By: Will Cunningham
The Philadelphia 76ers have something to prove. Their roster is full of talent, with a strong combination of star power and defense, yet year after year they disappoint in the playoffs. Case in point: nine months ago, they shot for the moon by trading for superstar James Harden.
With Harden’s pick-and-roll abilities and clutch shooting, fans and team personnel alike believed he was the final piece to a championship squad. However, the result was the same, as the Sixers lost in the second round of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. The Sixers cannot let another failure like this happen again.
They enter this season with most of last year’s squad intact. Tyrese Maxey is still here despite some trade rumors, and for good reason. His athleticism, aggressive defense and quick scoring abilities have given the Sixers a potential third star, while also reminding fans of a young Allen Iverson.
The same goes for Matisse Thybulle, who is one of the best young defenders in the league. Tobias Harris can score 15 points a game with his mid range shot, and Georges Niang has proven to be a solid three point option off the bench.
As for the changes, Danny Green was dealt for reserve shooter De’Anthony Melton, and new free agents were signed for additional depth and defense: forwards P.J. Tucker, Daniel House and Montrezl Harrell, all of whom were former teammates of Harden.
The Sixers were able to add these pieces thanks to Harden taking a $13 million dollar pay cut for the season. Fans are appreciative of him for doing this, but they still expect production from the former MVP, who’s shown flashes of brilliance during his tenure as a Sixer, yet disappointed massively in the playoffs.
The success of this squad, however, lives and dies by the availability of Joel Embiid. His frame, mid-range jumper and reach have allowed him to become one of the most dominant players in the league.
He further showcased his potential by leading the league in scoring a year ago and finishing as the runner up in MVP voting in back-to-back seasons. However, his injury prone status has made him miss at least 14 games in every season of his career, as well as time in the playoffs this past summer. The Sixers were 6-10 without him last season, including 0-2 in the playoffs.
Embiid has long expressed his desire and drive to bring a championship to Philadelphia, but just how long does he have before his body gives way? Regardless, the opportunity to be champions is still real for the Sixers. Only time will tell if they seize it, though a 1-4 start doesn’t do any favors for this quest.