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Pro talk: Sixers aiming to take next step

Ferris Berlin, Staff Writer

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I haven’t been around for that long in my lifetime, about 21 years to be exact, and while I started watching basketball at a very early age, I didn’t start to actually understand what I was watching until I hit grade school.

Now I’m a huge basketball nerd and I know a lot of NBA history. However, I cannot recall a time where the NBA has been so lopsided. I’m not talking about team dynasties, or two teams blowing through the field to eventually meet in the Finals, I’m not even talking about a single player just dominating an era. We’re talking about Conferences.

The Western Conference is clearly superior to the Eastern Conference and you don’t have to be a basketball-wiz to know that. ESPN came out with a list of the top NBA players this offseason and of the top ten players in the NBA, only two resided in the Eastern Conference (Lebron James at number one and Giannis Antetokounmpo at ninth).

The East also saw three all-stars join the West as Carmelo Anthony and Paul George went to the Oklahoma City Thunder, while Jimmy Butler joined the Timberwolves. Now all these moves might not seem relevant to the average Sixers fan, but they are. See with the drop off in the Eastern Conference, playoff spots open up.

I am on the record right now, if the Philadelphia 76ers do not make the playoffs for this upcoming season (barring no injuries of course), Brett Brown, the Sixers head coach, needs to be fired. With the talent this team has accumulated (the list goes on), there is no reason why this Sixers team cannot at the very least get the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Brown has gotten a pass for a while now because the team did not have enough talent.

Totally fair, and I am not knocking him for that. But now you have two number one picks (Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons), one of the top Centers in the league (when he’s on the floor) in Joel Embiid, sharp shooter JJ Reddick who just signed that one year deal for $23 million, and the promising Dario Saric. Oh, and not to mention you have Jahlil Okafor coming off the bench as well. Remember that guy? The excuses are over, this Sixers team needs to make some noise.

While a lot of our expectations are playoffs this year, you have to understand that this team is very young and they haven’t played together.

That is why a very low seed like a Seventh or eight seed is a fair expectation. Usually in these type of situations though with such a young team, the playoffs wouldn’t even be a real expectation. However, given the circumstances in the East, the Eastern Conference is just so bad.

You got your top tier teams in the Celtics and Cavs of course, then you have your middle tiers like your Raptors, Bucks and Wizards. But that bottom half of the playoff standings realistically is what the Sixers should be aiming for. I like what the Sixers did this offseason by acquiring the number one pick and using it on Fultz. I also liked the addition of Reddick, who is a great spot up 3 point shooter and he should really spread the floor well. Even though we did sign him for a whopping $23 million, it is only for a year.

My envisioned starting lineup was Fultz and Reddick in the backcourt, with Covington at the 3, and Simmons and Embiid in the frontcourt, with Saric and Okafor coming off the bench. I had Simmons playing the “Lebron James” type role as a point forward dictating the offense, while guarding the incumbent stretch 4 position on defense. Simmons’ passing ability is obvious right when you watch him, already drawing comparisons to the great Magic Johnson.

According to reports though, Brown wants Simmons to play point guard.

Now there hasn’t really been much clarity on whether that means a “true” point guard where he is literally playing in the back court and guarding point guards, or whether Simmons is just running the offense. I’m going to say this right now, if they plan on having Simmons guard the likes of John Wall, Steph Curry, and the Russell Westbrooks of the world, then this team is in trouble and I’d be flabbergasted.

In college (Simmons’ lone season other than high school), Simmons showed that he is a great rebounder, hence why he should be guarding bigs on defense, but not a great three-point shooter.

To say he wasn’t a great shooter would be generous to say the least, as Simmons was just 1 for 3 (yes, you read the correctly) on 3 point shots in his lone college season. The biggest knock on Simmons coming out of college was his poor outside shooting.

And for anyone who actually watched him play in college, you would know that a lot of Simmons’ points came from driving to the basket, not jumpers. Still with all that being said, Simmons is a generational talent. His shot will improve (hopefully sooner than later) and he will lead this team. Sixers’ fans get excited for our first relevant year in a long time, but please do not overhype expectations.

Ferris Berlin is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The Student News Service of West Chester University
Pro talk: Sixers aiming to take next step