The 76ers are coming off of a season in which they gave the eventual NBA championship all it could handle, even more so than the Golden State Warriors. In a league now flush with teams filled with two stars, there are only a couple of teams that have the amount of talent these two have, and for the teams that do have this amount of talent, few are in their mid-twenties. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are 23 and 25. In their two seasons playing together, they have made two playoff runs and given Philadelphia fans hope that the process was much more than the gimmick it seemed to be. In Joel, they have a dominant physical force with a plus shooting stroke and the charisma and agility that only Shaq could match or maybe exceed. In Ben, they have a Magic Johnson-like 6’9″ point guard that can push the pace of the offense, set the table for his teammates, and rebound as if he were their starting power forward. This season they will most likely hit the next stretch of their growing pains getting to another level of the playoffs, but for their sake, going to the NBA finals wouldn’t be conducive. The reason being is that while they are one of the better duos and teams in the NBA, they are not ready to win it all. This year the title will most likely go to one of the L.A. teams. 76ers shouldn’t worry because I believe for the most part of this decade, this team will be playing for NBA championships. The only other duo who has a chance to compete with them in the future is the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks are like a better shooting version of the 76ers but not as athletic and not as rounded defensively. Everyone in the media is hyping the Bucks to be the best team in the east, but the 76ers at the moment look like a more complete team. Al Horford brings more to the team than what most people think. He makes me think of when the Orlando Magic had Penn, Shaq, and Horace Grant. The only thing holding this team back from championship glory is youth, Ben Simmons’s poor shooting, and Brett Brown’s questionable coaching decisions in tight games.
The only thing that can potentially stop this duo from reaching greatness is how well they take care of their bodies and the coaching the 76ers keep on the staff. Ben and Joel are generational talents. Even with them being generational talents it is still important that Philadelphia employs a coach who can best utilize these two players. Another potential pitfall for the 76ers is Brett Brown. His lack of in-game adjustments showed up twice in the playoffs last year against the Raptors and the year before against the Celtics. This might be the last year where Brett Brown has an excuse for why the 76ers can’t get to at least the conference finals. He did do a better coaching job last year than in the year before, but in both cases he had the superior talented team. Elton Brand has shown he is willing to do anything to get the 76ers over the hump: from bringing in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, to bringing in Al Horford this summer. The moves he is making are that of winning GM’s. Unlike the break-ups of legendary duos like Kobe and Shaq or Penny and Shaq, Ben and Joel do not show any signs of a bad relationship. They seem to have great chemistry and only want to win basketball games. What Brett Brown has lacked in the last few years is the ability to stagger Embiid and Simmons to take advantage of Simmons’s ability to score in the block when Embiid is off the floor. Ben has shown, when he has a full head of steam, he could be as devastating to defenses as the Greek Freak or Lebron. The problem with Ben is he doesn’t know when to take over as a scorer and too often floats around much like Lonzo Ball did with the Lakers: making one pass then standing around or barely moving without the ball. A coach like Brad Stevens would make sure that people were moving without the ball and creating open back door looks to the basket, and make sure when Embiid is off the floor that Ben would be in full attack mode getting to the basket. Obviously, the Celtics aren’t getting rid of Brad Stevens anytime soon and that might be the reason why the 76ers hold on to Brett Brown. They seem to be taking the long term approach to building a team and are wary of making the same mistake that the Thunder made by giving up on their team’s core too soon. What the 76ers need to make sure of is that they don’t miss their window. Missing their window could lead to them having team chemistry problems and losing some of their fans. Their starting lineup this year will be hard to deal with. There is not a player under 6’6″ and most of these guys are tough defenders. One possible issue with this lineup is that they do not have a knock down shooter like they did with J.J. Reddick. He was their biggest loss of the off season, even though most would think that it was Jimmy Butler. The 76ers will miss Jimmy Butler, but picking up Al Horford in my opinion will offset his loss of leadership. Horford is the ultimate glue guy whose game allows him to make much more of an impact than most role players. Over the next decade, there will be stiff competition to get to the Finals. Giannas is only 24 and Kevin Durant and Kyrie still have another 5 years to have a say in that race, so the 76ers getting a championship is not guaranteed. What they will have to do is continue to build their team around Ben and Joel, and draft players late in the first round with the potential to morph into major pieces of their rotation. Their draft strategy for the next few years should be to select the highest boom or bust player and rely on their player development to make sure these players reach their potential. The Denver Nuggets have taken this strategy and because of it they pose the biggest threat to future teams as far as championships go. What the 76ers should avoid is drafting safe players just to fit around Ben and Joel with low ceilings. What they do not know is what kind of teams will be championship caliber 5 years from now, and taking the safe route will likely leave them unable to compete. Regardless, the 76ers have the pieces to be the next NBA dynasty.