How The Philadelphia 76ers Are Leading The East

Ryan Fan the first time in recent memory, my favorite team in sports, the Philadelphia 76ers. are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference. They are currently sitting atop the conference with a half-point lead over the second-place Brooklyn Nets. 

Even more impressively, the Sixers leading the East going into the All-Star weekend comes as the team has faced many challenges in the years 2020 and 2021 have been. Many key members of the team have missed games due to COVID-19. Star players Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going to miss the All-Star Game after coming into contact with a COVID positive person. Sharpshooter Seth Curry, the brother of Steph Curry, missed more than two weeks of playing due to COVID-19 and hasn’t looked the same since. Four other players, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Vincent Poirier were also ruled out because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. 

After multiple years, as a Sixers fan, of seeing the 76ers underperform based on their talent and potential, the fact that the Sixers are leading the East comes as a welcome addition, as the team has a new coach in Doc Rivers as well as a revamped roster. 

According to BBALLBREAKDOWN, the team owes a lot of credit due to the otherworldly play of Joel Embiid. Embiid is averaging 30.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, while also shooting a career-high 52.1% field goal percentage, as well as 41.6% from three. Many players in the starting lineup, including Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, can also shoot very well from three, which spaces the floor for Simmons and Embiid.

Beyond Simmons and Embiid, Tobias Harris, the third star of the team, is also playing a career-best season. In the clutch, the team has often turned to Harris, much like they did in a March 3 win against the Utah Jazz when Harris scored 11 points in overtime. 

The bench has also been superb — Shake Milton has been scoring very well in the pick and roll. Coach Nick at BBALLBREAKDOWN is pessimistic about the overall effectiveness of this Sixers team and whether the team is “for real,” but it’s exciting to see Embiid and Simmons also playing so well on defense as well as offense. 

Over the offseason, the team built around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. They moved star Al Horford for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson and traded Josh Richardson for Seth Curry. 

There are still questions about whether the Sixers are legit, but the Sixers have beaten some tough opponents, including the Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, and Los Angeles Lakers in recent months. Joel Embiid has looked like an MVP caliber candidate, being able to be completely dominant on offense as well as defense. I think if Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers will be a championship candidate, given they have a championship-caliber coach in Doc Rivers. The team simply has better shooters around Simmons and Embiid than they have had in previous years. 

Not only that, but according to Kyle Neubeck on the Philly Voice, Simmons and Embiid have also been playing more in sync than ever. They’re playing with better chemistry, even when one is not playing well individually. Embiid is running more pick and rolls for Simmons, and Simmons taking advantage of Embiid getting double-teamed

Neubuck notes the Sixers might be frauds because they’ve had a soft schedule, they don’t shoot enough threes, and the bench is weak. But the Sixers are the top seed in the East for now, and after the All-Star break, hopefully, the team will maintain its status. 

Photo from the Philadelphia 76ers

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