- The Philadelphia 76ers are playoff bound for the first time in over a decade after years near the bottom of the NBA.
- While the mantra of “Trust the Process” had its doubters, the Sixers are already reaping the rewards, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons already playing well beyond their years as they prepare for the first postseason of their NBA careers.
- With a balanced team, a forceful homecourt advantage, and Embiid’s ability to dominate any given night, the Sixers are not a team that other contenders would want to face in the playoffs.
On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers won their 43rd game of the season, assuring the team’s first winning campaign since the Allen Iverson era.
After years of earning scorn from much of the NBA world as they embraced the mantra of “Trust the Process,” the Sixers cashed in as draft picks Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons came into their own this year. Those players lead a team that now sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with nine games left and a relatively friendly schedule the rest of the way.
While doubters will likely argue that it’s too early to tell whether or not Philadelphia’s self-inflicted years of ineptitude on the court paid off in full, it’s clear that already the Process is paying dividends – The Sixers are not a team that other franchises are looking forward to playing against in the postseason.
The Sixers have a shot to enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the East, having won seven straight and with just two of their final nine games coming against other playoff-bound teams. Should they hold on to the fourth seed and secure homecourt advantage in the first round, they should be an especially tough out as they have won 18 of their last 19 in Philadelphia.
But it’s not just the wins that should have opponents fearing the Sixers; it’s how they’ve been winning. In the past few weeks, the Sixers have shown a grasp of the pace and team play that will do them wonders if they can carry it over into the postseason.
Joel Embiid is obviously the centerpiece on both sides of the ball for the Sixers, but Ben Simmons’ play as the only ball handler in the league that refuses to shoot threes has proven to be devastating to opposing defenses as well. Dario Saric has shown that he can hit 20 points on any given night if needed, and role players including Robert Covington, J.J. Redick, T.J. McConnell, and still recently acquired Marco Belinelli have all done their part to complete what few people thought would be such a well-rounded team this late in the season.
Even Markelle Fultz, who didn’t have a great night shooting in his return to action, but did look comfortable on an NBA court for a rookie just a handful of games into his career, could prove helpful to a Philadelphia postseason push. Fultz could be a wildcard offensive weapon capable of handling some of the workloads usually put on Simmons, even if just for a few minutes a game.
By some metrics, permutations of the Sixers rotation have been more efficient than those widely considered to be the best in the NBA.
There are 138 different 3 man combos that have played at least 750 minutes.
6 of them have a net rating of +14.0 or better.
All 6 are on the 76ers. pic.twitter.com/gtVOIyPYsO
— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) March 25, 2018
There’s still plenty for the Sixers to do before they prove their loudest doubters wrong. For now, though, the Sixers are a winning team in the NBA for the first time in over a decade and are heading to the playoffs with a chance to shake up an Eastern Conference that hasn’t produced a Finals contender without LeBron James in seven years.