Sixers Listed Among Biggest Threats in Eastern Conference

Joel Embiid James Harden

Getty James Harden (left) and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.

With Joel Embiid entering the prime of his career, the Philadelphia 76ers are poised to capitalize on their window of contention opening. Over the past year, Daryl Morey has worked tirelessly to put a title-winning cast around him. First, he acquired James Harden in exchange for Ben Simmons. Then, he spent this offseason bringing in a complementing cast of role players.

While the Sixers are poised to make a deep playoff run, the competition is stiff around them. The Eastern Conference is even more stacked after the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off a blockbuster deal to acquire Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz.

Another team poised to contend in 2023 is the Boston Celtics. Fresh off making the finals last season, Jayson Tatum and company will be hungry to get back.

Ahead of this season, the people at CelticsBlog did a roundtable of possible threats to halt Boston’s chance of getting back to the finals. The new-look Sixers were commonly mentioned following their impressive offseason. 

While I agree with the consensus that Milwaukee is the toughest opponent, I think the best version of the Philadelphia 76ers can give Boston the most trouble. James Harden isn’t a #1 option on a championship team, but if he can reconfigure his game to be an elite third option behind Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid, the Sixers are a sleeping giant. They have an outstanding complementary supporting cast with Tobias Harris, Georges Niang, De’Anthony Melton, Paul Reed, and PJ Tucker (among others). Don’t be surprised if Embiid goes full Terminator on the league after his MVP and first-team all-NBA snubs. Harden’s ability and willingness to thrive in a reduced role is this team’s X-factor.

Sixers Crack Top Ten in Latest Power Rankings

Given their star power and revamped supporting cast, many are high on the Sixers heading into 2023. In ESPN’s latest power rankings, they landed in the tenth spot. The only Eastern Conference teams ahead of them are the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat.

The 76ers knew they needed to shore up some weaknesses this offseason, namely athleticism, rebounding and toughness. By adding De’Anthony MeltonDanuel House Jr. and P.J. Tucker, Philadelphia did just that. Those moves were made possible largely because James Harden took a pay cut, which signaled everyone in the franchise is pulling in the same direction.

Analyst Feels Sixers are ‘In The Hunt’ to Contend

With some players in the Sixers’ rotation being on the back end of 30, their time to make a run is now. Given their current roster makeup, one analyst feels they have one of the best short-term windows in the league.

In a recent story for Bleacher Report, Andy Bailey ranked each NBA team based on the success they’ll have over the next three years. The Sixers came in at ninth, one spot behind the LA Clippers.

Joel Embiid is smack dab in the middle of his prime. After finishing second in each of the last two MVP races, it’s safe to assume (health permitting) that he’ll be among the league’s most productive players for the next three years.

And with Tyrese Maxey, De’Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle in place, the Sixers should be able to compete for a title in 2022-23. Stability may wane a bit over the two seasons after that, but Philly is in the hunt right now.

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