Last night the Sixers fell to the Boston Celtics 114-112 and lost the series 4-1, it was truly a heartbreaker for all of Philadelphia. This series was not pretty by any means; RoCo was horrible, Ben didn’t play to the level we needed him to and Brett was out-coached pretty bad at times. It also isn’t great that we lost to the Celtics, who are also a pretty young, inexperienced team, without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With all these negatives, I tend to look for the bright side of things. Our young players got some fairly deep playoff experience, same thing goes for Brett Brown. This will be huge for them, now that they know what the playoffs are like. As bad as this series loss was, let’s take a look back at this great Sixers season.
53. That is the number of wins this team had between the 2014 and 2016 seasons. This season alone the Sixers finished with 52 wins, grabbed the third seed in the Eastern Conference and won our first playoff series since 2012. This team did better than anyone expected; ESPN had us at the 9-seed with 33 wins, Bleacher Report had us at the 8-seed with 41 wins, and Sports Illustrated had us at the 9-seed. So as you can see we exceeded expectations.
Ben Simmons had one of the best rookie seasons of all time. He averaged 15 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds, also shooting 54.5%. Night in and night out the kid was showing off some of the best passing in the league. His basketball IQ is right up there with the best in the league and that is huge for a rookie. The one thing he needs to work on is his shooting. He does not have a jumpshot and his free throw shooting is shaky, but these things can be easily fixed, the important thing is he has the things you can’t teach, like a crazy work ethic and that basketball IQ I just mentioned. He was robbed of an All-Star nomination earlier in the year and hopefully he does not get robbed on the Rookie of the Year award he so rightfully deserves. Ben Simmons is going to be a player that takes over this league, he has the potential to one day be the best player in this league, and I look forward to watching him evolve.
Joel “The Process” Embiid. Last season he made his debut with the Sixers, and even though he only played 31 games, he showed the world that he is a generational talent. Coming in to this year everyone was pumped to see this guy play again, but plenty of people were skeptical of his health. At the end of the season, it feels really good to say he played 63 games and 30 minutes a game. That showed that he can handle a big workload and is ready to put these foot problems behind him. This year he averaged 23 points, 3.2 assists, 11 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, he also shot 48%. Joel cemented his place among the top centers in the league this year and proved himself to be (arguably) the best big man in the league. He is a defensive machine, has a pretty good three-point shot, and can kill you in the post in a variety of ways; his great mid range jump shot, his fade away and his strength to blow by just about anyone. He is also a great trash talker and does an amazing job of hyping up the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center every night he’s on the court. If he can continue to stay healthy, he has a real chance to go down as one of the greatest big men ever.
The rest of the team really stepped it up too this year. Dario Saric became the teams secret weapon. He was solid the whole year and always showed up in the big moments. He was a big part of the team’s success this year and it will remain that way. JJ Reddick, our big offseason addition, had statistically the best season of his career, he averaged a career high 17 points, career high 3 assists, career high 2.5 rebounds and shot 42% from three. His shooting was essential to this team as it helped us spread the floor. I really hope to see him in a Sixers uniform again next year. Robert Covington had a great year as well. Even though he collapsed against the Celtics, at one point in the year he was the best 3&D player in the league. He shot 37% from three on the year and played lock down defense consistently. A lot of people (including me) have been trashing him because of his horrible play against the Celtics, but we forget just how good he was throughout the year. TJ McConnell, did what TJ does: hustle. All year when he got in he was diving for balls or being an absolute pest on defense. He’s also got a pretty solid mid range fadeaway which he seems to hit multiple times a game. He’s a fan favorite in this city and it’s not hard to see why. After RoCO got benched in game 4 of the Celtics series, TJ got the start and brought a new energy to the team and the Wells Fargo center, and was a big reason we got the win. Can’t forget about our mid-season additions Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Both of these guys made great contributions to the team after they were signed. Marco’s shooting helped spread the floor even more and Ersan was a solid big man consistently. Marco even hit the buzzer beater to send game 3 of the Celtics series to OT. Lastly, Markelle Fultz. The player the Sixers traded up to draft. He sat out most of the year with a shoulder injury, but he was solid when he came back. His jumpshot looked better, his basketball IQ looked pretty high and he even got a triple double in the last game of the season in 25 minutes.
There are plenty of positives to take away from this season. Despite being outcoached in the last series, Brett Brown took this young team to places no one expected. He truly loves these players, and they truly love him back. I am still confident in him going forward. The Sixers may have fallen in disappointing fashion, but this is the beginning. It was a great learning experience for our young players and will go a long way for the development of the team. Coming in to this offseason I am expecting the Sixers to make a big move to put this team over the top, but we will have to wait and see. We are far from done and we will only get better. The time to Trust The Process is now more than ever. We will be back. #PhilaUnite