It’s that time of year once again as the Philadelphia 76ers prepare for the postseason. After clinching the third seed in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers look to make a deep playoff push in hopes of winning their first championship in 40 years.
Their path will not be unimpeded, however, as the East is filled with teams who are talented and hungry, just like the Sixers. Though it is not set as of this moment, it seems likely that the Sixers’ path to the Finals would have them face the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics, and then the Milwaukee Bucks before facing their final Western Conference foe.
Whether or not that is the exact path the team must follow or if fate has other plans, one question still remains with this team.
How far can the Sixers go in the playoffs?
Over the years of the Joel Embiid era, Sixers teams have come and gone, all instilling various levels of confidence in their ability to make a deep postseason run. More often than not, it’s been easy to dwell on the team’s flaws and expect the team to fall apart despite any potentially positive hopes. That cannot be said about every team, though.
During the 2018-19 season, after the team had acquired Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, fans in Philly noticed something different about their team, an attitude, an ability, something that just assured you that this was their chance. Four bounces later, that assurance had been dashed to the ground; however, the potential of that team was clear; they were an NBA Finals contender.
That is the team that most resembles these 2022-23 Sixers. While the roster makeup has been significantly shaken up, save for Embiid, Harris, Shake Milton, and Furkan Korkmaz, and the play-style is night and day, the potential is undoubtedly reminiscent.
In recent years, the Sixers have been identified as a team who can and will blow leads, underestimate their opponents, or travel poorly (though the fans always travel well). This season though, that script has been flipped, and the Sixers have proven themselves as one of the most resilient teams in the NBA.
Vastly improved on the road, success beating the teams a contender is supposed to, and of course, the resiliency they have shown to either remain or even come back in games after being down by double-digits or far worse. This is clearly an improved and more focused team over the years past.
Regular season success does not equate to postseason success, but the team appears to be ready to make the next step and perhaps even visit the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001. Still, much will have to be done when the opportunity actually arises. The team must step up when called upon. That is the case for the bench, for PJ Tucker, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, and undoubtedly, the favorite to win this season’s MVP, Joel Embiid.
Harden has proved himself far healthier this season over last, and the team has seen great strides from Tyrese Maxey, while Tucker has brought a level of defensive intensity on the perimeter this team has not seen since Jimmy Butler. While the Sixers will rely on all of these players and more, the true focal point, the player who will either will this team to the Finals or fall short yet again, is Joel Embiid.
Embiid has seen the best season of his career and established himself as one the best players in the league, specifically, the most valuable this season. Behind him, this Philadelphia team can make it all the way though it will not be easy.
The Sixers will time and time again rely on him to deliver this postseason, and whether they make it to the Eastern Conference Semis, the Conference Finals, or the NBA Finals, they will do so with Joel Embiid leading the charge.