Sixers Team Preview: Will The 76ers Figure Out The Playoff Puzzle?

Posted on December 22, 2020
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The Philadelphia 76ers are fresh off another postseason disappointment. Entering last season, the hope was that Al Horford and Josh Richardson might put this team over the top. What will make the 2021 NBA season any different?

Instead, Richardson didn’t move the needle a lot while Horford moved it in the opposite direction. The 76ers have re-tooled once again for this 2021 NBA season and now have Doc Rivers manning the sidelines after Brett Brown was canned. The question is can they finally get over the hump?

There’s no question that there’s talent here; no one disputes that. The question is can Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons finally – together – elevate their game in the playoffs and carry this team to an Eastern Conference championship?

The additions of Danny Green, Seth Curry, Dwight Howard and rookie Tyrese Maxey are all nice pieces but Embiid and Simmons both have to play like All-Stars in the playoffs if this team is to finally reach new heights.

Philadelphia 76ers 2021 Odds

  • FanDuel Odds To Win Division: +390
  • Regular Season Win Total: 42.5

Offseason Changes

The Sixers made a very significant trade in the shortened NBA offseason, dealing Al Horford to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a multi-team deal that involved getting Danny Green from the Los Angeles Lakers.

There had been rumors that the Sixers would try to get James Harden from the Houston Rockets, but those rumors appear to have died down since the 76ers and new general manager Daryl Morey (the former GM of the Rockets) have said they won’t trade Ben Simmons under any circumstances.

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The 76ers would need to give up Simmons in order to get Harden in return, so Philadelphia seems to have missed any possible chance which might have existed to land Harden.

The other especially huge change for the 76ers in the offseason was their hiring of head coach Doc Rivers, who was fired by the Los Angeles Clippers. Rivers replaces Brett Brown, who could not solve the playoff puzzle as Philadelphia’s head coach.

Rivers was replaced by Tyronn Lue as the Clippers’ head coach. Rivers will coach in the Eastern Conference for the first time since he coached the Boston Celtics several years ago.

The Sixers also traded Josh Richardson to the Dallas Mavericks and got Seth Curry in return. They picked up Dwight Howard from the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.

The 76ers Will Succeed If…

Ben Simmons can shoot threes better and open up the court.

This is such a central need for the 76ers. Ben Simmons has simply not tried to shoot a lot of 3-pointers, and when he does shoot them, he isn’t very good. This enables defenses to sag off him and makes sure Simmons can’t drive the ball deep into the paint.

He definitely can’t get to the rim as often as he would like, given his poor outside shooting. Simmons’ offensive limitations create halfcourt situations in which the 76ers are often playing 4-on-5 basketball.

Simmons isn’t a complete offensive player, so defenses can cheat on Joel Embiid and worry more about stopping him. It remains to be seen how much the departure of Al Horford will affect this team, but it’s really all about Simmons.

If he can become a reasonably credible 3-point threat, everything changes for this team, and its ceiling would rise several feet, if not yards.

The 76ers Will Fail If…

Tobias Harris doesn’t make significant improvements in the playoffs.

The 76ers poured a lot of money into acquiring Harris a few years ago. He has been a total playoff bust, a player who has not been able to meet the moment for this franchise.

While Simmons’ evolution is necessary for this team to a breakthrough in the playoffs, Tobias Harris becoming a much better player is almost as important. It’s hard to imagine this team doing well if Harris continues to fall short in the playoffs.

76ers 2021 NBA Outlook

The Atlantic Division is one of the two toughest divisions in the NBA this season and what that means is a really good team is going to finish fourth. Will it be the Celtics, or the Raptors, or the Nets?

It might be the Sixers if Simmons and Harris aren’t able to make significant forward steps. Few people are worried about the team’s performance in the regular season. Everyone knows Simmons – and the Sixers in general – can flash championship-caliber play when it’s just the regular-season actions.

The question is can the Sixers finally move up to that next level. Until we actually see it happen and we see the Sixers put forth a different, superior playoff product, it’s hard to project it.

Prediction: 4th in Atlantic Division

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