After finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, the Philadelphia 76ers suffered a flameout in the conference semifinals so fateful that it will likely lead to the break up of the team’s All-Star tandem. Ben Simmons didn’t take a single shot from outside the paint in the entire postseason, passed out of an easy layup late in Game 7 against Atlanta and reportedly told the team that he wants out of Philadelphia.
So as they begin the preseason, the Sixers are dealing with a major distraction, along with questions about what kind of team they’ll be once that distraction is behind them. If they can somehow get out of this situation without taking a step backward, they remain a title contender. But that seems like a big “If.”
How does the Simmons saga end? Simmons remaining with the Sixers as a productive contributor seems like a long shot. So the question is, if/when he’s traded, what do the Sixers get in return? This isn’t a team looking to rebuild. With Joel Embiid in his prime and an expensive and veteran core around him, the Sixers’ title window is right now. If they were to trade Simmons, the Sixers would need a primary ballhandler — preferably one who can shoot — in return. Finding a trade that works for the other party and doesn’t result in a step backward for the Sixers will be a tough needle to thread.
Predicting the Sixers’ win total without knowing what happens with Simmons (or when it happens) is an impossible task. If they play without Simmons as they pursue a trade, they won’t be as good as they were last season. And there’s a slim chance that a trade return would be an All-Star level talent that fits well. Still, Embiid is one of the best players in the league, a force on both ends of the floor. Given the perimeter talent around him, this is still one of the four or five best teams in the Eastern Conference. Predicted finish: 48-34.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Ben Simmons: Elite defender and passer. If he won’t shoot, finding a fit on the other end of a trade is also a challenge.
Seth Curry: Had a big postseason, averaging 18.8 ppg on effective FG of 72% (shooting 25-for-35 from midrange).
Danny Green: He’s 34 years old, but remains a solid starter. Led the league with 90 corner 3-pointers last season.
Tobias Harris: Was just two made 3-pointers and two made free throws away from a 50/40/90 season last year.
Joel Embiid: Became an elite mid-range shooter last season. Still saw his free throw rate jump to 10.7 attempts per game.
Tyrese Maxey: Shot well (47%) on non-restricted-area 2s and had a couple of big playoff games as a rookie.
Furkan Korkmaz: Designated shooter shot just 11-for-31 over the last four games of the playoffs, starting for injured Green.
Matisse Thybulle: Defensive force. 5.6 deflections per 36 led the league by a wide margin. Shooting needs a lot of work.
Georges Niang: Shot 44% on catch-and-shoot 3-pointerss with Utah last season. Doesn’t do much else offensively, but a solid defender.
Andre Drummond: Top four in rebounding percentage in each of his nine seasons. Feast-or-famine on both ends of the floor.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the 76ers have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
STAT TO KNOW
+39.0 — The Sixers’ starting lineup outscored its opponents (Washington and Atlanta) by 39.0 points per 100 possessions. That was the best mark for any lineup that played at least 100 playoff minutes in the 14 years for which we have lineup data.
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