After the Philadelphia 76ers lost Game 7 to the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 NBA Playoffs on Sunday, many are expecting big changes in the offseason for the Sixers franchise.
A disappointing loss in the second round will haunt this team throughout the summer and there will undoubtedly be plenty of finger pointing in the coming days. One thing that the Philadelphia 76ers brass should discuss is whether this team, as currently constructed, is really built to win a championship or if it has run its course.
If it’s the latter, then chances are that we’ve seen the end of the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons partnership which could signal the dismantling of the entire team.
But should the Philadelphia 76ers truly blow up the team? Let’s take a look at some facts first.
The Philadelphia 76ers’ had a promising regular season
Under normal circumstances, a team that had taken the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference shouldn’t be thinking of blowing up its roster after fizzling out of the second round of the playoffs. But the Philadelphia 76ers underachieved in the postseason despite an incredible regular season.
Offensively, the Sixers were third in points per game, first in field-goal percentage, second in points differential, and fifth in net rating before the playoffs. Defensively, they were seventh in points allowed, sixth in opponents’ field-goal percentage, first in opponents’ three-point field goal percentage, second in blocks, tied for first in steals, and second in defensive rating.
The Philadelphia 76ers won the third-best record in the league at 49-23 despite Joel Embiid missing 21 games during the regular season. They were humming prior to the 2021 NBA Playoffs, but the Sixers, who played against the Atlanta Hawks in the second round looked like a different team.
The first seed lost three of four home games in the series and suffered defeat after going up by 18 and 26 points in consecutive games. They collapsed at both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter in three of the last four games. It showed the team’s character flaw that did not reveal itself until adversity arrived in the playoffs.
The Ben Simmons conundrum
Ben Simmons is being viewed as the biggest culprit in the Philadelphia 76ers’ failure to advance to the conference finals. After passing up a dunk opportunity by handing the ball to teammate Matisse Thybulle during a crucial moment in the fourth quarter, Embiid looked exasperated. That singular play encapsulated Simmons’ entire series where he essentially put up stats that were historically terrible.
Simmons didn’t attempt a single field goal in the fourth quarter in Games 4 to 7, while playing 34 total minutes. Also, according to ESPN Stats & Info, his 34.2 percent free throw percentage in the playoffs is the worst postseason performance at the line in NBA history (min. 70 attempts).
Simply put, Simmons is ‘Exhibit A’ of why the Philadelphia 76ers need to make huge changes in the offseason. After Embiid called out his second-in-command during the postgame presser, Sixers coach Doc Rivers wondered if the 6-foot-11 point guard could lead a title team, and the writing is on the wall for the former number one pick.
The underachieving Philadelphia 76ers roster
Perhaps the only players who are relatively safe from scrutiny are Embiid, who played with a meniscus tear, and Seth Curry, who stepped up big time to average 21.0 points per game in the series.
Tobias Harris is versatile enough to play in either forward spot and is able to score both inside and out. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia 76ers forward’s three-point percentage dropped to 36.4 percent in the series despite making 39.4 percent in the regular season. He also had an ugly four-point outing in a Game 5 loss to the Hawks.
The biggest concern for Harris is his salary, which is at superstar level, though he hasn’t played in a single NBA All-Star Game. He’s the 14th highest-paid player in the league this season, but he’s the only one in the top 20 ever to make it to a single All-Star Game. Next season, he will be earning $36 million, a staggering number for someone who is a fringe All-Star.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a number of free agents as well, including Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Furkan Korkmaz and Mike Scott. All four players had miserable performances throughout the series and could be on their way out this offseason, too, considering how their flaws were exposed in this series.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a small window of opportunity to win with Joel Embiid, who has never played more than 64 games in a season due to injury. If they are intent on winning now, the Sixers should maximize Embiid’s best years and give him the best possible roster to complement him, particularly those who can shoot the basketball and defend.
The Philadelphia 76ers are heading into the offseason with six players in mind. The core group of Embiid, Simmons and Harris is likely going to be disbanded with only the All-Star center remaining. This would signal a break-up of most of the team’s key players and starters.
Role players could be let go in free agency, though some might be useful in sign-and-trade deals involving Simmons or Harris. Either way, the Philadelphia 76ers would do well to consider all options.
If the Philadelphia 76ers can find takers for Simmons, Harris and the rest of the aforementioned group, they could retool the roster without giving up their best player. The Sixers owe Embiid a chance to compete for the title, especially after he played through an injury in the postseason. If that means blowing up the team, they ought to do it.
Otherwise, Embiid could be out of a Philadelphia 76ers jersey in two years when his contract expires. Rather than let that happen, Philly should get rid of players who didn’t live up to expectations in the postseason.
Despite the uncertainty of the offseason, one thing is clear: Embiid cannot have the same team back next season and expect a different result.
Also Read: 3 players unlikely to return to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 2021-22 NBA Season
Stay updated with the latest NBA content via our Facebook page. Click here to follow!