The 2020 NBA playoffs are just over a month away, and despite how disappointing the Sixers season has been, they will in fact be participating. Currently bouncing between the 4th, 5th and 6th seed, the Sixers are due for a first-round match-up with either the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat.
So, who would the Sixers rather face?
The Heat are the current 4th seed in the eastern conference and seem like the most likely opponent for Philadelphia come April. Whether Philly settles back in at the five spot, or finds a way to climb up and overtake Miami, a first-round meeting with the Jimmy Butler led Heat seems inevitable.
For the most part, the Heat aren’t as talented as Philly. While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo both are having All-Star level years, the rest of their lineup is made up of a mish-mash of undrafted players and aging veterans. Banking on Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson to light it up in the postseason seems like a poor bet.
Philly could get home-court advantage facing Miami. If Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons return to action sooner rather than later, they could, in theory, drag the Sixers up above the Heat. It seems borderline impossible that the Sixers would lose a home playoff series this year.
On the other hand, if Miami gets home-court advantage, that’s an entire beast that the Sixers really don’t want to have to handle. Miami is known for having a strong fan base while also having an extravagant party scene in the city (which tends to distract visiting teams).
Jimmy Butler will be out for revenge. Whether he wants to admit it or not, his departure from Philly was a messy one. It never seemed like he liked Ben all that much and he clearly didn’t get along with Brett Brown. Butler is known league-wide for his clutch factor, and will no doubt be at the top of his game for a playoff series against his old team.
The current three seed in the eastern conference, Boston is showing no signs of slowing down/falling in the standings. Led by first-time All-Star Jasyon Tatum, the Celtics have been on an absolute tear recently. With the Sixers beat up and shorthanded, them landing in the sixth seed and having to play a road series against Boston is quite possible.
The Sixers have dominated Boston this year. Philly won the first three games against Boston this season, taking the series by a score of 3-1. They’ve done this shorthanded at times too, missing Horford one game and Embiid for the other.
Al Horford is also on the 76ers now! Despite the Sixers fan base collectively hating Horford and his absurdly big contract, him not being with Boston anymore is a pretty darn good thing. Embiid would be guarded by the likes of Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter. That should be easy pickings for the 3x All-Star center.
The Celtics are red-hot. Like, stupid red-hot. Tatum averaged 30 points per game in the month of February and guys like Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart have really elevated their play in the absence of Kemba Walker. Once Kemba returns, on paper, the Celtics look like a legit finals contender.
It’d be an absolutely grueling first round for Philly. A series against Boston would most likely stretch to seven games, which would, of course, include four games on the road up in Massachusetts. That’s an absolute grinder for the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs. Even if they win, how much more would they have left to offer in the next round?
Final conclusion? A first-round match-up against Miami seems like it would play out far better for Philadelphia in the long run. You always want to compete for the higher seed, and avoiding the Celtics altogether would be ideal. While playing four games in Miami is still bad news for a Sixers team which struggles on the road, the likelihood of a young Heat team faltering in the first round seems the most likely.
Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
David is a 20 year old college student at the University of Maryland. A lifelong Philadelphia sports fan who started covering the teams back in late May of 2019. After just a few months of writing for fun on a personal blog, he now reports on the 76ers for PhillySportsNetwork.com and the Phillies for Fansided.com.