5 Eastern Conference teams that should scare the Sixers

James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Why the Cleveland Cavaliers should scare the Sixers

The Cavaliers will not be plucky underdogs for long if they keep it up. Cleveland is 5-1 despite Darius Garland missing virtually the entire season to date. Donovan Mitchell is playing the best basketball of his career, Jarrett Allen looks like a DPOY candidate, and Evan Mobley is still rounding into form.

Cleveland has top-end talent and depth. For the Sixers, any fear will stem primarily from the backcourt. Small, twitchy creators with burst have always had their way with Philly’s defense. Cleveland has two of them. Mitchell and Garland are going to get right into the teeth of the Sixers’ defense and create a lot of open 3s off dribble penetration. If this matchup comes to pass, expect to see a lot of De’Anthony Melton. The Sixers will need every ounce of his defensive talent.

The good thing for Philadelphia is that Joel Embiid has historically handled Jarrett Allen quite easily. Allen is an elite shot blocker with excellent instincts around the basket, but he’s skinny. Embiid can go right through his chest. On the flip side, Cleveland does possess a lot of length in the frontcourt and the capacity to throw different looks in Embiid’s direction. Defenses are never completely tuned in to a player’s strengths or weaknesses until the playoffs. Under the magnifying glass of postseason basketball, Embiid could find the Cavs’ defense quite challenging.

The same can be said for Harden. He won’t find much resistance in the form of Mitchell or Garland, but the Cavs have the very rare luxury of being able to throw a player like Evan Mobley at Harden. How effectively does the veteran guard break down the defense when fronted with seven feet of gangly limbs and youthful determination. Plus, Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro are both quality wing defenders who can shadow Harden on the perimeter.

The Cavs have three All-Stars from last season and the reigning No. 3 overall pick, who arguably should have been the No. 1 or 2 pick. That’s a dangerous team that should be considered a very real threat.