76ers poised for title contention

Furkan Korkmaz shoots against the Bulls April 10, 2019 – Mr. Thomas Stambaugh

Coming off a wild NBA offseason, the 76ers have set themselves up to contend for a title with key acquisitions around the board. The organization lost key swingman Jimmy Butler and starting shooting guard J.J. Redick in free agency, among other bench pieces. In response to these developments, General Manager Elton Brand used the 76ers’ considerable cap space to sign Tobias Harris and all-stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to maximum contract extensions, acquire 6’ 6” shooting guard Josh Richardson from the Miami Heat, and lure Al Horford away from the Boston Celtics with a $97 Million, 4-year guaranteed deal. The 76ers brought back bench contributors from last year, resigning key shooter Mike Scott to a two-year contract and bringing back James Ennis III on a veteran’s minimum deal.

     Elton Brand also made pickups to strengthen depth at both the shooting guard and center position, something greatly needed in the 2019 playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets (4-1, W) and Toronto Raptors (3-4, L). The organization signed point guard Trey Burke and Raul Neto, who should be able to step in for Ben Simmons if opponents scheme against him. At the center position, with the loss of Boban Marjonovic, Kyle O’Quinn should be a reliable backup center, providing load management and injury protection for Joel Embiid.

     Despite losing their best shooter as well as crunch time specialist, the 76ers have cemented themselves as the second most talented team in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks. The acquisitions that the 76ers made represent a change in identity for the new season.

     Last season, the 76ers ranked towards the back half of the league in defensive efficiency and fourth in the league in scoring. Expect that to change this year, as every player besides Tobias Harris in the starting lineup is regarded as an elite defender, and every other player in the starting lineup has scary defensive traits to boast.

     Despite the team’s defensive upside, no player in the lineup provides three point shooting strength. However, the team still boasts solid three point shooting, with three of the players in the starting lineup (sans Embiid and Simmons) converting at above the league average rate on three point shot attempts. It will be especially important this year for all-star point guard Ben Simmons, who has never made a three-point field goal in his NBA career, to increase his three point makes in order to draw defenders away from the rim, increasing the offensive output of his teammates greatly.

Someone on the team must step up in pressure situations, just as Jimmy Butler did last season.

     One thing is clear, though. Someone on the team must step up in pressure situations, just as Jimmy Butler did last season. It is unclear who that will be now, and the team will most likely experience early season growing pains to determine who this player will be.

     According to Vegas, the 76ers are 8–1 to win the NBA championship. If they want to achieve this goal, they will have to use their elite defensive ability to become one of the best–if not the best–defensive teams in the league, shutting down opponents early and often by walling off both the rim and the three-point line.

     Head Coach Brett Brown will have to also work with his players to win close games down the stretch and keep pace with offensive juggernauts like the Los Angeles Clippers or Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. There will be definite road bumps in the first several games of the season, but the Philadelphia 76ers provide a threat to any playoff contender and are ready to make a run for their first NBA Championship since 1983.