— Matt Cahill
This series should be fairly straightforward because the Nets are clearly no match for the 76ers. That fact alone should terrify all Sixers fans because historically that’s when this group plays down to the opposition. The last time I felt so certain of a series victory was when this team collapsed against the Atlanta Hawks two years ago, so I am left to wonder whether I should be using my head or my heart to decide this. Let’s consider the facts…
The 76ers have the two best players on either team in Embiid and Harden. Harden always plays better after some days off to rest, so there is plenty of reason to believe that he will start this series off hot, at least for the first two games. No one in the league really has an answer for Joel Embiid, but the Nets have no one beyond Nic Claxton who can even make him work up a sweat, and truthfully Claxton is just too light and physically overmatched to handle Joel.
The Nets have a whole squad full of guys who are nice, but not scary. I would be happy to have Spencer Dinwiddie, Cameron Johnson, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, or Dorian Finney-Smith on the SIxers, but as bench players. They are wonderful role players who aren’t good enough to decide a series. The biggest threat in Brooklyn is the pride of Great Valley High School, Mikal Bridges. He is good enough to affect the series on both ends (and would look wonderful in a Brotherly Love uniform), but he doesn’t have enough help to lift the Nets this year. Almost everyone the Nets throw out on the floor is a natural small forward, which makes them long, athletic, and quick, but not much else.
At the end of the day, this series has almost nothing to do with Brooklyn and is simply about the Sixers. Philadelphia was a league best 42-16 over the last 58 games and when they play aggressive and smart they really are that good. If they can defend, rebound, run when the opportunity arises, and don’t lose the Embiid bench minutes too badly this series should be a sweep. Having said that, there always seems to be at least one game where Maxey, Harris, and the bench all disappear, so I have zero confidence in that.
Final prediction: Sixers in 5