Sixers playoff preview: Are the Sixers favorites to come out of the East?

Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons and the Sixers are among the favorites to win the NBA title. Photo from GQ.

Philadelphia found itself in a very tricky situation last summer. They were a team that had numerous large contracts and failed in the playoffs. Usually, that results in a rebuild but luckily GM Daryl Morey molded this team into a real threat to win it all. Morey has boosted Sixers playoff chances.

Sixers playoff chances

Despite them setting a goal of winning a championship, many doubted the ability to do so. Vegas had them at 45 wins for the season and they achieved 49 in a shortened campaign. Only the most optimistic fans believed they could clinch the number one seed and finally conclude the process, but they did.

Offseason moves

Philadelphia did not trade for a superstar even though they flirted with James Harden. They even somewhat eroded their team a bit but it was a necessary move as the players from last year’s roster could not play together in the modern NBA.

The core of the team in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, has been surrounded by capable shooters, unlike last year when they could not hit a three. Seth Curry and Danny Green are the most valuable additions. They added Dwight Howard for some defensive stability as well. Rookie Tyrese Maxey looks like a good investment and already shows a lot of promise. They desperately needed a solid pick and roll player like him.

Daryl Morey showcased his GM savvy by getting rid of Al Horford and his massive contract. He also got rid of Josh Richardson, who is not a bad player, nor does he have a bad contract, but he simply did not fit with the team. They mostly missed Alec Burks who left for New York in free agency. His offensive creation is a key factor in New York’s game and they might face the Sixers in the playoffs. The most important change happened on the bench.

Brett Brown was replaced by Doc Rivers. His authority proved the final ingredient this team lacked to unlock its full potential. They will kick themselves for not bringing in Kyle Lowry at the deadline but George Hill should be serviceable as well.

How the season went

The 76ers played consistently throughout the year, which is very important in a playoff format. Cold stretches ruin a team in the playoffs and teams like the Sixers who played consistently usually do well in the postseason.


One worrying thing is that they don’t have many statement wins. They beat Brooklyn but half the team did not play. They lost to the Bucks and Suns. They awfully resemble the 2010s San Antonio teams that took care of business against worse teams but struggled against teams of equal strength.

The main strength of this team is defence, and that should translate well into the postseason. The defence of Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle guarantees that every guard or wing will have a hard time and if we add Embiid and Howard in the paint we have a winning combination. What is a bit worrying is the offence.

The lack of a true pick and roll creator is an issue in the modern NBA. Ben Simmons can’t do it properly because he lacks a shot. Seth Curry, Shake Milton and Tobias Harris can do it but they mostly look to shoot which makes the offence look one-dimensional so it will all come down to Embiid and what he can do.

Key players

Joel Embiid is by far the best player on the team. Embiid is the best centre in the league and had he played enough games he might have become the MVP as well.

By scoring 29 points per game, he is literally the offence of the Sixers. He dominates against all bigs in the league including Rudy Gobert on whom he dropped 40. He put up 45 on the Heat and the best game came against the Bulls whom he gifted 50. His three-point shooting has improved as well (37%).

He did miss 20 games but that should make him fresher for the postseason.

Ben Simmons had a bit of a disappointing season. He could win DPOY but the lack of offensive production from a player with his skill set is a disappointment. Statistically, this was his worst season since entering the league. 14 points per game is not enough for a physical wonder that is he is. The lack of any offensive improvement is even more concerning.

He lacks the killer mentality that we see in the best which was shown when Embiid was out. Philly dropped too many games because Simmons refused to put the team on his back. Too often he would end matches scoring low when the team needed him to go all out. Despite all of that he is a key player for the Sixers.

Their eFG is up 5% when he is on the floor and their offensive output is 4.4 pts higher when he plays. If he could only develop somewhat of a shot…

Sixers Playoff rotation

The playoff rotation for this Sixers is quite clear. The starting 5 will remain the same as it did the whole season. Simmons, Curry, Green, Harris and Embiid.

The bench rotation will be interesting as anybody not named Howard and Thybulle will have to earn minutes. George Hill and Shake Milton share combo guard minutes, Mike Scott and Furkan Korkmaz could see some minutes on the wing positions. Hill and Scott are seasoned veterans while Milton and Korkmaz are players that can explode at any time.

Just remember Shake Milton dropping 39 points on the Clippers carrying the Sixers on his back despite sharing the court with Harris and Embiid. Milton and Korkmaz can easily hurt you as well but that’s the gamble you have to take.

Tyrese Maxey could have some good minutes but Doc Rivers will have some tough decisions to make.

Sixers playoff chances: Final thoughts and expectations

Despite a great regular season the final grade on the season as a whole will depend on the playoff result. Their problem so far has been total combustion in the postseason which is a possibility this year as well. If they fail once more in the playoffs they will probably swing a big trade.

GM Daryl Morey did not shy away from setting the goal of winning the championship. Embiid, Simmons and Green said numerous times they are going for the title.

Their biggest threats will be the Nets and Bucks. Theoretically, they can defeat either one of those. The key will be their desire to do so. If they leave it all out they might come out of the East, but if they don’t they will probably lose. Joel Embiid is hungry for success, but is Ben Simmons?

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About Drew Tate 18 Articles
Drew Tate is a long time NBA fan and basketball enthusiast. He has followed the best basketball league in the world for over 15 years. After watching it for such a long time, Drew developed an interest in writing about the league, which they have done for the past several years. Drew's main interest in the league is the players whose development he has followed keenly ever since their college days. Besides that, he enjoys anything that involves analyzing the game of basketball.

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