What’s Next in the Store for Philadelphia 76ers?

Many experts and analysts fully expect Sixers to be one of the future dynasties in next decade NBA. We’ll see about that, but at least this coming season the East seems left at the mercy of Philly and Milwaukee Bucks.

Sixers have not been among the most active teams this off-season, albeit they moved one second-tier star in (Al Horford) and let one go out (Jimmy Butler). They traded for Jimmy Butler in November 2018, then quickly gave away and traded him to Miami in July. The swirling rumours had it that Embiid was jealous Butler’s offensive touches. Was it that, or just a lack of chemistry, there could only be one way to deal with the situation, given that Embiid’s cornerstone status in the roster is rock-solid for the foreseeable future. Sixers chose to commit to Tobias Harris, giving him out 180 million USD over 5-years for the 27-year-old forward. Manager Elton Brand has completely reshaped the Sixers’ roster since 2017-18. Robert Covington and Dario Saric, once viewed as essential rotation players, were sent to Minnesota for Butler. Markelle Fultz was also harshly dealt with and is in Orlando, and J.J. Reddick is now with Zion Williamson in New Orleans. Even the long-standing backup point-guard and fan favourite T.J. McConnell is gone.

Useful veteran Al Horford left Boston for Sixers and versatile guard-forward Josh Richardson was the main piece of the Jimmy Butler trade with Miami. After failing one Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater short of the Eastern Conference finals last year, all fans hope their team will be more mentally resilient this year. The talent appears to be in place and maybe this will be Philly’s first trip to the Finals in almost two decades.

Philadelphia’s multitude of player movements has resulted in one of the NBA’s most impressive starting fives, one that could rate as one of the league’s best five-man lineups beside Clippers and Bucks. The Sixers outscored opponents by 19.5 points per 100 possessions with Reddick, Harris, Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the floor last season. This mark ranked fourth in the league and best among all starting lineups. Richardson is expected to replace Reddick in the backcourt, strengthening the defense without hurting the offensive power too much. Al Horford could slide to the four as Tobias Harris moves to the small forward spot. Philadelphia’s starting five allowed 103.1 points per 100 possessions last year, eighth best among all the units to log 100 minutes across all teams. The Sixers should move into the top five this year with Horford and Richardson.


Yet there is no underestimating of Jimmy Butler’s impact on the team. He was a true two-way force for Philadelphia last season. He welcomed the black work on the boards and on the defensive end, drawing the toughest defensive assignments in the NBA on many nights. Jimmy Boy sacrificed some of his shots to defend Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, amending a shaky reputation after an ugly exit from Minnesota. All in all, he was a flexible defensive piece and a reliable option late in the shot clock. Philadelphia will miss his presence. Here comes the main question. Can Richardson copy most of Butler’s impact on the floor? He could prove vital to the Sixers’ title aspirations. Richardson is an athletic defensive wing, and he’ll contribute further to Philadelphia’s impressive overall length. He’s a decent 3-point shoote too. Philadelphia will likely miss Butler most in late-game and isolation situations. Yet Joel Embiid should be able to elevate his offensive game even more this season and become more effective and reliable in these kinds of situations. Perhaps Al Horford can also help filing that void.

Exactly Horford is perhaps the main reason for growing optimism in Philadelphia. Previously a Sixers killer, Horford appears to be an instant fit for Philadelphia on both sides of the ball. Horford’s offensive game will be critical to the Sixers given Simmons’s limitations and Embiid’s ball dominance. Horford excels as a screener and pick-and-roll specialist. He doesn’t always need the ball, but he’s decisive and smart when he receives it. He will also be a good leader for the youths in the locker room.

The defensive pairing of Horford and Embiid have the potential to be an elite one. Embiid finished fourth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2018-19, improving from the previous year. Horford should help cover for Embiid’s shaky cover on the perimeter. This could prove crucial when facing a team with 3-point threat from the big guys (namely Milwaukee and Brook Lopez). Horford was finally given an All-Defense selection in 2017-18, a nice recognition which came maybe a few years too late. He is one of smartest defenders in the league.


All in all, Philadelphia appears to have a solid window to compete for the Finals well into the next decade. Tobias Harris is in Philadelphia through 2024. Ben Simmons is signed through 2025. Joel Embiid’s contract expires in 2023, though a lucrative extension could be down the line before that. But the Sixers may need to strike while the iron is hot in 2020. Durant, Irving and the Nets should return to title contention by 2020-21. Boston could rise after a brief amending. For 2020, though, the contenders in the East are slim. Now is the time Embiid, Simmons and Co. prove they deserve to be viewed as legit NBA superstars and not just promising youngsters.

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