The Philadelphia 76ers have finished another regular season in the Joel Embiid era of the team. The Embiid-led Sixers finished 54-28, which wound up the Sixers’ highest win total in a season since the ‘85-’86 season. T
heir record was good enough to place in third place in the Eastern Conference and the seeding drew them the sixth-best team record-wise in the East, the Brooklyn Nets. Despite the Sixers being comfortable favorites to advance to the second round, the Nets will test them in this first-round matchup because of their energetic, high-tempo play style and a roster loaded with do-a-little-bit-of-everything perimeter players.
The 76ers will face stiff competition in the first round of the NBA playoffs
The Brooklyn Nets have a completely different roster than the one they came into the season with. That has been highly publicized as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were sent to Phoenix and Dallas to start anew in their careers. Brooklyn has qualified for the sixth seed by playing as a collective.
The team’s potency on offense is led by Mikal Bridges’ late-season leap (more on that later) as he is one of ten players in the rotation that are averaging more than seven points per game. Brooklyn can share the ball and score the basketball in a more fundamental, together type of manner that coaches love to see. The Nets like to get out in transition to get open jump shots due to the team’s overall lack of vertical athleticism. Brooklyn ranks eighth in the NBA in fastbreak points per game at 14.7. The transition game allows Brooklyn to potentially deploy eight of their players shooting higher than 37 percent from three-point land.
Brooklyn’s bench is one of the team’s strengths that contributes to their play-style as they are the eighth-highest scoring bench out of the remaining playoff teams. Brooklyn’s bench mob’s bread and butter for shot-making are three-pointers. According to NBA.com, the Nets’ bench was the cream of the crop with in terms of three-point percentage as they tied with the LA Clippers at 38.5 percent from beyond the arc. The secondary unit generally is led by sharpshooters Seth Curry and Joe Harris. So far this season against the Sixers, Curry is averaging 23 points and three assists in 29 minutes on 50 percent shooting from the field and 56.3 percent from behind the three-point line. Harris numbers are more on the modest side of things but is still a dead-eye shooter, scoring 9.7 points on 47.4 percent three-point shooting in 19.4 minutes.
The Brooklyn Nets have a surplus of a player archetype that the Sixers have lacked for years. Brooklyn is loaded with wing players who can a little bit of everything on the basketball court. The rotations may change as the series goes but all of these guys can survive on the court in the playoffs at the very least. The depth chart of two-way perimeter players consists of as well as led by budding star Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale, Spencer Dinwiddie, Yuta Watanabe, and Joe Harris. All of the players here can dribble, shoot, pass, and defend.
Bridges has truly hit another gear in his game since being traded to Brooklyn. The second time he has been traded in his career, the first is famously a draft night trade between the Sixers and Suns. In 27 games with Brooklyn, Bridges averages 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1 steal on .475/.376/.894 shooting splits in 34.2 minutes per game. The swingman is playing two less minutes per game for the Nets than he had for the Suns in the regular season.
Bridges’ scoring saw a dramatic and positive jump from 17.2 to 26.1 points per game. This simply came down to Bridges’ ability to get to his spots. He can use his size, length, quickness, and touch to find areas in the mid-range to drain those jumpers as it is a dependable part of what Brooklyn does on offense. That is where Bridges’ shot creation and shot making abilities have grown in his short time playing for the Nets. He is being treated like and he has positioned himself to be the first option on a playoff team.
The Philadelphia 76ers have fought hard to make it the beginning point of the their journey to an NBA championship. The Brooklyn Nets are the first opponent that the Sixers have to go through and their rosters’ strengths certainly are able to test the Philadelphia 76ers in a seven-game series. The clash of styles will show how the Sixers will need to make a concerted effort to be locked in for a full 48 minutes of playoff basketball