The Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid couldn’t overcome the upstart Atlanta Hawks and fell in a decisive Game 7.
Now that seasons are coming to an end, it is time to write the obituary for the 2020-2021 seasons that were. Looking back on each team that made the playoffs will give a chance to look at what went right and what went wrong. It will also allow us to look ahead to what’s to come during the offseason to come.
The jokes and the trade machine are fired up. The Philadelphia 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs. What do they do from here?
After a season that saw the Philadelphia 76ers assert themselves again as one of the best teams in the league, they find themselves facing another second-round disappointment. This season was meant to be a new direction for the team with a change in leadership in the front office and on the sideline and yet the result seems to be the same. So how did the Sixers get here?
Philadelphia was one of the best teams all season. They boasted the second-best defensive rating (107.0) during the regular season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons finished as runners-up for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year respectively. Tobias Harris arguably had the best season of his career. Seth Curry was a steal of an offseason trade and provided the Sixers with the rare shooter to play alongside Embiid and Simmons.
However, even at their height it always felt like this was a roster in transition. Daryl Morey clearly tried to trade Ben Simmons for James Harden and that is unlikely to be his only attempt to trade the All-Star. Simmons showed in the postseason that his offensive game still leaves a lot to be desired and unless the roster is built around him in a way that he is actually a post player and not a point guard then those struggles are unlikely to dissipate. Unfortunately, that is not a fit around Joel Embiid, who also deserves to have a team built around him. Hence, the crossroads.
What Comes Next
Testing the market on Ben Simmons is the popular sports media trend of the day but that is not without merit. The fit of Simmons and Embiid together was always forced and finding a new team for Simmons is best for everyone involved. However, the return for Simmons has to have diminished based on his repeated playoff shortcomings.
Beyond Simmons, there is some change coming to the city of brotherly love. Danny Green is a free agent, as is Mike Scott, Dwight Howard, Furkan Korkmaz and potentially George Hill. A Simmons trade needs to be the priority so they can go after the right veterans with the limited cap space they will have available to them. Morey is known as the kind of executive who can pull trades out of nowhere to reshape a roster, but this will be a new test of what he is capable of. Doc Rivers’ postgame comments about Simmons following the second-round loss certainly do not make it easier. This season, there is no easy answer like firing Brett Brown.