76ers Season Preview, Predictions: Just behind the East’s best

Joel Embiid 76ers preview
Joel Embiid
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For a Philadelphia 76ers team that was looking for the final pieces of a potential championship puzzle, a dormant offseason doesn’t necessarily do much to instill hope that the franchise’s championship drought will end this season.

The 76ers are coming off a season in which they were the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, but yet again, couldn’t make it past the second round of the playoffs.

All offseason, the talk was that Ben Simmons would be shipped off in a blockbuster deal to provide the necessary pieces to not only further unlock Joel Embiid’s MVP-caliber play but to make Philadelphia an unstoppable force rival to the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference.

Simmons, however, is back after demanding a trade and vowing that he would never play in Philadelphia again. Yet the 76ers were unable to find a suitable trade partner given the issues in his game that other teams seemingly can’t get over in order to give up a king’s ransom.

So, we could see Simmons back with Embiid, as Sixers brass remains hopeful that the 25-year-old will suit back up this season.

That doesn’t change the fact that he’s become a weak link despite his All-Star status and stellar defense. The 76ers are still in need of a point guard to properly stretch the floor and Simmons’ inability to improve his mid-range and three-point game makes his game and the team’s offense, at times, predictable.

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben SimmonsBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

So, the 76ers find themselves heading into the 2021-22 season still a step behind the likes of the Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks with an eerily similar starting five (if Simmons plays) — which likely was going to be the case due to the salary-cap crunch they were facing.

But their hopes of contending for a championship will continue to rely on Embiid, who had his finest campaign yet as a pro last year, averaging 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Should he replicate those numbers this year, the 76ers will be near the top of the East — but they still have a ways to go in order to take that next step as a legitimate Finals contender.

2021-22 Eastern Conference predicted standings

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Boston Celtics
  6. Miami Heat
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Indiana Pacers

Eastern Conference 1st Round

  • 76ers def. Heat

Eastern Conference 2nd Round

  • Nets def. 76ers

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