We are currently half way through the NBA 2019 2020 season and it’s becoming more evident who the front runners to winning the NBA championship are.
This year, there are several strong contenders, with again the teams in the Western Conference having a brutal battle fighting among themselves to make it to the playoffs. The Eastern Conference, yet again is weaker than the West, though Milwaukee is a force to be reckoned with and went deep into the playoffs last year. But in theory an Eastern Conference team should have an easier path to the finals than that of the West.
The two best teams in the West are proven to be formidable. LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard both have won championships and have proven to lead their respective teams to win it all. They also have coupled with them great supporting players in the likes of Anthony Davis and Paul George. The East, on the other hand, has Milwaukee and Toronto leading. Giannis is the reigning MVP whilst Toronto had surprised everyone with their exceptional team play through the surprise development of Pascal Siakam.
Surprising as well are the the Philadelphia 76ers. Surprisingly consistent at winning at home and consistent at losing away. They are the definition of a mercurial team. They were meant to be better than what they have shown to date, and pressure is mounting for a deep playoff run. The past five years the team management has consistently tanked in order to obtain quality draft players. Colloquially this was known as “The Process”. How fans remained patient and loyal astounds me, because it has been painful to watch.
But now, with top players such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons there is an expectation that “The Process” is over. It is now time to win! A lot of doubt remains due to several factors. Embiid seems to only get fired up to play if someone kicks him up the arse. Embiid also seems fragile and injury prone. Have we already seen Embiid in best shape of his life.
Simmons can’t shoot for shit, and even though Brett Brown has implored him to shoot more three pointers, he hasn’t obeyed. If Simmons even had a decent mid range shot, the dynamics of Philly would change. But he doesn’t. He can only play near the basic with a cutting supporting cast. Also the two superstars seem to get in the way of each other, Embiid and Simmons just don’t gel.
So why bet on Philly to win it all?
Ben Simmons is a lock down defender
Simmons has shown consistently that he has the hunger and the ability to lock down key opponent players. He is agile enough to lock down a guard and big enough to stop a power forward or center. Quick hands and smart basketball IQ makes Simmons a fantastic defensive player. He has also demonstrated that when Embiid is out of the line up, he has the ability to perform at a higher level especially on the offense. Without Embiid clogging up the middle, Simmons can roam freely and attack when he has ball in hand.
If Brett Brown has the balls, he would separate the Embiid from Simmons and have them on the court at different times. This would give the greatest chance of Philly to win it all.
Joel Embiid is one of the best big men in the league when he wants to be
There is not doubt about it, if he has the hunger to win he will dominate. Embiid, however, has demonstrated a lack of interest which resulted in several poor games. Frustratingly, he only plays well IF enough criticism is poured on top of him. Without it, he is like Bruce Banner, a mild manner geek playing hoops. But when angered he becomes the hulk and can crush his foes. Unfortunately Embiid also has the maturity of a teenager. Petulant and therefore needs to be coached with a strictness and discipline that only Greg Popovich can give.
If Brett Brown had the balls, he should light Embiids fire for every game, and hold him accountable for every poor performance. Brett Brown just needs to find ’em.
Matisse Thybulle is starting to be the defensive beast
Thubulle is a rookie best known for his defense during his college years. After a shaky start to his NBA career, he has finally come to the fore, showing a natural instinct for the steal or block. He will be a valuable asset to the team come playoff time when Philly will need top defenders against Milwaukee, Miami and Toronto. If they make it to the championships, he has a steep learning curve to defend LeBron, Leonard or George.
Al Horford can hit the mid range to long shot
Al Horford is an incredible versatile player. He is smart and is a professional. An excellent offensive player that is difficult to defend. Can stretch the floor with his ability to shoot the three, but can also finish around the basket. He is also not one to cause team disharmony if he doesn’t get his minutes or starts off the bench. He will do whatever he can for the greater good of the team.
Tobias Harris is an offensive juggernaut
A swing man that can beat many off the dribble. He is overlooked as an excellent defender and plays well along side both Simmons and Embiid. He can catch fire and go off for the occasional thirty more points.
There is no doubt about it. The team is big! Ben Simmons playing their point guard position at 6 ft 10! Embiid locking down the middle with Al Horford and Tobias Harris to the side. This team has length, physique, and power. Defense is clearly what this team was first and foremost built around and come playoff time this will come to the fore.
Philly was arguably unlucky last year with Kawhi Leonard’s miracle three ball in game 7. If not for the dagger at game seven, the sixer’s could have made it all the way. This is a year in which the Sixer’s need to go further in. “The Process” is now over and the team needs to win. If not Brett Brown will need to go. He has been at the helm of a team with great skills far too long, with nothing to show for.