The Philadelphia 76ers are currently rolling on a 10-game win streak (11 for all intents and purposes because they play the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow). In large part to this streak, the 76ers have not only secured a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but also are looking to be a lock for the 3 or 4 seed with their schedule being the easiest in the NBA for the remainder of the season. Embiid and Saric will be back soon, and they’ll continue their dominance. Assuming they are the 4 seed, I will compare rosters, assess what I think the series would result in, and point out why an NBA Title appearance wouldn’t come as a shock.
Pacers at Sixers (Sixers 4-1)
Let me preface argument this by saying, Oladipo is a stud and Turner is going to be a top 5 Center one day. Let’s take a look at the Pacers starting 5, Darren Collison (who just took Cory Joseph’s starting one spot), Victor Oladipo (again, stud), Bojan Bogdanovic (an underrated scorer at the wing, shooting a solid 39.5% from 3 and averaging 14 a game under the radar), Thad Young (former Sixer, nothing but love for Thad), and Myles Turner (the 22-year-old from Texas is an Elite shot-blocker, but underwhelming rebounder at the five spot). Compare that to the Sixers starters of Ben “walking triple double, freak of nature, rookie of the year” Simmons, J.J “the 23-million-dollar man” Reddick, Robert “I have the shot IQ of Kobe but am a lock down defender” Covington, Dario “the homie” Saric, and Joel “The Process” Embiid (who should be back for round one of the playoffs). The Sixers are averaging 109 PPG compared to the Pacers 105. Nobody on the Pacers will be able to contain Ben. Even if you put Thad on Ben, that leaves “The Homie” with a mismatch. To be quite frank, the Pacers bench stinks. Domantas Sabonis is their best player off of the bench, and he is a 6’10” center. Compare this to the Sixers bench of Markell Fultz, TJ “the spark plug” McConnell, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes. The Sixers bench could probably beat the Pacers, that being said, the Pacers will get lucky and win one game at home, but that’s it.
Celtics vs. Sixers (Sixers 4-2)
The Gordon Hayward injury was thought to be the end of the Celtics season. Kyrie Irving, Celtics star point guard, has been hurt and is unlikely for the 1st round. Don’t be surprised if the Heat pull of a first round upset against the Celtics. Nevertheless, I do think the Celtics prevail against the Heat and push forward to play the 76ers in the second round. Kyrie will be rusty, and probably putting on a late-year Mamba like performance of 30+ points while shooting some abysmal percentage. Brown will be out matched by Ben. Rozier is athletic enough to give JJ some fits and trouble, this will be an interesting matchup. Tatum guarding Covington is another fantastic matchup, one I believe Covington will get the better of. The Celtics problem is whether they go small ball with Morris at the 4 and Horford at the 5, or Baynes at the 5 and Horford at the 4. Either way, to put it bluntly, nobody on the Celtics can guard Embiid, but Baynes physical play is their best bet. I believe Embiid and the depth of the Sixers bench will be the key to the Sixers winning this series.
Cavaliers vs. Sixers (Sixers 4-3)
LeBron James, the greatest basketball player in the history of the NBA, is the single reason this Cavaliers team will take the much younger and more talented Sixers team to 7 games. Embiid will make Kevin Love look like a young child when he is trying to check him. Tristan Thompson should do himself a favor and keep his role of the most overplayed player on this roster while staying on the bench. George Hill is solid, and will most likely be tasked with chasing JJ around screens. The most exciting part of this series will be the King, LeBron, guarding the Prince, Ben Simmons, and hopefully vice-versa. LeBron guarding Simmons leaves Covington, a 3-point marksman this season, to be defended by J.R or Rodney Hood, whoever they decided to start. Larry Nance Jr. guarding Dario will be a matchup I look forward to seeing, and will be a true test for “The Homie.” The Sixers bench, again, is much deeper than the Cavs. All of this in mind, the younger, more well-rounded, and more athletic 76ers will take this tough fought series.
With all of this in mind, the Sixers playoff run could be one that results in a Championship run. I will not assume who makes it out of the west since Curry’s injury makes me question the Warriors. I’m not saying the Sixers will win the Championship, what I’m saying is a championship run is far from a stretch; and I believe it is probable.
Written by: Jake Gratzinger