Sixers may have recipe to make deep playoff run
It's that time of year again. The blissful optimism of the average Sixer fan, beaming with pride. Year in and year out, we find ourselves in a bind, puzzled wether or not the Sixers will inhibit us from those warmth feelings of playoff success for yet another season. The annual early October Philly buzz usually ends in a distraught summer, and not in a pernicious way either. We've all endured a daunted May and June because of those darn Sixers.
We as fans always say "This is the year!", but in this particular instance, this might actually be THE year. I believe the current roster construction is the best we have seen since the process era. The team is currently at the pinnacle of their championship window. Realistically, with Joel Embiid and James Harden at for forefront of the crew, Philadelphia has two or three years left until the 'contender' earmark is obsolescent.
What makes a team a "Title Contender"?
In basketball, no championship is alike, but they all count the same (yes even the Lakers one). No procedural guidelines come in a step-by-step manual on how to build a championship team. But, there are formulas and trends we see in the teams that are consistently atop the NBA crest.
1. Big 3
The most rudimentary way to win a championship is to have three stars on the same roster. People like to use the term "superteam", but there is a distinct difference between the two. A big three is just three stars on the same roster, a superteam is three or more stars on the same roster all in their prime. By all means, a superteam is nice and gratifying, but the job could be done without it.
To tie this back to the Sixers, I fully believe Tyrese Maxey is now a star in the NBA. In his two years in the league, he has taken major leaps in every facet of his game. Last season, Maxey had averaged 17.5 points per game, shooting 49% from the field, over four assist a game, and shot 43% from downtown. Just on very surface level stats, you can see the greatness of the rising star. Now entering his third year in the association, he is ready to take his game a step further. What we have seen so far from training camp and preseason, he has been dominate. I mean, the dude has scored 41 points in two preseason halves (yes, I know it's just preseason... but still... impressive). Embiid, Harden, and Maxey are the Sixers' Big 3, and it's not up for debate.
2. MVP caliber player
This is probably the most obvious component to a championship team. Looking at the previous champions, they all have a team leader that plays to a MVP level. This plays an imperative role in winning a championship.
Joel Embiid has been the Sixers MVP for a number of years now and after finishing in the top two of MVP voting the last two seasons, there should be no question about what his "caliber" of play is.
3. Veteran leadership
A great locker room presence during a brutal 82-game schedule is a must. Every team has their "glue-guy". Someone that is not a star player, but can control the tempers and egos of an entire roster.
A couple minutes into free agency this summer, PJ Tucker was signed by Daryl Morey. Although his role on the court will be crucial, his role off the court might be more important. He did a great job with this on the Miami Heat last season and eventually fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals in a narrow game seven defeat to Boston. If you ask anyone close to the team that has gone a few practices this off-season, they can all agree that PJ Tucker brings a certain aura around him. His intensity is unmatched and that will help the Sixers' locker room tremendously.
4. Past failure
The most underrated part of having a championship roster is something that you can't trade for or sign in the off-season. Past failure is a main theme in dynasties in this league. Micheal Jordan couldn't get out the first round in his first three trips to the playoffs. LeBron James was swept in the Finals before he ever won a championship. The Golden State Warriors had a first round exit in 2014, a year before their dynasty started.
You get the point. Everyone knows the diabolical defeats Philadelphia has endured the last couple years. But, it's time for the Sixers to use that to their advantage. They have literally lost in every way possible. This team has to learn how to win, that's their biggest obstacle this season.
5. Team Chemistry
Camaraderie is often times a deciding factor on how great a team can be. Without great chemistry, a team's true potential can never be reached.
With training camp now done and dusted, we can say this 76er's team chemistry is probably the best we have ever seen. We will know exactly how great this chemistry once the Sixers eventually hit a rough patch in the season, but I am optimistic in the team sticking together. If this team can learn to fight through adversity, they will be a championship contender.
What has stopped the Sixers in years prior?
No playoff team is perfect and the Sixers have been far from it the last couple of years (hence the inability to reach the conference finals). To be frank, the expectations being too high has hindered the 76ers in their pursuit for a "successful season". Sometimes the team just hasn't been at the elite level us as fans expect (2019-20 is a great example).
Personnel wise, Ben Simmons has definitely played a role in how abysmal Philadelphia has preformed in the postseason. No question, his uncanny ability to make a dynamic offense one dimensional has obstructed the Sixers at one time or another.
Injuries have been plentiful, most notably with Joel Embiid. Yes, he is 100% injury prone, but the injury suffered during the playoffs last season has been categorized as an "isolated, freak incident" and was just a stroke of misfortunate for Embiid and the Sixers. During the Hawks series in '21, reports came out that Embiid had a tear in his meniscus which caused him to be handicapped for yet another playoff run. Danny Green also missed the Hawks series, which proved to be pivotal. Ben Simmons missed an entire series vs the Celtics in the bubble, leaving Alec Burks as the starting PG, and in 2019 ... well you get the point.
After not advancing past the 2nd round in the playoffs for the 20th year in a row, the series vs the Heat made it clear the Sixers had a glaring hole in their offense. James Harden was extremely passive and his shooting ability was absent. Danny Green suffered an injury in the later stages of the series, and having deprivation from watching Seth Curry hoop as a Sixer was a real thing. The shooting did improve in the off-season, however. Moves such as De'Anthony Melton, PJ Tucker, and Danuel House are believed to be the missing puzzle pieces to a championship roster.
What could stop the Sixers this season?
When Joel Embiid is the center of your franchise, injuries will always be looming in the back of your mind. And health will always play a determining factor of his greatness. From using previous years as a benchmark, it is safe to say that injuries are something you have to acknowledge and accept. Hopefully the Sixers avoid the unfortunate injury for the first time in 300 years this season.
Doc Rivers is the ultimate players coach. There is no doubt about his popularity among players around the league. But, he is not a competent game manager. He has his moments, but more often than not, you are left scratching you head after a bone-headed move by Rivers. Having him as our coach in the playoffs is something that makes my stomach churn. Outside of having a phenomenal season with the Celtics in 2008, his playoff success has been few and far between.
And one final thing that nobody wants to hear: The Sixers might not be as good as we think. Yes, the roster construction might have all the formulas for a winning team, but we ultimately have no clue until the 76ers step onto a court for a real game of basketball. It is very feasible that the Bucks, Celtics, and Nets are just flat out better. Lets face it, the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo who proves to be the best in the world each year, the Celtics are coming off a finals run and Tatum keep improving with every season, and the Nets have two of the most skilled players this game has ever seen. In order for the Sixers to navigate this juggernaut eastern conference they have to be at their best. But, if there was ever a year for the Sixers to play to their potential, this could be it.