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Young core powers Philadelphia 76ers to first playoff berth since 2012

From NBA media reports

Trust the process indeed.

The battle cry of Philadelphia 76ers fans rings true today after years of frustration for the franchise. Not only did the Sixers clinch their first playoff berth since 2012 over the weekend, the young Sixers are challenging for a top-four playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in the final days of this regular season.

It shouldn’t come as a total shock. Not when you boast talent like All-Star big man Joel Embiid, Rookie of the Year frontrunner and jumbo point guard Ben Simmons and talented role players like Dario Saric, J.J. Redick and Robert Covington. The core group in Philly is inspiring big dreams for the future of what has turned out to be one of the best young core groups in basketball (and that’s without No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, who is scheduled to return on Monday night), writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News:

But even the Sixers’ win total does not tell the complete story of how abnormally productive Embiid, Simmons and Saric have been as a collective. A better benchmark might be the performance of the starting five that they anchor. Heading into Monday night’s game against the Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center, no five-man lineup in the NBA had outscored opponents by a wider margin than the Sixers’ starting unit, whose 240-point differential is nearly 50 percent greater than the next closest teams.

Last week, before the Sixers ran the Grizzlies out of the Wells Fargo Center in a 119-105 victory, Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff took a few moments to marvel at their ability to win in spite of their youth. Bickerstaff has plenty of experience with young teams, having served as an assistant in Charlotte in 2005-06 when the 26-win Bobcats featured rookie Raymond Felton, second-year player Emeka Okafor, and a 23-year-old Gerald Wallace, as well as in Minnesota when the Timberwolves’ rotation featured seven players age 24 or younger. The reason the Sixers have been able to have success is their young core’s rare willingness to share the ball

“They’re unselfish players, naturally,” Bickerstaff said. “What makes it difficult is young guys always feel like they are playing for or earning their next contract. But [the Sixers] have been fortunate to have a group of guys who are very unselfish basketball players by nature. And that always makes it easy. Talent is one thing, but you don’t win in this league without chemistry. And they seem to have found the right fit with one another.”

The closest comp to the Sixers current situation is probably the 2008-09 Thunder, which featured rookie Russell Westbrook and second-year players Kevin Durant and Jeff Green (that trio accounted for 42.5 percent of Oklahoma City’s minutes that year, compared with 37.4 percent for Simmons, Saric and Embiid). But the Thunder only won 23 games that season. The next season, they won 50.

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