Philadelphia 76ers: Raptors’ Finals appearance reinforces the need to run it back

Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers lost to the eventual Eastern Conference Finals on a fluky bounce. Run. It. Back.

All credit to the Toronto Raptors, who deserve every bit of their 2019 NBA Finals appearance. Kawhi Leonard has been absolute bonkers, Kyle Lowry has stepped up in big moments and the fanbase has been passionately awaiting this moment for 24 years.

With that said, the Philadelphia 76ers should take some solace in the Raptors’ success. It proves Philadelphia was a true contender. Perhaps just a bounce away from Finals contention. It should also persuade the Sixers to run it back at all costs.

I have advocated for the Sixers to run it back since Leonard’s shot ricocheted in. Now, as Toronto prepares to host the Golden State Warriors on Monday, it’s even more evident. The Sixers were too close to make sweeping changes. At least not willingly.

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Assuming Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris want to come back, the Sixers should pay up. With their window for burning cap space coming to a close next summer, Elton Brand will find no better use for the $190 million each can earn. Even if it’s overpaying in a vacuum.

Philadelphia outplayed Toronto for long stretches of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, at one point holding a 2-1 series lead and narrowly losing Game 4. Joel Embiid was hobbled all series, dealing with compounding knee issues and illnesses. He had several genuinely bad offensive games, yet still registered a +90 for the series.

If Embiid gets to even 80-90 percent effectiveness, the Sixers probably win the series. If the reserves behind Embiid were better than Greg Monroe or Boban Marjanovic, the Sixers probably win the series. Brett Brown couldn’t afford to go beyond seven deep, which hurts regardless of situation.

The Sixers were on the precipice of title contention and eliminated on a lucky bounce. Again, major credit to Kawhi and the Raptors — they were a great team and Kawhi was the best player all series. Lucky and undeserving are different terms.

But it’s fair to say the Sixers had a chance. A very real, very attainable chance to make the NBA Finals. I’m of the persuasion Milwaukee would have been a formidable challenge — we can’t assume Philadelphia walks through that series — but the Sixers were in the East’s top tier. There’s no denying that.

When zooming out, the Sixers were arguably a top 3-5 NBA team. Golden State, Toronto, Milwaukee and Houston are the only teams in the same conversation. The Sixers, as the roster currently stands, can compete for an Eastern Conference title.

The Raptors’ stunning victory over Milwaukee should convince management to run it back. It should also convince Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to re-sign, if winning is their top priority. The Sixers are right there.

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A better bench, a healthier Embiid, a more experienced Ben Simmons and more continuity could push the Sixers over the edge. RUN IT BACK.