I have been a doubter of the 76ers all year. It's easy to say now that it looks like they about to get bounced, but I did make a bet right after the Jimmy Butler trade where I took MIL vs PHI to win the ECF. At the time the odds were 3:2 in my favor, so I win 15k if MIL wins the ECF and lose 10k if PHI wins the ECF. I also did bet against the 76ers getting 5:1 in round 1, knowing I'm probably losing it but picking it as my only real upset in Round 1. And I did love betting against them in round 2 vs Toronto, betting at -204 and -230, and would of bet more if I could find more VF action. Also tweeted that was my favorite bet (TOR -204 print). I also talked shit about them all year at the poker table... not so much because they're bad, more because their believers were delusional as to their ceiling this year. Even though they have a lot of talent with 4 all-star level guys and Embiid who sometimes plays like one of the top guys in the league, and a starting lineup that dominates, I just didn't and don't believe.
Here's why I thought all season the 76ers have very little chance at winning the title this year.
1) "New" teams just never win due to lack of continuity playing together. You just never see a team that was newly organized achieve their peak in year 1. Players need time together to maximize their output. Basketball teams need to get a good feel for each other. They need to establish the proper roles. And the more "newness" there is, the more needs to be settled. The best recent example of this was the Miami Heat super-team failing to beat a good but inferior Dallas squad in their first NBA finals in 2011. That team went on to make the finals the next 3 years, winning the next 2 then losing to an excellent Spurs team in 2014 with Kawhi and Duncan (that it had beaten the previous year). Looking at this 76ers squad, they have 2 starters on the team in Butler & Harris that didn't even start the year with the team and were acquired in trades - Harris more than halfway through the season at the deadline. (And 2 of those 3 starters, Embiid and Simmons, are super young anyways). And when you go to the bench, the turmoil is even greater. Every bench guy getting minutes in the playoffs - Scott, Boban, Ennis, Monroe - they were all acquired this year in trades. The team has a lot of talent, but has less continuity than any team that's ever won a title as far as I know.
2) Their talented pieces don't fit right.
The most glaring problem is that they don't have enough shooting. Embiid is a 5 who can shoot ok from the outside, but I wouldn't call him a stretch 5 by any means. He's at his best taking advantage of his physical gifts around the rim. That said because Ben Simmons is such a bad shooter, and such a spacing problem, they have to sometimes play Embiid as a stretch 5 - not his natural style - and do a bunch of other things that aren't optimal (for the individual players), to try to optimize this team's results. You could play Simmons in a situation like Giannis in MIL which would be interesting, where he's surrounding by good 3 point shooters. PHI is not that situation. The fit with Embiid and Simmons is a problem. Outside of that, Butler is an ok 3-point shooter for a wing, but nothing special. Wouldn't be an issue on many other teams, but on this one they need more.
They can't guard good scoring guards. They have a problem with any good, quick scoring guard. The only real guard in the starting lineup is Redick, who can't play good defense. They have nobody to match up on a good quick guard. That's a problem because most of the great teams have one of those. In the finals they will have a problem with whoever makes it: Steph, Harden, Murray, or Lillard will all light them up. Kyrie destroys them as well although it's unlikely they play BOS in the playoffs.
They don't have enough depth. They don't have a bench that can fill in the gaps or that can even give them quality minutes really in the postseason - even with shortened rosters and longer playing time for the starters.
3) Embiid's health. It's just always an issue. He played quite a bit this year, but as per normal his health has come back to become a huge problem in the playoffs. He has already missed games in the playoff. In the games he does play he doesn't play enough minutes, and in some of the games (especially recently vs TOR) he doesn't look 100%. Without Embiid at 100% they have no shot at beating the best teams. Drawing stone dead. He's their best player and they can't afford to lose anyone really given their lack of depth, least of all Embiid.
I'm not qualified to analyze coaches, but I've heard a lot of people rip on Brett Brown (and other people defending him)... but he's a potential issue as well.
Toronto is going to beat them, and probably tomorrow in Game 6. They are -2 ATS right now, which I like. Embiid looked like shit in Game 5 and the team rolled over and gave up.
(As a long aside, Embiid kinda strikes me right now as a front-runner type. By that I mean, when things are good he's frolicking, shit-talking, and looking as dominant as anyone. When things aren't going well he's pouting, not going 100%, and always has some sort of excuse. Sick Game 2, great game 3, sick game 4 and 5??? And when he's pouting and not going 100%, the team seems to follow their best player's lead. A true in-the-trenches competitor like Giannis just feels wired different. I trust Giannis's wiring. Embiid? I'm not so sure. But he's young, incredibly talented and athletically-gifted, and things can change. But he just isn't a sure thing the way Giannis is to me between this and mostly his health. But this type of wiring is part of getting through rainy days as effectively as possible.)
I just don't see them coming back from that, and I think it ends next game vs a Toronto team with the best player in the series in Kawhi (who is making moves for the best in the world title right now), who knows they gotta keep their foot on the gas and close this out. There's no guarantee that Embiid will be 100%, without which they are in big trouble. Even if they do win this game, they have to go back to Toronto where they will be decent dogs. And even if they do somehow beat Toronto, which is possible albeit unlikely - I really don't like their chances against MIL and will pound MIL in that series if it happens. (PHI BOS is a hail mary, but even if that somehow shook out, BOS matches up great against PHI and will probably whoop them also). At this point, them even making the finals looks next to impossible IMO. Sorry Philly fans.
The (kinda) good news is next year. If some things shake right, the team could be very good going in to next year. If the following all happens, they will be one of the title favorites:
1) They resign Butler and Harris. They gave up all their assets for these guys, and losing either one for nothing in free agency (unless they replace one of them... like maybe with Kemba?) would be a big blow. But if they resign both guys, or 1 of them and get another star in FA, that's really step 1. This is Ben Simmons' last year on the rookie deal, and next year is when they can really maximize their talent. It's possible they can sign both for less than a full max. After all Butler has some character/team issues and is already 29. Giving Butler a 2 or 3 year deal with max dollars (rather than 4 full years) given his age and temperment would be a win. Harris just doesn't look like a max player. He looks like a guy who could be the 3rd or 4th best player on a championship team. Hard to pay those guys the max. Giving Harris a contract like Bledsoe got in MIL is reasonable. 4 years 70-80M or something seems like a reasonable deal. That said, overpaying one of them might be ok if they are out of options and the other option is losing one for nothing. If they lose one of those guys for nothing then kiss title hopes goodbye.
2) What to do about Redick and their guard defense problem. Redick is getting 12.5M a year this year, but his contract ends after this year. They can resign him, but for less money - and maybe he shifts to be a 6th man coming off the bench. They need to get a decent 3&D guard to replace him for the starting lineup. Similar to Redick, he doesn't need to be able to create his own shot, he just needs to play better defense.
3) They need to solidify their bench and get a good 8 man rotation for the playoffs. This could come from young player development or FA. But it needs to happen.
4) Ben Simmons needs to work on his game seriously and develop some kind of jumper. For him and Embiid to play on the same team... for Simmons to play on any team that isn't entirely designed around him... he needs to get a passable jumper going. If this doesn't improve, the 76ers need to look to trade one of them - probably Simmons (but not necessarily, and only bc of Embiid's long term health issues). Any trade obviously depends on what you get back. But again, shaking up the team that seriously and trading one of their key pieces just means less continuity going forward, and likely another year wait to seriously contend for the title.
A pretty good outlook after this summer would be something like this for playoff rotation:
Embiid - 27.2M
Harris - 21M
Butler - 29M
Simmons - 8.1M
Jeremy Lamb / Danny Green (3D guard acquisition) - 10-15M
Redick - 7M
guys already on bench who develop like Zhaire Smith, McConnell, Ennis, Monroe, etc...
This is 115M or so on just those 6 dudes though + whatever you're paying your bench. That's steep. And then the following year when they have to pay Simmons, who knows.... but this team could win the title next year IF Embiid stays healthy.
It's a nasty team though that's big, strong, and has a little more shooting given they signed a guy who can make 3s, and Simmons' hopeful development. Now between Redick and the 3&D guard signing, they have an extra shooter. Redick won't be exposed as much on D against top starters coming in as a 6th man as well, which should help their issue against good scoring guards.