Season Preview: Eastern Conference Challengers- Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers were eliminated in game 7 of the eastern conference semi-finals by one of the most outrageous shots in playoff history from Kawhi Leonard. Since then there has been a bit of a shake up in the Sixers locker room. The off-season saw exits for stars Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick but the arrival of Al Horford and Tobias Harris committing his future to the Sixers 'Process'.
You in only get what you deserve but the Sixers should count themselves quite unlucky in the 2018/19 season, forgetting the shot of four bounces by Kawhi, injuries and illness struck down star man Joel Embiid in the regular season and again during the playoffs, which had a big impact on the early exit. The new season brings new hope however and they are now looking in great shape despite the loss of two starters.
Ben Simmons and the mystery of the jump shot:
The Sixers star point guard has everything you could want in a point guard and at 6'10 he is able to guard most positions on defence, however the one thing Simmons does not have in his game is a jump shot. In the modern NBA a point guard has to be able to shoot even if they are an adept passer and rim finisher. Simmons is still a young man and if he is to become one of the best in the league he has to be able to shoot the ball, it would make him even harder to defend against and would be a big boost to Philly after losing JJ Redick. Simmons made a three pointer during pre-season and it has raised eyebrows around the NBA, if it is of things to come then the rest of the league should watch out as an addition of a jumper would give the Sixers the edge in the Eastern Conference.
Defense still important in the NBA:
In the modern era of basketball there is usually more focus put on offence rather than defense but the Sixers have built a big man starting team adept on both ends of the court. This summer the Sixers signed Tobias Harris and Al Horford, two big men that have always shown quality defensive attributes while also adding points on the offence end of the floor. Ben Simmons is a match for any guards in the league & Joel Embiid is likely a future defensive player of the year, who is also capable of averaging 27 PPG. The Sixers have made defense the first aim and in doing so have built a team that will be able to beat any team in the league just by being able to keep them from scoring.
Big year ahead for Joel Embiid:
In his three seasons in the league Embiid has proven himself to be a monster on both ends of the court, last season averaging 27.5 PPG &13.6 RPG, the only thing holding back the 7'0 Cameroonian is his health. The center has played just 158 of a possible 246 games in his career so far and that is hurting the Sixers success, this off-season however he has worked on his body and his diet to make sure he can be healthy for the upcoming season. Embiid has aspirations to be the best & bring a championship to Philadelphia and if he can stay fit this season then Philly will have the edge in the fight for top spot in the East.
Replacing JJ's perimeter game:
JJ Redick has been the main three-point shooter for the Sixers over the last two seasons, a vital clog in the modern league. They appear to have failed to replace him with a similar quality player but they have brought in Al Horford, a solid three-point shooter, and it also appears that they have had Simmons work on his shooting so those two together could make up for the loss of JJ but if not there will be a hole in the Sixers offence that they will have to cover with top level defense.
If the Sixers can stay healthy and Ben Simmons can start nailing the odd jump shot I think they will have the edge over Milwaukee this year and will take top spot in the Eastern Conference. They have a quality defensive set up and an equally impressive offense so its going to be a good season for the Sixers.
Season Prediction: 59-23, 1st place in the East
Catch Philly's first game of the season against the Boston Celtics @12:30 on Thursday morning, live on Sky Sports