Grading the Philadelphia 76ers’ potential outcomes in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
The Philadelphia 76ers are in the middle of an Eastern Conference that is as wide open as it has ever been. Their roster is also among the most talented and capable as GM Elton Brand has made several key trades. With great potential comes great expectations, so these potential grades are set by a high bar.
The Philadelphia 76ers experience a first round disaster at the hands of the Boston Celtics and the demons are deemed immortal. The chances of this matchup happening depend on how well the Indiana Pacers continue to stay afloat without their star, Victor Oladipo.
As of March 13, the Sixers and Pacers both hold records of 43-25 with Philadelphia owning the tie-breaker. The Celtics sit two games back at 41-25 and would own the tie-breaker regardless of what happens in their matchup at Wells Fargo Center on March 20. They still have two dances left with Indiana and they have split the season series 1-1. The likely scenario is that those three teams finish the season in the same position as they currently stand in the 3-4-5 seeds.
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A Sixers-Celtics matchup would all but guarantee the Coach of the Year Award to lie on Nate McMillan‘s trophy shelf as he would deserve it for keeping his star-less team in the third seed. But aside from how the standings would need to play out, this hypothetical series would have much at stake for the Sixers.
If they were to lose, it is all but certain that Brett Brown would lose his job. He might also lose his “Bostralian” accent after falling short to the Celtics two consecutive years. Rumored tensions between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid might actually reach the cusp of reality, even though Simmons implied the original ones to be false after claiming he and Embiid desired to remain in Philadelphia and win titles. Embiid himself will have the whole world watching him as a loss would mean that Al Horford picked him apart on both sides of the ball once again.
The young guns of the Celtics play at the same level they did during last season’s playoff run. Jayson Tatum silences any doubts about him during the regular season and averages 22 points per game. Jaylen Brown contributes another 16 per game while locking down all Sixers not named Embiid in isolation. Marcus Smart creates hazards for Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick. Kyrie Irving drops 30 points per contest and the pick-and-roll combination with him and either Horford or Aron Baynes leaves the Sixers in disarray. Terry Rozier adds two 20-point games in this series and Gordon Hayward shows glimpses of the 2016-17 Hayward.
Brad Stevens toys with Brown’s schemes and Celtics are wide open every other possession. The Sixers are unable to seize momentum or take control of any game. Ben Simmons would once again find himself in a situation where the Celtics refuse to guard him outside of six feet and he becomes a non-factor for large chunks of time. The clock would start ticking faster on his attempted development of a jump shot.
Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris would reconsider their free agency and perhaps look elsewhere. “The Process” would quickly turn into “The Decline” before the point of completion. Just like the Raptors could never beat LeBron James‘ Cavaliers, this would exceed that level of a one-sided “rivalry.”