What the Philadelphia 76ers Need to Do Before the 2021 NBA Season Starts
The Philadelphia 76ers spent years tanking and acquiring young talent. The goal was to build a core that would compete for multiple NBA Championships, but the organization is yet to become a true contender for the title.
In fact, the 2019-20 season felt like a step back and it cost head coach Brett Brown his job. Doc Rivers was appointed in his place and Daryl Morey arrived to strengthen the front office.
The ambitions are obviously high, but the question is if the franchise has what it takes to compete for a championship. I don’t think that’s the case because the Philadelphia 76ers need to address several big problems to become a strong challenger in 2021.
Let’s take a look at them.
Decide Between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
There’s little doubt that both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are extraordinary talents that could lead an NBA team to the title. The problem is that it looks increasingly unlikely that they could do it together.
Both stars operate mostly in the paint and that creates a huge spacing problem for the 76ers. The team has enough talent to make up for that during the regular season, but once the NBA playoffs are here, it’s close to impossible to expect wins against the strongest opponents in the league.
Every team with a good head coach and enough defensive talent can stop the 76ers in the postseason right now.
The awkward fit between Embiid and Simmons certainly is the major issue here, although, the organization’s other deals didn’t help either. The likes of Al Horford, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson don’t provide enough outside shooting either.
And yet, the 76ers were struggling even before they arrived. The franchise has to make a decision and move one of the two stars. It’s a tough choice, to be honest, but I believe that letting Simmons go would be the best option.
The team could get rid of a huge contract and receive all sorts of assets in return. The 76ers could look for draft picks and a player like Jrue Holiday or Buddy Hield that can deliver threats from downtown.
The other path would be to release Joel Embiid and there’s an argument for that too, mostly because of his injury issues.
And yet, the big man has a way more traditional role for his position which makes it easier to build around. Simmons is a great player as well, but he needs the right pieces that might prove harder to find.
To be honest, I don’t think that Philadelphia will move any of them and Daryl Morey confirmed my suspicions recently. If that’s truly the case, the organization better address some of the other pressing issues.
Move Al Horford and/or Tobias Harris
The salaries of Tobias Harris and Al Horford are nothing short of absurd. The duo is owed over $61 million next season and both guys are under contract for at least two more campaigns after 2020-21.
That’s bad enough without any context but is nothing short of abysmal if you look at what they bring to the table. Both are a bad fit around Embiid and Simmons, mostly because they are not elite shooters.
Harris is an inefficient volume scorer that doesn’t bring your team that many wins, while Horford is a useful veteran who can be a decent fourth or fifth option at this point in his career.
Their presence on the roster is not only hurting the starting lineup because they don’t help with the spacing, but it also destroys the bench because their salaries take over 50% of the cap. The 76ers simply don’t have money for the second unit which is the reason they were 26th in the league in points from the bench in 2019-20.
That’s a complete disaster and at least one of the two players has to be traded. I haven’t seen any credible rumors about a potential move at this point and I’m not surprised. Both contracts are terrible and the organization will have to get creative to get rid of them.
If the 76ers fails to trade any of the two, I don’t see how the team could compete for the NBA Championship next season.
For the Love of God, Get Some Shooters
I’ve mentioned the lack of spacing and outside shooting a number of times, so it’s obvious that the Philadelphia 76ers need players who can score threes.
We once again see reports on how Ben Simmons is working on his jumper, but we’ve heard that before. I simply don’t believe that the guard will develop a reliable mid-range shot at this point and speaking about the three-point line is laughable.
The 76ers will need to find more shooting from downtown somewhere else. There are some excellent free agents like Davis Bertans and Joe Harris available, but the cap space is a huge problem. I don’t see how the franchise can acquire any of them without moving a big contract.
The other option would be to rely on the draft. The organization has five picks in 2020, but the problem is that the highest among them is the 21st selection.
The 76ers could trade several picks to move up and get a better prospect, or simply try to go for the best shooters with all of their selections and hope that some of the rookies start contributing from the bench right away.
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the weirdest NBA teams right now. The organization has plenty of talent, but no chemistry whatsoever, and big changes are needed during this offseason.
On the bright side, we know that Daryl Morey was never afraid to make bold moves and he might be the only hope of the team. Something wild is required and the new GM might be able to deliver. Until that happens, the 76ers are not a title contender, in my opinion.
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