The 76ers have been a contending team in the East ever since Embiid became one of the best players in the East. At the same time, Simmons has come into his own as one of the best All-Star talents the franchise has ever had. Trading for Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler last season gave Philly one of the best starting five’s during the 2018-2019 season.
Unfortunately for Sixers nation, the 76ers fell to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals with some of their best players moving teams. Jimmy Butler went to the Heat and J.J. Redick opted for the Pelicans. The Sixers retooled this summer with the signings of Al Horford and Josh Richardson.
The Sixers are still contenders in the East, but are they a legitimate threat to the best teams in the West? Here are four major questions about Philly that need to be answered if the Sixers have a shot at lifting the NBA Championship.
Is Simmons still a liability on the perimeter?
Perhaps the biggest factor in Philly’s title hopes is the shooting of Ben Simmons. Simmons is a special talent, with excellent playmaking and rebounding skills for a point-forward. Simmons is proficient around the basket but has been a liability from the perimeter since his rookie season. Embiid will likely attract more double-teams this season, and Simmons must be able to hit jumpers from the outside on a consistent basis.
When facing the absolute best teams in the NBA, Philly’s glaring weakness such as poor shooting from your All-Star can be a massive factor. Guys sagging off Simmons and focusing on Embiid cannot happen again in the Playoffs, or the Sixers risk missing the Finals once again.
Can this team find good shooters?
Al Horford is an All-Star big man with excellent intangibles. Pairing him with Embiid will make them formidable inside, especially defensively. But in today’s NBA, perimeter scoring often dictates the outcomes of games. Losing J.J. Redick was a major loss for the Sixers, almost as equally as losing Butler. Redick is one of the best knock-down shooters in the league and was very effective in a Sixers offense that featured an All-NBA talent in Embiid and All-Stars including Tobias Harris. The Sixers need to be able to be in the upper half in the league in terms of shooting, and the Sixers need more help than Josh Richardson to make this happen.
Can Harris become the priority scorer on the wing?
Following the exit of Butler, Tobias Harris needs to take another step up in his play and become the closer for the 76ers. In today’s NBA, teams need a prolific scorer on the wing in order to take his team to the promised land. Josh Richardson is still relatively young and is not a consistent scorer in the league similar to Butler. Harris will need to be aggressive, and even take the big shots in tight games. If Harris can average at least 22 ppg, the Sixers can firmly position themselves as the favorites in the East.
Can Embiid stay healthy when his team needs him most?
Embiid has, thankfully, been able to stay healthy for at least 63 games during the past two seasons. Yet, Embiid’s health is of extreme importance for the Sixers title chances. Embiid went through injuries in the Playoffs last year, that took him off his game when he did return. For the Sixers to reach the NBA Finals, Embiid needs to be there for his team. Missing a game or two in a very important series could cost his team a trip to the Finals. The loss of Butler means the Sixers have to feature more of Embiid, and he must stay healthy when they need him most.