The 76ers Will Make the Playoffs


The Philadelphia 76ers are becoming a mainstay on the television and in the news. It’s because of the young superstars that they have acquired and most them are healthy. They have a nice balanced team outside of the big three, top five overall picks of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz. They have been playing great this year and look impressive. The big question is, can they make the playoffs this year?

The team currently has a record of 14-18 in the Eastern Conference. They are leading the league in rebounding and are third in assists per game. They sit in the 10th spot out east, slightly out of playoff contention. We certainly haven’t hit the mid-way point of the season yet though, so it’s too early to eliminate them from being a playoff team. Philly hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, but they have a way in despite a sub-par start. There are a few teams that they can take advantage of and catch up to. These teams ahead of them in the standings are the Miami Heat at #9, the New York Knicks at #8, and the Detroit Pistons at #5.

Miami just doesn’t have the team to compete for a playoff spot. Their roster shows flashes but are greatly inconsistent and injury prone. We haven’t seen much dominance of Hassan Whiteside we saw a few seasons ago. They can easily be caught in the standings. The teams that the 76ers will have to really fight are the Pistons and the Knicks.

Detroit is the most suspect of these two teams. After a strong start that at one point had them atop the Eastern conference, they have regressed significantly, dropping into the middle of the pack. They have a solid, first-four squad in Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond. However, they all have weaknesses that can be exploited. Drummond is known for his bad free throw shooting, but this season he is shooting 62.6% from the line. The real question is, can he keep that up as the season progresses? Reggie Jackson has been as inconsistent as they come, and the other two have their known issues. Detroit’s bench helps somewhat, but there comes a point where they will need their core players to step up and win games down the stretch, which has been a problem as of late.

The Knicks on the other hand are a decent team with a talented starting lineup. When they are hot, they are virtually unstoppable. Fringe all-star Kristaps Porzingis has been battling injuries lately, but X-Factor Michael Beasley (21.2 PPG over the last five games) has found ways to step up when The Unicorn is unable to go. It remains to be seen how much longer offseason acquisition Tim Hardaway Jr. will be sidelined for, but this could hurt the Knicks in the long term.

As for Philly, The Jahlil Okafor experiment is finally over. The center played some big-time ball last year for the 76ers, but after his off-the-court issues rose, his stock fell quickly. Altercations in clubs and in the streets led to some big changes. He was suspended and benched by the team, then suffered a right knee injury, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. Okafor had hoped to come back stronger this season, but failed to find himself a role in Brett Brown’s rotation. The 76ers finally shipped him, along with teammate Nik Stauskas to Brooklyn in exchange for Trevor Booker.

Joel Embiid is currently playing out of his mind when healthy. He has all the offensive and defensive weapons as a big man. At 7’0 feet he has the best footwork of any big man in the league. Embiid is averaging 24 PPG (49% FG), 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks, with a 4.3 plus/minus. Sky hook, dribble, over the shoulder, post you up, back you down, dunk. He can shoot from mid-range and 3-point land and his stroke looks great.

Now, on the defensive end, watch out. Embiid can guard the paint and perimeter; big or small. Possibly the best part of Embiid we get is the trash talk on and off the court. Getting in his opponent’s head before and during the game, leads to aggressive play and fouls on him. Classic 80’s basketball.

Ben Simmons, his partner in crime, is a walking double-double machine and flirts with triple-doubles on any given day. Simmons is currently averaging 17 points (51% FG), nine rebounds, and eight assists per game. He plays the point guard roll most of the time, but he’s as big as a small forward. He’s trying to add a slasher game to the team since his only weakness is not having much of a jumper. You won’t really see him at the three-point line, but having guys like JJ Redick though on the wing makes up for that.

The one thing with this team or organization is that injuries and health seem to always play a role. Embiid missed his first two seasons with foot injuries. He remains on minutes and game restrictions by Brett Brown. He has missed two pivotal games against the Toronto Raptors, and rarely plays in both games of a back-to-back set. Simmons missed his rookie season last year as well, but has stayed healthy thus far.

Incoming 2017 number one overall pick Markelle Fultz has only played four games thus far. He, like many of his teammates, has been battling injuries. Then morphed into a shoulder injury that may or may not need surgery. The injury was attributed to the way he was shooting the basketball. Knowing this franchise, he could sit the entire season. The 76ers have no problem with that and have taken this course the past five years with other players.

Brett Brown has been the head coach of the team since 2013. We’re starting to see his progression as a coach. It started last season when he had this team completing for a playoff spot with a depleted roster. His maturation seems to have him ready to coach a playoff team. A key to a good head coach is drawing up plays on the fly. He draws up good plays out of timeouts and emergency situations. He knows what his players can do, and that can only further his credibility as a coach down the road.

All the 76ers must do is remain healthy. Thus far without Fultz they’re playing decent basketball, and they have the tools to make the playoffs without him. Although, getting him back would make a lock for a spot higher than 8th right now. The ball is certainly in their court to make the playoffs. Their fans and general NBA watchers can only go by the 76ers motto, “Trust the Process!”



About Roderick Wilbon

General NBA writer from St. Louis, Missouri. Twitter: @Rodzrd

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