By Lewis Gould
The Sixers ended their preseason last night with a win in KC over the Heat, and they open the regular season Wednesday night in Washington.
The last several years have been painful, but they yielded a valuable first-round pick to move up to select Markelle Fultz. Rather than keep hoarding picks, the 76ers sense a chance to make noise in the East.
The young talent has yet to jell, mostly because of injuries, so why cede court time and add pricy players J.J. Redick ($23 million) and Amir Johnson ($11 million)?
The 76ers value leadership and experience with such a young roster, and the one-year deals offer flexibility heading into next summer’s free agency. Redick shot 43% on three-pointers, an upgrade for a team that ranked 25th. Johnson provides frontcourt insurance if the 76ers move on from Jahlil Okafor.
The 76ers traded for Fultz because of his potential fit with Ben Simmons, whose injuries have kept him off the court. Both have good size, and their pick-and-rolls could be devastating, especially as Redick spreads the floor from the outside. Simmons sat out last season with a broken right foot but says he’s 100% heading into the season.
When on the court last season, Joel Embiid was dominant on both ends. Before his meniscus tear, he averaged 23 points, nine rebounds, nearly three assists and 2.5 blocks in January. When healthy, he changes the 76ers’ dynamic from a team with intriguing parts to one with playoff aspirations. There’s hope he could return to start the season. Embiid has become the face of their franchise from his outsized personality to his undeniable talent. He’s also tied to their unrealized potential, but that could change this year.
Given the state of the East, the 76ers have a better chance to make the playoffs than not.