The Sixers pounced. Doc Rivers didn’t stay in the free-agent pool for long. He found a new gig after getting the boot from the Los Angeles Clippers a few days ago.
Rivers certainly leapfrogged the supposed pecking order of coaches who were in line for the job, snatching the position from Tyronn Lue and Ime Udoka.
While his leadership credentials are once again in question after another early playoff exit, there’s no doubt that the one-time NBA champion coach is still one of the most experienced tacticians in the game today.
Here are three bold predictions of how Rivers’ first season in Philly will pan out.
Doc Rivers will lead Sixers to a top-four finish in the East
Doc Rivers’ name has been slandered left and right following his inability to lead championship-caliber Clipper teams to the title in recent years. However, there’s no denying that he does possess the coaching formula to win a lot of regular-season games.
Under Brett Brown last year, the Sixers greatly underwhelmed and only finished 6th in the East with a 43-30 slate. This put their already compromised line-up in a massive disadvantage against the powerhouse third-seeded Celtics squad, leading to their humiliating four-game sweep defeat in the first round of the playoffs. Philly underachived mainly due to their putrid record on the road in the 2019-20 campaign. This won’t factor as much next season, if the league will once again elect to hold an entire campaign in a bubble setting.
The Sixers does have a nice group of talent in their current roster, but their strengths were just not maximized enough by Brown and his staff. Rivers, of course, has handled a lot of superstar players in the past. He certainly has the chops to put Embiid and Simmons in the position to truly be elite players in this league. Rivers has also been known to adapt quite well to the latest trends in the NBA, something that was lacking with Brown who was reportedly heavily set on his old ways.
A power struggle is set to take place in the East next season, and Doc Rivers and the Sixers may very well surprise a lot of teams.
Doc Rivers will play a big role in reworking the Sixers’ roster
The Sixers do have two young All-Stars in fold, but somehow managed to surround them with players who don’t necessarily fit their system.
Signing Al Horford was a big question mark, considering Embiid already pretty much dominated the shaded lane. As expected, Philly struggled with Embiid and Horford sharing the floor at the same time.
The 76ers also prioritized giving Tobias Harris the big bucks last summer before trying to lure back Jimmy Butler with an extension. Butler took his talents to South Beach and led the Heat all the way to Finals this season.
Doc Rivers, meanwhile, does have some knowledge in terms of picking up the right players who will gel on the floor together. He once served the dual role of head coach/president of basketball operations for the Clippers, so he knows his way around constructing a winning team.
Plus, Doc already established rapport with a lot of people around the league throughout his 21-year coaching career. It’s likely that some of his former players would still love to play for Doc, and will be a big factor in their decision to play in the City of Brotherly Love.
Doc will lose another 3-1 playoff lead at some point
This may not necessarily happen next year, but something tells me that history will repeat itself at some point. By this time, we can’t just blame Doc’s shortcomings to just sheer bad luck. There’s really an alarming trend of Rivers’ teams blowing commanding playoff leads over the years.
Doc Rivers has coached SIX teams that have blown 3-1 or 3-2 series leads:
2020 Round 2 vs Nuggets, 3-1 lead
2015 Round 2 vs Rockets, 3-1 lead
2012 East Finals vs Heat, 3-2 lead
2010 NBA Finals vs Lakers, 3-2 lead
2009 Round 2 vs Magic, 3-2 lead
2003 Round 1 vs Pistons, 3-1 lead
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) September 16, 2020
One article even hilariously pointed out that Rivers lost 3-1 leads during the Bush, Obama and Trump’s political administrations. Heck, even the great Phil Jackson once dissed Rivers’ coaching credentials during Game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals.
There’s no doubt that Rivers can lead the Sixers to a better record next season and a higher playoff seed. But will he be able to actually prevent playoff collapses and lead the Sixers back to the NBA Finals? Now that’s a whole different story.