People are already starting to write off the 76ers in the upcoming playoffs because of a major injury to Ben Simmons that could potentially sideline him for the remainder of the year. Simmons is a huge loss as he’s one of the best point guards in the game who’s also been the 76ers primary playmaker and their main perimeter defender.
While doubting the 76ers make sense, I don’t believe they are completely done just yet. It’s possible that the Boston Celtics could crush them in the first round, however, here are a couple of things that the 76ers could do to potentially stay afloat in the NBA playoffs.
Fully Unleash Joel Embiid
This is Joel Embiid’s time to shine. Whether you think Simmons and Embiid are a good duo or not, you have to recognize that the paint is going to be completely wide open for the first time in his career. At his best, Embiid is a man who can be the best player on the floor on any given night. He’s a dominant low-post scorer who can stretch it out to the three-point line and protect the rim for the 76ers. His great two-way ability and pure dominance on the court makes him an absolute force and a nightmare for opposing centers to guard.
You also have to keep in mind that the 76ers are playing the Celtics in the first round, a team that is notorious for having a weak rim protector in Daniel Theis. Embiid struggled against the Celtics in the regular season but he also struggled with injuries. When he was fully healthy, he dropped 38 points and 13 rebounds on the Celtics.
The big thing for him is going to be consistency. Each and every night he is going to have to show that he’s the best player on the court and dominate. He’s the best player on this team and would be the best player in a first round series with the Celtics and a potential second round series with the Raptors. The question will be, can Embiid sustain that over the course of a seven game series?
The Shooters Need To Shoot
One of the key things Philadelphia needs to do more in the bubble is shoot three pointers. Currently, the 76ers rank 11th in 3P% and 19th in 3PA per game. They need to start shooting more three pointers as a team. Of the guys that get significant minutes for this team, six players shoot over 35% and guys like Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz shoot over 40% from distance.
Tobias Harris has actually been slightly disappointing as a three-point shooter this year, but his shot selection has been a lot better in the bubble. He’s cut back on all of the mid-range jumpers he loves to take and has been shooting more threes. He’ll be key for the 76ers as the number one perimeter shot creator and primary bucket getter on the wing.
They also need the role players to hit their shots as well. Milton has shot 43% from three this year and has been thrust into the starting lineup. He needs to be more aggressive in terms of shooting and scoring because his efficiency is great, and he’s a solid shot creator. Guys like Alec Burks, Korkmaz, and Josh Richardson will all need to hit their threes off the catch, which shouldn’t be too much to ask.
The 76ers have solid three point shooters, but they need to improve their volume because that will help them win games, and it will help them comeback if they’re down big.
Limit Al Horford’s Minutes
Al Horford was one of the most brutal signings of last year’s free agency frenzy. Since joining the 76ers, Horford has been a shell of his former self and has shown that he is a terrible fit in Philadelphia. His all-world defense plummeted and his rather good efficiency took a dip as well. He’s been a terrible fit alongside Simmons and Embiid, and the 76ers would be wise to cut his minutes drastically.
By doing so, Harris would be allowed to play his natural position (power forward) and the overall spacing that Philadelphia needs would be a lot better. Horford would be a fine backup center for this team, however, he should not get extended minutes due to the fact that he’s a horrible fit and quite frankly washed-up. Limiting Horford’s minutes will be extremely beneficial for this team.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Yes, the 76ers are missing their DPOY candidate Simmons, however, they had the eighth best Defensive Rating this year and that’s been the most consistent part of their team by far. Without Simmons, they still have a bunch of versatile defenders that can make up for his loss.
Embiid is still one of the game’s most forceful rim protectors and an overall great defender. Richardson is an awesome perimeter defender who’s held Jaylen Brown to eight points on 3/6 shooting, eight points on 3/9 shooting, and six points on 2/12 shooting. Rookie Matisse Thybulle has also been an incredible defender this season with a +1.2 DPIPM. Harris has also been a positive defensively this season. Even guys like Glenn Robinson III, Burks, and Milton aren’t half bad. The offense may be a bit shaky, but Philadelphia is going to be able to stay in games because of their good defense.
The 76ers are certainly a wild card heading into the playoffs, but I’m not completely out on them yet. Matchups are key in the playoffs, and Boston is a great matchup for this team. I’m not saying the 76ets win the series, but I think they have a much better shot than people are giving them. This team is still extremely talented with a lot of fight left in them, and they may not be done quite yet.