Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be “scouting the enemy,” as we’ll be covering the outlook for the 29 other teams in the league ahead of the 2019-2020 season.
Former Grizzlies: James Ennis III
Offseason in Review
In what was the craziest offseason in recent memory in 2019, many teams significantly changed their future outlooks with blockbuster moves. However, no team invested more into the future of their franchise than the Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia committed a combined $455M to three players who will play pivotal roles for them over the next four seasons. Ben Simmons (5 years, $170M), Tobias Harris (5 years, $180M) and Al Horford (4 years, $105M) all will be joining Joel Embiid to form one of the best cores in the NBA for the foreseeable future.
While a Simmons extension was expected, and many felt Harris would return to Philadelphia, the Horford signing was a surprise development. The main reason the money was available to bring Horford into the fold was due to Jimmy Butler ultimately deciding he wanted to take his talents to South Beach and play for the Miami Heat. Butler’s decision may have changed the 76ers plans, but they did not come away from his departure empty handed.
Along with the Horford signing, Philadelphia acquired Josh Richardson from the Miami Heat in a four-team trade that also included the Clippers and Trail Blazers. While not a star, Richardson is a solid starter and role player that can be used in a variety of ways. Beyond their core four, the 76ers made additional smaller yet shrewd depth moves to fill their roster. They drafted Matisse Thybulle, arguably the best defender and a player who many analysts think was one of the best value picks in the 2019 draft. They also signed Trey Burke, Raul Neto, Kyle O’Quinn, and James Ennis III to add veteran depth to their second unit and bench. Along with the return of talented youngsters Zhaire Smith and Jonah Bolden, the 76ers were thorough in completing their roster to complement their starting lineup.
As they should.
With Kawhi Leonard no longer in the East, Kevin Durant likely out for the season, and the level of talent that left Boston, the 76ers championship window is now. Sure, with the commitments they made they should remain an Eastern Conference favorite for the next 3-5 years. But as stars return and young players mature elsewhere, the present could be the 76ers best chance to achieve the championship run their fans have long desired.
To reach that level, the coaching staff and roster must achieve two goals: their core four must develop strong chemistry, and the youth on their roster must develop. One advantage of the 76ers roster is their size, as Simmons, Horford, Embiid, and Harris are all 6’8” or taller. While the size and length should be an advantage in certain situations on both ends of the court, it also could be a liability against smaller, more athletic lineups that can shoot. Overall, these four talents each possess the ability to be All-Stars. However, they must learn how to compliment each other and make the 76ers starting unit one of the strongest in the league to truly emerge as a title contender.
Last year, the 76ers were 14th in field goals made per game and 19th in three pointers made per game. Yet, they were eighth in field goal percentage and 4th in points per game. Philadelphia was slightly below average in how many shots they attempted per game, but were among the best in the league at converting them. Besides Butler, another big development was the departure of J.J. Redick. Both veterans provided a consistent perimeter scoring threat that opposing defenses had to respect. Now, that is a void that this team needs to feel from their depth.
The need for perimeter production makes it even more critical for the 76ers to develop their young talent. Philadelphia would get a huge boost to their championship aspirations if Richardson and Smith can continue their development as reliable perimeter options. Furthermore, if Thybulle and Bolden can thrive in their reserve roles, that will allow for the 76ers to both rest their starters and maintain competitive play when their second unit is on the court.
Philadelphia cashed in a large amount of present and future assets to bring Butler and Harris aboard last year. The development of the youth on their roster will play a significant role in determining the ultimate ceiling this team has over the next few years.
It was well known that the 2019 offseason would be a defining one for the Philadelphia present. While the end result may look different than some had hoped, the 76ers accomplished their goal of remaining a contender. The investments were made with the intent of being a favorite in the East for years; while that may be the case, the 76ers time is clearly now.
At this moment, it is logical to assume they are the Bucks primary competition in the East. A lot can certainly change at any point in an NBA season. However, what will stay consistent for Philadelphia is the lofty standards that must be met to make this offseason a success. This franchise has their eyes clearly on making the NBA finals. While they certainly have the talent, whether or not they can utilize and develop it to get to where they want to go remains to be seen.