Finally, we arrive at the Eastern Conference’s true wildcard. The Philadelphia 76ers are unique in this group as the only team where it genuinely feels a first round exit and a trip to the Finals are both entirely within the realm of possibilities.
With the in-season additions of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Elton Brand has jumped headlong into his career as an NBA GM, and wasted no time in assembling one of the NBA’s most impressively skilled starting units. His approach to doing so leaves real question marks outstanding, though.
Philadelphia’s roster has been built for talent rather than fit, and those concerns may only become more pressing in time considering the big characters at the center of the locker room. In many ways, the acquisition of Harris was an attempt to resolve that problem, but even two elite shooters such as Harris and J.J. Redick isn’t enough to constitute sufficient spacing in 2019.
Beyond the starting lineup, the Sixers’ lack of depth also presents as a major concern. If everything goes to plan, a fully healthy Sixers team, with a shortened rotation, would be formidable throughout the playoffs. The injury histories of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Butler create the possibility that even a minor knock could derail the Sixers’ season, though.
With two games remaining against the Bucks, it remains to be seen who’d hold the upper hand in any potential Philadelphia/Milwaukee series.
For the moment, the Sixers remain a real threat, even if that’s in the same way any loose cannon is scary or disconcerting.