A number of teams out West took part in what was an historic offseason to significantly bolster their squads for the upcoming season. However, in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers stand out as the team that gave themselves the biggest boost after what was a highly successful summer for their franchise.
After a slew of trades last year that allowed them to field one of, if not the most formidable starting five in the entire league, the season ultimately ended in failure for the Sixers, thanks to an unforgettable game-winner from eventual Finals MVP awardee Kawhi Leonard in a series-clinching Game 7 victory in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Nonetheless, Sixers general manager Elton Brand and his front office were somehow able to make their team even stronger for what is expected to be a bounce-back 2019-20 campaign. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for Philadelphia in the coming season.
It’s hard to come out as victors in an offseason wherein you lose a four-time All-Star wingman in Jimmy Butler and a bona fide three-point marksman in J.J. Redick through free agency, but somehow, the Sixers did just that.
For starters, Butler did not leave Philly for nothing, with the team able to complete a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat, which allowed them to acquire the services of 6-foot-6 wing Josh Richardson, who put up career-high numbers for the Heat last season.
Tobias Harris was the other notable free agent in the lineup, and as it turns out, he was the team’s top priority, signing him to a five-year, $180 million deal.
The biggest addition to the Sixers in the offseason has got to be former Boston Celtics All-Star big man Al Horford, who signed on a four-year, $109 million deal. He is expected to form quite a partnership with Joel Embiid, making Philly’s frountcourt a very formidable one.
Philadelphia spent even more money, and signed Ben Simmons to a five-year, $170 million extension. This was a very good move, as they pretty much secured the future of their young nucleus by signing the former Rookie of the Year to a long-term deal.
The Sixers also made a splash in the draft, by trading up to get their man in Naismith Defensive Player of the Year winner Matisse Thybulle, who is a great 3-and-D addition for Philadelphia.
Other noteworthy moves made by the Philadelphia front office include the re-signing of Mike Scott, James Ennis, and Furkan Korkmaz, as well as the additions of Kyle O’Quinn, Raul Neto, and Trey Burke, all via free agency.
One to Watch
After all the noise the team made in the offseason, the immediate future of the Sixers will still rely heavily on one man: Joel Embiid. The 25-year-old will be entering his fourth year in the league, and after putting up career-high marks last season, more of the same is going to be expected from him for the coming campaign.
The big question for Embiid is will he be able to stay healthy? Last year, the 7-foot big man played in only 64 regular season games — the most he’s played in a single season — and looked worse for wear in some parts of the postseason. Embiid holds so much potential, and he can easily establish himself as the best big man in the league, but ultimately, his ability to stay on the floor will determine how far he and the Sixers can and will go this season.
There is no doubt that the Sixers will make the playoffs this coming year, with a very high seed looking like a real possibility for this extremely strong squad. At the moment, it appears that it is only Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks that are going to be capable of outperforming the 76ers in the East. The reigning league MVP will be his dominant self again next year, which will probably force Philadelphia to settle for the No. 2 seed.
With Kawhi out of the picture, the Sixers seem to have a relatively clear path to the Eastern Conference Finals, wherein the aforementioned Bucks will likely be waiting. That’s definitely going to be a war, and with both squads looking to make their first trip to the NBA Finals in the modern era, you can be sure that everything will be left on the floor.
Antetokounmpo, who is odds on favorite to secure his second straight MVP trophy, might just be able to will his side to victory, edging out the Sixers in a closely-contested series. Make no mistake about it — the Bucks are going to be the favorites to make it out of the East, but provided that the Sixers remain healthy up until that point, we’re definitely not ready to count them out just yet.