The future of the Philadelphia 76ers was always going to be determined by the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Ever since general manager Elton Brand made the bold moves to acquire both Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, there was a need for all parties involved to achieve a deep playoff run. While Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are still promising yet controversial stars, in regards to their performances, there remains unending questions about what an early exit from the Playoffs could mean for the future of the team.
Should the 76ers fail to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, fans might need to brace themselves for a great deal of turnover with the roster. There are already questions surrounding JJ Redick’s future with the team, especially since he is a liability on the defense end of the court. Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler will both be unrestricted free agents this summer. Either all-star could decide to move on to a team that better suits their talents. Brett Brown’s future has already been a source of contention. It was expected that anything less than a Conference Finals appearance would result in his termination.
Discussion has erupted recently at the network of ESPN concerning Ben Simmon’s future with the organization. Specifically, Jalen Rose and Ryan Rusillo both came out in recent days stating that Simmons will eventually be traded and that the young point guard and Embiid are not a great basketball fit. Issues have also developed this season regarding Simmons inability and unwillingness to shoot anything outside the paint and the congestion it is causing with Embiid under the rim.
On the surface, it is easy to make such statements as evidence is there to support the claims, but it is important to remember that this is only the second full season with Embiid and Simmons playing together, and it is the first season with the additions of Butler and Harris. Simmons, if his pursuit for greatness is at the heart of his ambitions, will eventually develop a capable jump shot. His transition play and vision in the half court are an unquestionable benefit to the team.
Elton Brand must acquire the necessary skill players to put around the “Big Four”. There is an incessant need to add players that can create their own shot, which Reddick is not able to do. Philadelphia would also never get the proper trade value for Simmons in the market. In conclusion, while there are problems that need sorting out with Embiid and Simmons’ play, Philadelphia would unlikely move either during their current title challenge. Unfortunately, a loss in Game 7 would do little to quell this discussion and instead may cause Simmons’ issues to gain more publicity than the other transactions that could occur with the 76ers.
Philadelphia has been traditionally poor in Game 7s in the history of the NBA Playoffs. The team’s last Game 7 win was over 50 years ago. However, there is a considerable amount of hope when assessing the performances of both Embiid and Simmons in Game 6 at a raucous Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The pair combined for 38 points, which was a stark jump from their disappointing 20 combined points from Game 5. Another promising sign was the decrease in turnovers on the part of both players. Simmons actually did not record one turnover in Game 6.
It would be a misguided assumption to expect anything other than an all-out performance by the 76ers come Sunday night in Toronto. Philly will find some solace knowing that they were able to steal Game 2 away from home. The Sixers have the talent to pull of a victory, but the question is whether the players can handle the pressure of the occasion knowing that severe consequences that await them should they lose.
Photo Credit-Unsplash: Tommy Bebo