Coming into this season the Philadelphia 76ers were heavy favourites to become the number one team in the East, and whereas the Milwaukee Bucks seem to have taken that mantle, the Sixers are still in prime position to make big waves this postseason.
Currently standing at joint-third in a revitalised Eastern Conference, locked in a three-way battle with Indiana and Boston for the three seed, the Sixers are poised for a strong run in the tailend of the 18/19 season and into the NBA playoffs.
Whenever bringing up Philly, it’s impossible not to mention the two favourite sons – Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Despite facing criticism for not adding a long-range jump-shot into his game, Simmons has steadily improved on his game. Averaging 17 points per game along with 7.9 assists per game to go with an all-star appearance, Simmons is a nightmare matchup at point guard.
Sure, teams can comically sag-off Simmons but giving a gifted passer that much time to pick out targets such as Embiid, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler and sharpshooter J.J. Redick, is always dangerous. The Magic Johnson comparisons aren’t totally out of this world, although Simmons does still have a long way to go yet in order to reach the upper-echelons of the NBA. Despite flashes, the ‘showtime’ 76ers with Simmons at the helm are yet to be seen.
Embiid, on the other hand has finally had his breakout season, averaging a double-double a game at an MVP level 27.3 points per game with 13.5 rebounds per game. Embiid has announced himself among the elite of the NBA. Embiid is the perfect combination of David Robinson‘s strength and determination, Hakeem Olajuwon‘s finesse and Kevin Garnett‘s competitiveness and swagger.
To go along with these two absolute freaks on the basketball court, Elton Brand as assembled a great supporting cast.
Jimmy Butler arrived in Philly via a trade which included Dario Saric and Robert Covington going the other way to Minnesota. Since Butler’s arrival there has been minimal ‘locker-room drama’. Butler is averaging a respectable 18.9ppg, however on a roster this stacked it can be difficult at times for Jimmy Buckets to get his touches and not be reduced to an A-List ‘3 and D’ guy.
It is likely Butler will leave Philadelphia in the summer, unless they win a championship, to become the ‘guy’ on his own team after playing second and third fiddle to Karl Anthony-Towns on the T-Wolves and Simmons and Embiid on the Sixers.
Outside of this ‘big 3’ the Sixers are lucky to have one of the most solid rosters in the league. To go along with 41.1% career 3-point shooter Redick, the Sixers added an All-Star calibre stretch-4 in Tobias Harris and big man Boban Marjanovic from the Clippers. Now the Sixers have their own Golden State ‘death line-up’ of sorts: Simmons, Redick, Butler, Harris and Embiid. Off the bench the Sixers also boast solid 6-man T.J. McConnell and adaptable wings in James Ennis III, Michael Scott and Jonathon Simmons.
On paper, the Sixers have everything you need to compete for a championship in 2019. Through the years and years of losing the Sixers have managed to rise from the ashes. There have been casualties, such as Markelle Fultz, along the way and head coach Brett Brown can be questioned at times, however, the Sixers are in prime position to compete for a championship. The Process is almost complete in Philadelphia.