By Harvey Hoffman
As the Sixers gather in Camden to prepare for the season’s re-start in Orlando, here’s a big question:
Is Joel Embiid in the proverbial “best shape of his life?”
Embiid, who has always struggled with his conditioning in the playoffs when minutes are more strenuous, must be on the court for more than the 30.4 mpg he played last postseason. The Sixers need him dominating the paint on both ends of the court and not bailing out his defenders by jacking lazy three-pointers like he often does when he gets tired. Give us Christmas Day Embiid every game!
For Ben Simmons, the question is even more obvious: Is he taking and making three-pointers? At the very least, he needs to show a willingness to take three-pointers to keep the defense honest. If he can make 30 percent, it’ll make a huge difference for Philly in the half court on offense.
If the answer is yes to both questions, then the Sixers will almost assuredly win the East, if not the championship.
If the answer is yes to Embiid’s question and no to Simmons’ question, then Philly could still win the East and maybe a title depending on the matchup. If the answer is no to Embiid’s question and yes to Simmons’ question, Philly’s probably not winning a series against Milwaukee. And if the answer is no to both, the Sixers will most likely fall in the first round (unless they play Indiana). In other words, Embiid is the key to the Sixers’ playoff success.