Predicting the likeliest Christmas Day opponent for the 76ers next season

Joel Embiid, 76ers - Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid, 76ers - Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2023-24 season may still be a couple of months away, but the schedule for the upcoming campaign should be unveiled sooner than later. And as customary, the NBA is likely to release the annual Christmas Day slate to kick the tires on the much-anticipated calendar. Last season, the Philadelphia 76ers hosted the New York Knicks for their fourth appearance in the last six years.

Naturally, with the league usually featuring the best players in the Christmas games, reigning Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid should be more than enough for the 76es to still be on deck. But aside from that, with various narratives surrounding Philadelphia, the team should have no shortage of interesting matchups with other clubs that could make for another memorable game during the holidays.

Which team is most likely to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas Day?

Last year, the 76ers faced the Knicks at home. However, the NBA rarely repeat the same Christmas Day matchup for the consecutive year. The last time they did it was in 2015 to 2017 when Golden State and Cleveland faced each other for three straight years.

In the East, the Boston Celtics are probably the most compelling matchup for Philly, having eliminated the Sixers in the 2023 playoffs in a riveting seven-game series. Add that to the fact that both teams have long been rivals dating back to the previous century, and you have yourself a matchup filled with pizzazz and a rich lore.

Reigning East champs Miami could also be an intriguing opponent for the 76ers with former Sixer Jimmy Butler still having some bad blood with the franchise. Milwaukee, which faced Philadelphia on Christmas in 2019, is also a feasible foe. Up-and-coming Cleveland should also be in the mix for their first Christmas game since LeBron skipped town.

Out West, the reigning NBA champions, the Denver Nuggets, are undoubtedly the most appealing adversary for the 76ers. The Christmas Games have always included the defending champs, but aside from that, a Nuggets-76ers pairing would be filled with narratives, the flashiest of which will be the Nikola Jokic-Joel Embiid matchup in a battle of the Finals MVP and the Season MVP.

That being said, the West is also not bereft of marquee teams that could give 76ers fans a much-needed holiday basketball thrill. At least one of the Los Angeles teams will surely be in the slate. Ditto for Golden State, whose clout will be more than enough for them to make an appearance on Christmas Day for the 10th consecutive year (for the record, 11 teams have played less than 10 since their inception). Star-studded Phoenix with its new Big Three should also not be counted out.

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Prediction: Denver Nuggets

Ultimately, the Denver Nuggets make the most sense as an opponent for the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas Day. The defending champions always play at home, giving the Sixers a tough test on a hostile environment which can also give Joel Embiid a shot at one-upping Nikola Jokic for once.