The Philadelphia 76ers will head into this upcoming season with championship aspirations once again, especially after the moves they’ve made in the offseason. They are already projected as one of the best two-way teams in the league right now, and at this point, anything short than an NBA title will be considered a failure.
That being said, everyone on the Sixers’ roster will need to step up next season, but who are the individuals facing the most pressure to up his game to another level? Well, as good as they may seem, there are several guys who will need to show a significant amount of improvement next season if Philadelphia wants to have a serious shot at competing for a championship.
Who are they? Let’s take a look.
He only played six games for the Sixers last season, but now that he’s reportedly 100 percent healthy, he should do everything that he can to not only make it to the team’s opening night roster but also to prove to the rest of the league that he isn’t going to be just another bust.
Traded to the Sixers by the Miami Heat, he recently said that he wants to kill his former team because it’s in his nature to be competitive. But given the fact that he will replace Jimmy Butler as the team’s primary perimeter defender, there is no doubt that he should have that kind of mentality on a nightly basis. He shouldn’t worry about scoring too much; just focus on shutting the opposing teams’ best players and he’ll have a great year.
3. Tobias Harris
Harris was traded to the Sixers earlier this year and immediately made an impact on the offensive end. He put up 18.2 points and 7.9 rebounds in the final 27 regular season games, and looked sharp in Philly’s victory against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.
However, he struggled mightily against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. He never scored more than 16 points in the seven-game series, and he even set the franchise record for most missed 3-pointers in the postseason when he shot an abysmal 2-13 from deep.
He needs to knock down those triples consistently next season because that will allow Joel Embiid and Al Horford to do the damage inside. He needs to shoot better than 32 percent from behind the arc if the Sixers want to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Harris got the max contract that he wanted, and it’s time to prove that he’s worth every penny.
2. Ben Simmons
Remember when media experts have said that Simmons just needs a consistent jump shot to become the next LeBron James? Well, the time has come for him to work on that aspect of his game.
Yes, his numbers last season were impressive; 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. He has the potential to be a walking triple-double machine, but he really needs to work on his shooting. If he can develop a reliable jumper, especially from beyond the arc, he will immediately become one of the best players in the league.
Simmons will also need to be bigger and stronger. He was clearly neutralized by Kawhi Leonard in the second round of the playoffs, and that cannot happen again.
He needs to be able to get score against the league’s toughest defenders if he wants to be recognized as the best player in the league.
1. Joel Embiid
“I don’t give a damn about ‘The Process.'”
These are the words that came out of Embiid’s mouth when the Sixers were eliminated by the Raptors in the playoffs. If we’d take a guess, it’s an indication that he’s done with all the fun and games and will take next season very seriously.
He already put up 27.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game last season. Those are MVP-worthy numbers right there. But we all know what the biggest knock on Embiid has been so far in his career, and that’s his ability to stay healthy. He entered the 2019 playoffs with an already banged-up knee and he also suffered from the stomach flu against the Raptors during the conference semi-finals.
While injuries aren’t really something that Embiid or anyone else in the NBA can control, the pressure to stay healthy for a full season is at an all-time high for him.
If he can accomplish that next season, there’s no more reason why the Sixers shouldn’t make it to the NBA Finals.