The Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the most confusing teams in the NBA over the last few seasons. During the 2018-19 season, the Sixers had likely the best lineup that they’ve had in recent memory, yet only made it to the second round. The lineup consisting of Ben Simmons, JJ Reddick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid was sent home in Game 7 by Kawhi Leonard and his former Toronto Raptor team. It’s safe to say that the Sixers’ organization hasn’t been the same since “the shot.”
Last season, the Sixers managed to unload Simmons on to the Nets in a blockbuster trade for James Harden. The Simmons drama impacted the Sixers throughout the first half of the season, finally ending at the trade deadline. The unfortunate losses for Philadelphia in this trade were Seth Curry and Andre Drummond. Both of them quickly became fan-favorites as they stepped into their roles with ease. However, the Sixers had to move on and begin the Harden era in Philadelphia.
Similarly to the 2018-19 season, the Sixers didn’t have the ending that they would’ve liked. They fell to the Miami Heat in the second round, taking the series to six games. That being said, this was Harden’s first half-season with the team and Tyrese Maxey was only in his sophomore season. Embiid was also dealing with multiple injuries, missing the first two games of the series. Expectations for the Sixers are mixed heading into the season. Let’s look at three possibl outcomes or Philadelphia heading into the 2022-23 NBA season.
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Worst possible outcome for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2022-23
The Philadelphia 76ers finished as the fourth seed in the east last season, and they didn’t get any worse over the offseason. If anything, they got a lot better with just a few off-season moves. As far as the starting lineup goes, the Sixers will have Harden, Maxey, P.J. Tucker, Harris, and Embiid. This is a very balanced starting lineup. The addition of Tucker moved more depth to the bench.
While all of this sounds ideal, it is important to remember that they are in a very strong Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks are viewed as the favorites heading into this season, with the Heat and the Sixers trailing shortly behind them. However, the addition of Donovan Mitchell to the Cavaliers makes the east much more competitive. The Cavs will be the only other team in the East that could potentially give the Sixers a run for their money at the four seed. For this reason, assuming everyone stays healthy, the lowest that the Sixers will fall to is the fifth seed.
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Best possible outcome for the Philadelphia 76ers
As previously mentioned, the Sixers’ off-season moves make them a much more complete team. More than anything, those in the starting lineup complement one another very nicely. Defensively, the starting backcourt isn’t great, but the bench unit has multiple defensive studs. Namely, Matisse Thybulle and the newly acquired De’Anthony Melton bring a ton to the table. The bench has some of the most depth that the Sixers have seen in recent years. Additionally, the bench unit will likely always be running with Harden or Embiid and Maxey or Harris.
To focus more on the starting lineup, Maxey and Harden could prove to be one of the best backcourts in the league. Harden had a shaky season with the Sixers, but Maxey was a most improved player candidate. Maxey also got noticeably better since Harden’s arrival in Philadelphia. If Maxey can have another year of progression, the sky is the limit for this team. Harden has seemed to work harder over this offseason than we’ve seen him work in a very long time. He quickly went from being viewed as unathletic to very fit after he posted some pictures on social media.
If Harden can play up to standard this season, this will be a very scary team. Embiid will likely be an MVP candidate again, making this big three one of the best in the league. If all goes to plan, and the players can play individually how they’re supposed to, this could be a top-two team in the Eastern Conference.
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Most realistic outcome
The margin between their floor and ceiling isn’t very wide, making expectations easy to pinpoint. Due to the improvements made over the offseason, the Sixers will likely finish as the three seed in the east. From there, it will be really hard to say how well they’ll be able to do in the playoffs. This is mainly because of their lack of success in previous years. That being said, this is very possibly the best lineup that they’ve had in over a decade.
This could be the year that they are viewed as legitimate contenders come playoff time, but there are a lot of variables that could go wrong in the NBA. No matter what, the city of brotherly love has a lot to be excited about this year when it comes to the Philadelphia 76ers.