Kevin Durant returns from injury. John Wall returns from injury and is traded to the Rockets. Giannis Antetokounmpo signs the largest deal in NBA history. Stephen Curry returns from injury. James Harden joins Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Superteam? These are just some of the trades and events that have occurred already in the hectic 2020-2021 NBA season. Behind closed doors, the Sixers have silently proven themselves and look promising.
With the decisive chess-like moves from Daryl Morey, the Sixers’ new general manager, the team picked up veteran coach Doc Rivers, three-time NBA Champion Danny Green, three-time consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, sharpshooters Seth Curry from the Mavericks and Isaiah Joe in the second round, and not to mention Tyrese Maxey, regarded as the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft. Contrary to other organizations’ moves, there were no flashy names in the process. Everyone on the roster is there for a reason and plays a specialized role. Given the outcome of the first several games, it seems that every player is serving their respective roles quite well.
“I think that the Sixers look pretty good as of now. The beginning of their schedule wasn’t the most challenging, but with the bench players stepping up when need be, I think they look like a team that has depth,” Fourth Former Joey Pennewill said.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons remain the center of the Sixers, running the plays, dishing assists, and setting up opportunities to score. Recently Ben Simmons became the third-youngest person to reach 30 career triple-doubles, a testament to his well-rounded game. Not to mention, looming over Simmons is still the 7’ 1” big man Joel “The Process” Embiid.
Despite his injuries and missed games, he has been of the utmost importance in the Sixers’ early success this season. His combination of elite perimeter shooting, strong defensive presence, and “bully ball” make him a strong MVP contender. According to Bleacher Report, he is the current MVP given the games played.
“If Joel can continue this type of play and leadership he has shown so far, he can definitely contend for the MVP award this year,” Sixth Former Michael Tallarida said.
One can only hope that Embiid remains healthy, but he still battles his demons from past seasons—injuries. Embiid missed his first two seasons in the NBA and has missed weeks and months at times due to his physical setbacks. This is not only an issue for Embiid but also Simmons. So far, Ben has not experienced any injuries yet this season; however, he did miss the entirety of his rookie season due to an injury in 2016-2017.
“There’s obviously going to be outbreaks throughout the season, but I’m confident they will take note of how other leagues have handled these situations and make the best decisions about them.”Mike Tallarida ’21
On the notion of health, a bigger issue remains prevalent in current times: COVID-19.
“So far, the NBA has handled the COVID outbreaks fairly well. There’s obviously going to be outbreaks throughout the season, but I’m confident they will take note of how other leagues have handled these situations and make the best decisions about them,” Tallarida said.
The Sixers have already had their fair share of COVID-19 encounters as their two star players and a number of their players were required to quarantine due to contract tracing, leaving a mere seven-man roster against the Nuggets. Nonetheless, they lost by 12 points, and the remainder of the team showed promise, notably rookie Tyrese Maxey.
The 21st pick in the 2020 draft, Tyrese Maxey promised to prove his doubters wrong, and that he did. With only seven people on the roster against the Nuggets, Maxey exploded for 39 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. The young shooting guard’s future is bright, and he will be an asset for the Sixers in the years to come.
Even with a depleted roster and injuries plaguing the team occasionally, The Sixers still hold an above-average win/loss record and are in the upper tier of the Eastern Conference standings. The Sixers’ behind-the-scenes work is blooming, but the question arises if they are good enough to contend against the likes of the Lakers, Bucks, and Nets. As always, the ultimate goal remains to make the finals and bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the city of Philadelphia.
“I hope they can make the finals this year, but I think to win a championship they are going to need to get one more piece to complete the team,” Pennewill said. “Who that could be? I could name a few people, but they look really good right now, and that’s all that we can ask for as fans.”
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