games this year, many would argue he is a major reason for the team’s success. However, looking at Harden’s career, one thing becomes apparent quickly. The man cannot win in the playoffs.

Philadelphia is his 4th super-team now, where he has been paired up with other future Hall of Famers. In Oklahoma City, Harden’s teammates included Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, as well as Serge Ibaka. However, that group was never able to get over the hump. Similar failures awaited him in Houston, where he partnered with Chris Paul, among others, and never cleared the finish line. And finally, in his most recent super-team run with Durant and Kyrie Irving, he never even played in a full playoff series.

Last year, he and Embiid were forced out by the Miami Heat in just six games, largely due to Harden’s poor play. Why would this year be any different in a loaded Eastern Conference?

2. Joel Embiid

Embiid is having an absolutely dominant season and could potentially win this year’s MVP award. Scoring 33.4 points and securing 10 rebounds while having a PER of 31.1 are huge stats.

The problem lies with the fact that Embiid plays Center. No team has won an NBA championship with a Center as their unquestioned best player in a long time. Since the year 2000, the only teams who won the championship with the Center as the best player (or of equal status to someone else) are Shaquille O’Neal on the 2000, 2001, and 2002 Lakers, and those teams also had Kobe Bryant, as well as the ’03, ’05, ’07 and ’14 Spurs with Tim Duncan. By 2014, Tim Duncan was a role player more than a star. In many ways, it has been 15 years since a Center led team won a Championship.

Centers are finding out the hard way that efficient Wings and Guards win in today’s NBA. Why would this be any different?

3. The East is LOADED

This year’s Eastern Conference is loaded with talent. Whereas the Western Conference seems to be much more open, the East has been determined since the season started.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics have been cemented as the Conferences 2 best teams since the start. I don’t like the 76ers matchups with either team, as Giannis Antetokounmpo¬†and Brook Lopez match up well with Embiid, as does Robert Williams and the rest of Boston’s top-ranked defense. Throw in legit scoring options for both teams as well, and I struggle to see a way Philadelphia could win a series.

Although Philadelphia is most likely better than other teams in the middle of the East, such as the Nets, Knicks, Heat, or Cavaliers, having to beat one of the Celtics or Bucks, and most likely both of them, on the road in both series, would be a huge ask of an aging club with proven playoff struggles (see Miami series 2022 and Atlanta series 2021).

Final Thoughts

Despite being a very good team, I don’t think that Harden and Embiid are enough. Harden’s career-long playoff woes continued to follow him to Philadelphia last year and have surfaced on every contender he has played with throughout his storied career. Teams with a Center as their best player have become outdated in today’s league. Even though Embiid might be the league’s MVP in the coming months, can he drag a team through the playoffs? Additionally, I just think the Bucks and Celtics are better teams.

Can the 76ers get over the hump this year? I don’t think so. But let me know in the comments below.