The Philadelphia 76ers can compete with the Warriors
Move over Western Conference; the beast is the East these days. That’s not to say the Eastern Conference is superior; it simply means the playoffs on that side of the dividing line will likely be far more intriguing than Golden State’s annual Western Conference champion crowning party. Four teams in the East appear to be in the very realistic mix, and none is any kind of clear-cut favorite. However could the Philadelphia 76ers can compete with the Warriors?
And the Eastern Conference arms race is an epic one right now. The Philadelphia 76ers acquired Tobias Harris prior to the trade deadline; the Toronto Raptors made a deal for Marc Gasol; the Milwaukee Bucks landed Nikola Mirotic; the Boston Celtics were already loaded. And it’s still going on, too, as Toronto got Jeremy Lin via waivers from Atlanta.
Unlike the Warriors in the West, the question over which team will emerge from the East’s postseason scrum is an obvious one. But there’s an even better question to be ask: which squad—Philadelphia, Toronto, Milwaukee, or Boston—would have the best chance of taking down Golden State?
With Harris, Philly teeters on status of East favorite
The East arms race began with Philadelphia landing Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott from the Clippers in exchange for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, and various first-round and second-round draft picks. Look no further than the 76ers’ new starting lineup to see what that trade brings to their table: Ben Simmons at point guard, J.J. Redick at shooting guard, Jimmy Butler at small forward, Harris at power forward, and Joel Embiid at center. No other team in the Eastern Conference and no other team in the entire NBA outside of the Warriors can compete with that kind of starting five.
In this day and age, the NBA has become a high-scoring, outside-shooting league. Harris’ acquisition only makes the Sixers even more prolific in those departments. He is averaging 20.7 points per game this season on 49.7 percent shooting—including a 43.0 percent clip from three-point range. Harris and Redick (39.5 percent from deep) make for one of the most dangerous sweet-shooting duos in the association.
76ers on offense
Not too much unlike with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (at least until the Super Bowl, in which they scored only 13 points…and still won!), you aren’t going to stop the Warriors’ high-powered offense. After all, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and company are once again leading the NBA in scoring (with room to spare) at 118.8 points per game. The only way to beat them—as difficult as it sounds—is to outscore them with a similarly ridiculous offensive arsenal. Philadelphia, as its aforementioned starting five indicates, has that offense. Head coach Brett Brown’s squad is third in the league at 115.9 ppg, sixth in shooting (47.5 percent), eighth in three-point accuracy (36.1 percent, and improving with Harris), and third in assists (27.4 apg). Embiid would be a mismatch for whatever the opposition throws at him in a potential NBA Finals series, because the Warriors’ one weakness–as always–is the lack of an offensive post presence.
76ers on defense
Yes, it would also be nice to contain Golden State at the other end of the floor. Unfortunately, nobody plays much defense in the association anymore; the 76ers, however, at least play some. Although they are a modest 20th in the NBA at 112.2 ppg allowed, a lot of that has to do with their up-tempo style of play. They are a solid eighth in the league in opponents’ field-goal percentage (45.3) and seventh in opponents’ three-point shooting percentage (34.5). That king of perimeter defending from Butler, Simmons, and Harris would go a long way toward making the NBA Finals competitive.