Depressing statistic highlights 76ers' playoff struggles

One tidbit serves as a major eye opener when it comes to Philadelphia's recent disappointments in the postseason.
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that the Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the most prosperous Eastern Conference teams of the last seven seasons. Finishing in the top four of the standings five times since 2017-18, the Sixers are clearly a consistent winner thanks to the otherworldly talent of Joel Embiid.

In more recent years, the addition of Tyrese Maxey and key role players have helped keep Philly among the top contenders out East. For much of this past season they were right behind the Boston Celtics, and even grabbed the top spot for several weeks early in the year. But as we know, the 76ers' Achilles heel in this era has been the postseason.

Philadelphia simply has not been able to break through in the playoffs under the leadership of Embiid. Even when things seemed to be lining up to favor them or an easier path began to form, the Sixers have folded time and time again. Of course, several of these instances have involved terrible injury luck.

Take this past season, where Philly was having to rely on an Embiid hampered by Bell's Palsy and left knee issues. Joel was fighting tooth and nail while putting his health on the line in the name of getting the 76ers wins, but it was not in the cards yet again. These consistent disappointments in April and May are depressing on their own, but one statistic truly serves to highlight just how much this team has fallen short as of late.

The 76ers are one of three East teams to not make the conference finals since 2002

Since the end of the 2002 NBA playoffs, 12 out of the 15 Eastern Conference teams have advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. The only teams that have not? The Washington Wizards, the Charlotte Hornets, and, you guessed it, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Truthfully, Wizards and Hornets fans do not have much to be ashamed of at the mention of their team's names on this list. The most promise Washington has had in the last 20 years was arguably the John Wall and Bradley Beal era, and no one really ever expected that team to come close to winning a championship.

The same is true for Charlotte, with neither the Kemba Walker nor LaMelo Ball-led squads really ever emerging as true contenders. But the story is much different for the 76ers. With Embiid playing like one of the best players in the world and taking home an MVP award, there has been significant pressure on him to bring Philadelphia to the promised land.

And that reality has simply not materialized. Despite numerous favorable paths in the playoffs, the Sixers have found ways to lose rather than ways to win over the last several years. Embiid, as great as he is, remains the only MVP in NBA history to never make the conference finals.

This is a massive indictment on the 76ers, Embiid, and everyone who has failed to capitalize on opportunity after opportunity over the last six seasons. If Philly wants to save its image and dispel the notion they are playoff chokers, next season will be pivotal in an always-competitive Eastern Conference.