Philadelphia 76ers: NBA’s most important team




The Manila Times


THE most important team in the NBA right now is the Philadelphia 76ers. This is not saying they are the best team, but that’s not too far off. The Sixers were a forgotten team after they faltered in the NBA Playoffs like the Brooklyn Nets. They lost to the Miami Heat, and the fancied James Harden-Joel Embiid tandem looked pedestrian, and with Embiid’s candid comments, almost faltered. However, there are some solid relationships here, specifically James Harden and Sixers president Daryl Morey. Harden finally gave back to Morey by cooperating with his contract: he didn’t sign an extension and let the team acquire key players to fill in the gaps, and Morey did that beautifully. Better position The Sixers were a good team, it’s just a bloodbath in the East and we did not even include the Boston Celtics in the projections. The Milwaukee Bucks, Heat, Nets, and Sixers were all in contender talk and Boston came out and beat out two of them. So we need to revise the power rankings and the Celtics are now at the top. The Sixers will probably rank higher than they did last year. They quietly improved with acquiring PJ Tucker, a playoff contributor anywhere, and that’s why Morey took him. His versatility is invaluable in crucial moments. They also have De’Anthony Melton, an athletic guard from the upstart Memphis Grizzlies. He can be the sixth man for this group, and they also took Danuel House. The Morey influence is strongly evident here as Tucker and House were stalwarts of the Houston Rockets’ ultimate small ball teams. Imagine they now have Joel Embiid in the middle and young guards like Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton. Why they matter So why are they the most important team? One factor is that they can sway the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. The best offer would be Tobias Harris (salary) and Tyrese Maxey, the best bargain in the NBA today. Maxey is probably too hard to give up, but the idea is that the Sixers would be glad to upgrade Harris for Durant. It still does not trump the Jaylen Brown-based package from the Celtics, which is probably the peak of what the Nets can realistically take. But the Sixers are influential even if they don’t make the move for Durant. They always have Tobias Harris. He’s not a bad player, and the Sixers may just keep him even if he has a bloated contract that still has two years. However, they can use that for disgruntled player trades, and not just Kevin Durant. Tyrese Maxey is the trade asset to covet. The best bargain in the NBA today, he’s an underrated chip that Morey can use if he wants to maximize the Finals potential of this group. He thrived before the Harden trade, but he still played well alongside the Beard. The strength of the Sixers’ roster whether they make a move or not and Morey’s masterful timing make them a true championship threat, even if they have Doc Rivers. Playing to their strengths Speaking of Doc Rivers, if there’s one thing he does well, it’s to get stars to buy in. He did that in 2008 with the Celtics Big Three. He can gain the respect of superstars, and that’s probably why Durant considers Philadelphia as a preferred destination. Rivers is a veteran, as compared to Steve Nash. James Harden seems to have renewed his commitment to winning basketball. All points indicate a bounce-back year from him, and with a full offseason to familiarize the system, sky’s the limit for the Sixers. With these possibilities and their flexibility and leverage for trades, the Sixers can trigger a domino effect throughout the league.