Season preview: Philadelphia 76ers

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Season preview: Philadelphia 76ers

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Season preview: Philadelphia 76ers

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The Philadelphia 76ers’ 2018-19 season was overall a relative success, with the franchise coming with one insane Kawhi Leonard jumper and overtime from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Nevertheless, considering the team’s talent and expectations, they’ll need to reach another level. If they don’t, questions will arise regarding what their true ceiling with this roster is.

This summer wasn’t necessarily a great one for the Sixers, not after losing an All-NBA talent like Jimmy Butler, but they did recover well scoring defensive dynamo Josh Richardson in the transaction that sent Butler to the Miami Heat, along with stealing Al Horford from a chief rival, the Boston Celtics.

STAYING: Jonah Bolden, Joel Embiid, James Ennis, Tobias Harris, Haywood Highsmith, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Mike Scott, Ben Simmons and Zhaire Smith

ADDED: Trey Burke (Dallas), Al Horford (Boston), Christ Koumadje (Florida State), Isaiah Miles (Limoges), Raul Neto (Utah), Kyle O’Quinn (Indiana), Norvel Pelle (Homenetmen), Josh Richardson (Miami), Marial Shayok (Iowa State) and Matisse Thybulle (University of Washington).

GONE: Jimmy Butler (Miami), Amir Johnson, Boban Marjanovic (Dallas), TJ McConnell (Indiana), Greg Monroe (Bayern Munich), JJ Redick (New Orleans) and Jonathon Simmons.

STRENGTHS: The starting five… An opening lineup of Ben SimmonsJosh RichardsonTobias HarrisAl Horford and Joel Embiid is in the running for best in the league … That unit contains a level of size, athleticism, scoring, shooting and defense that few other starting lineups, if any, can match … The team has dominant big men … Embiid is up there among the very best in the NBA, while Horford is one of the most impactful 4/5s in basketball, with the ability to space the floor and play-make at a high level, while providing elite defense … Simmons is one of the top young players in the league… He may not shoot the basketball (though he claims he’ll now be attempting three-pointers as long as they’re open), but he provides so much value elsewhere, as a playmaker and defender primarily, that it doesn’t matter that much in the regular season … Losing JJ Redick hurt, without a doubt, but often, in the postseason, opposing teams would target him on the defensive end and absolutely expose him … That won’t be a problem anymore with defenders as able as Simmons and Josh Richardson on the roster … The weakness of the Eastern Conference will benefit Philadelphia greatly… If things break well for them, they could push the 55-win threshold.

WEAKNESSES: Limited depth … Mike Scott is likely the team’s best reserve player, and he averaged under six points per game last season … Raul Neto and Furkan Korkmaz have the potential to be decent backups, but due to injuries and/or bouts of inconsistency, they haven’t reached that ceiling quite yet … Durability … Embiid has yet to play more than 64 games in a single season … If he goes down, they could be in trouble… Simmons’ shooting … If he doesn’t at least attempt open three-pointers, teams will continue ignoring him out there, especially in the playoffs, which kills the Sixers’ offense for long stretches … Philadelphia will also have to see how their massive frontcourt featuring Horford and Embiid will fare against small-ball lineups … There might be times where those units could force one of the two giants off the floor … Who is going to be their late-game shot-taker? … That used to be Butler’s job, one he excelled at, and it’s tough to see who will be able to match his production in crunch time for Philadelphia … Considering Embiid and Simmons aren’t reliable outside shooters, that Horford is more of a role player than a late-game star and that Richardson struggled mightily late in games as the guy for the Heat last year, that job will probably fall on Harris’ shoulders … Is he ready to be that guy?

PREDICTION: 1st in the Atlantic Division, 2nd in the Eastern Conference.

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