Philadelphia 76ers need the top seed in the East

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Entering the All-Star break, the Philadelphia 76ers control the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and just earned a statement win against the NBA-leading Jazz. However, the Sixers only hold a half-game lead over the Nets and two game lead over the Bucks, both of whom have been playing good basketball as of late.

While the success of the Sixers’ season will be defined by the playoffs, Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers should be going all out for the number one seed.

A first-place finish would give the Philadelphia 76ers a clear path to Finals contention.

There are three major advantages of getting the number one seed. First, the Sixers are elite at home and just mediocre on the road. Much has been made of the Sixers’ home success and road woes over the past few seasons, and that has continued this year. The Sixers are 16-3 at home with a point differential of +6.6 but are just 8-9 on the road with a net-zero point differential.

Getting the number one seed would guarantee home-court advantage until the Finals, something that would come in handy in potential matchups against the Nets or Bucks. A critical game seven at home versus on the road could be the difference in a series win. Could home-court advantage have swung the Sixers’ seven-game series loss against the Raptors two seasons ago? It is a very strong possibility, so the Sixers should guarantee it won’t happen again by getting the one seed.

Second, assuming the Nets and Bucks remain in the two and three slots, the Sixers could avoid both until the conference finals if they get the number one seed. The path to the Finals gets much easier if the Sixers only have to beat one of those two teams. Both the Nets and the Bucks are very good teams, but in an ideal world the Bucks would beat the Nets in a tough second-round series that wears out the Bucks.

The Sixers can definitely beat either of those teams in a seven game series, but beating both in back-to-back rounds would be difficult and exhausting. The Sixers would still have to play one of the Celtics, Heat, or Raptors in the second round, but those teams are a tier below the Bucks and Nets.

Third, the one seed would provide the easiest matchup in the first-round. This isn’t as big of a deal for the one seed compared to the two seed, as the seventh and eight seeds in the East won’t be too scary. Falling to third would be rough as the Sixers would most likely play one of the Celtics, Heat, or Raptors in round one, not exactly warmup material for the playoffs.

The Pacers, Knicks, Bulls, Hornets, and Hawks are all in contention for the seventh and eight seeds, and none of those teams should worry the Sixers. Trae Young and the Hawks have given the Sixers a bit of trouble over the last year or two, but the Sixers have generally performed well against the other teams in that list.

If getting the top seed in the East is a priority for this team, Morey should be looking to improve the depth of the team. The Sixers could use much more front-court depth, particularly a backup power forward and another center if the team plans to rest Joel Embiid occasionally after the All-Star break.

The Sixers still fall apart when Embiid doesn’t play. Dwight Howard is a completely solid backup but shouldn’t play more than 20 to 25 minutes a night even without Embiid. Getting a third center to fill the gap and allow Embiid to rest would help the Sixers get the top seed and Embiid stay healthy for the playoffs.

Also, there is still a chance that Covid-related absences could return, so any additional depth would be ideal. The Sixers could fill in the edges of the roster without giving up any real assets. Without mortgaging the future or the players’ health for the playoffs, the Sixers should do whatever it takes to get the top seed in the East.

Next. Does Embiid still have top spot on MVP ladder?. dark