Last season looked promising for the Philadelphia 76ers. They finished the regular season as the number one seed and an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid leading the way. However, their season ended in the second round when they fell to the Atlanta Hawks.
A lot of attention was put on Ben Simmons‘ performance in the second round because he continued to struggle with his shooting. As Philadelphia’s star point guard, Simmons averaged just 9.9 points per game and shot just 33.3 percent from the free-throw line in the second round.
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The majority of the offseason was focused on Simmons. The former number one draft pick reportedly doesn’t want to play another game for the organization again. The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported Tuesday that Simmons doesn’t believe his playing style meshes with Embiid. “It has run its course,” said one of Amick’s sources regarding the Simmons/Embiid pairing. Because of Simmons’ trade request, nobody seems to be focusing on the team itself. That doesn’t mean the team isn’t talented without Simmons in camp.
The Starting Five
The projected starting five list doesn’t include Simmons. This is the lineup Doc Rivers should expect to have because Simmons isn’t in camp. It’s still one of the better lineups in the league. Maxey is entering his second year after showing promise in his rookie season. 76ers fans should be confident in Maxey because of what they’ve seen from him when Simmons isn’t available. He dropped 39 points against the Denver Nuggets in January when he played over 43 minutes. In the last game of the regular season, Maxey scored 30 points while shooting 75 percent from three.
Curry, Harris, and Green are super valuable to Philadelphia because they’re consistent and reliable. Last year, all three played at least 57 games, which is six more than Embiid played. If Embiid doesn’t perform like an MVP for the second straight year, it’s going to be hard for the 76ers to get the one seed again. When he’s healthy, though, he’s the best center in the game. Embiid averaged 28.5 points and over ten rebounds per game last year.
Part of the reason why the 76ers were great last season was their strong bench. It isn’t as strong this year, but it’s still better than other contenders. Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz aren’t the biggest names, but they all shot at least 40 percent from the field last season. Andre Drummond (14.9/12/2) is a better backup option than Dwight Howard (7/8.4/0.9) so the bench improved in that area. Philadelphia smartly brought in Drummond because he’s been a starter for the majority of his career, which allows Embiid to have more days off to be fresh for the playoffs.
One Potential Move to Make
There isn’t a particular move for the 76ers to make other than to convince Simmons to come back as the Green Bay Packers did with Aaron Rodgers. Philadelphia must fine him for missing practices and propose a compromise that would allow Simmons to request a trade at the end of the season. That is if Simmons agrees to play one more year in Philadelphia. Simmons not playing would be a wasted year of his prime, not to mention one that could end in a championship.
If a compromise can’t be reached and Simmons continues sitting out, Philadelphia should gauge his market. Having said that, it would be in their best interest to hold off on a trade because they have no leverage. If Maxey struggles before the trade deadline, then a move might make more sense. However, there’s no move to be made as of now.
If the 76ers get Simmons back, they should finish top four in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps even top three if the Brooklyn Nets decided to rest their stars more often, and the Milwaukee Bucks take a step back. But if Philadelphia has to go with the starting lineup mentioned earlier, they will be a top-five or six team in the East. The biggest question other than Simmons’ status is if Embiid can stay healthy. They should still be able to win 45-50 games without Simmons because they’re in the weaker conference and have a strong bench along with the best center in the league.
Season Prediction: 47-35 and Place Second in the Atlantic Division
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