It’s been a weird year for the Philadelphia 76ers.
On the positive side, there is little to no doubt that the organization has two stellar building blocks with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The duo hasn’t “proven anything” when it comes to winning just yet, but both youngsters brings immense upside to the table and, for better or worse, NBA teams must have multiple top-end talents in order to make real noise in the postseason. Beyond the headliners, Philly has uncovered a perfect 3-and-D glue guy in Robert Covington (now locked up on a bargain contract) and the signing of J.J. Redick looks to be prescient when it comes to adding a dynamic that the Sixers desperately needed.
Not everything has gone well, though, and the continued (and mysterious) absence of Markelle Fultz reflects that. The No. 1 overall pick made four early appearances before being put on the shelf with his strange shoulder injury and, without him, some of the warts in Philadelphia’s rotation have been magnified. Of course, expectations for what a rookie (especially at point guard) is supposed to be right away vary wildly but, at the very least, drafting a player at No. 1 is supposed to remove any doubt at a position moving forward and, in short, that hasn’t happened yet.
From a team performance perspective, outcomes have varied in a sharp way as well, further sending things into chaos. The Sixers were one of the positive stories of the league in the early going, posting a 13-9 record on the way to real buzz from a national perspective. From there, though, Philadelphia fell apart, slipping to a 2-10 record over a four-week stretch that left real doubt about the team’s present viability as a playoff contender.
Seemingly on cue, the Sixers have awakened from that slumber to the tune of a four-game winning streak. For the season, Brett Brown’s club is 17-12 when Joel Embiid suits up and, in going deeper, the Sixers are something of a juggernaut with the talented big man on the floor, outscoring opponents by 10.1 points per 100 possessions. There is nothing inherently “new” about a team performing well with its star on the floor but, in Philadelphia, the gap is significant and that point was driven home once again this week as the streak flipped toward the positive.
Embiid and company will be moving to London this week as the Sixers take on the Boston Celtics in a nationally televised broadcast and, in advance of that, the hype will almost certainly churn. Which Sixers team is “real” remains up for debate but, at the moment, the good version is appearing and that is terrifying for the East.
Where are the Sixers this week in our Dime Power Rankings? Let’s explore.