As if the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t have an already difficult trek ahead of them in the upcoming 2023-24 season, the Eastern Conference became even more of a bloodbath following news of the Milwaukee Bucks landing Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers via trade.
The Bucks, which logged the best season in the league in the previous campaign, promptly recalibrated after Giannis Antetokounmpo issued a strong warning to the franchise coming off an incredibly underwhelming playoff run which saw them bow down to the eight-seeded and eventual NBA Finalists Miami Heat.
The road just got tougher for the Philadelphia 76ers to win the East
A championship is what the 76ers are eyeing, but before that they must conquer the East. And as mentioned, they won’t be coming in as the favorites nor the crowd darlings to rep the Conference in next year’s NBA Finals.
Now leading the pack are the Bucks, which will trot out a formidable Big Thee with Antetokounmpo, Lillard, and a presumably healthier Khris Middleton with the likes of Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis rounding out the crew.
The Boston Celtics, led by MVP Candidate Jayson Tatum, could be their biggest rival for the top spot, and will be having an even more lethal offensive profile with Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis next to them.
We’d like to think that the 76ers are the third-best in the East as currently constructed, but the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to solve their perimeter woes in the offseason while the New York Knicks remain rock-solid.
And we haven’t even mentioned last year’s East champs yet. While Miami shockingly missed out on Lillard, you can never count a Jimmy Butler-led squad even if they usually take it a lot easier during the regular season.
All in all, Philadelphia has to a lot more to bolster their chances of representing the East in next year’s NBA Finals. Sure, the 76ers have the reigning MVP in Joel Embiid to instantly hoist them above some of their rivals, but if anything, the race out East just got a lot tougher.