When you think of great NBA dynasties, organizations that have dominated the NBA landscape for the last 40 years, numerous groups come to mind.
Of course, you have the Chicago Bulls of the late 1980s and 1990s, with the dynamic duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, two phenomenal all-around players who could do everything on the floor, backed up by a defensive and post-playing juggernaut, either in the form of Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman. This dynasty saw two three-peats and a 1996 team considered to be the best in NBA history.
Then you have the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers, that great organization fronted by the legendary all-around scorer and playmaker Magic Johnson, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s and James Worthy’s dominant scoring proving to match harmoniously, leading to a total of five championships from 1980 to 1988.
And finally, there’s the Miami Heat’s Big Three, who won two championships, thanks in large part to complementary playing and playmaking by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at the guard positions and Chris Bosh’s substantial contributions in the post on both ends of the floor.
All three dynasties, all in the past of the NBA, were each built of strong players who, on their own, could lead their respective teams and were phenomenal all-around players, whose flaws in their individual performances were difficult to find, as they were masters of their craft.
Despite this, however, there is one thing to remember when building a modern-day NBA dynasty: these rules no longer apply.
In the age of the Golden State dynasty, it is no longer a matter of acquiring greater all-around star power, so much as it is excellent playmaking and extraordinary talent and skill behind the three-point line, as demonstrated by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. However, a significant amount of defense in the form of Draymond Green also ensures that any onslaught is stopped quickly.
So, how do the Philadelphia 76ers stack up? Honestly, not too well.
In the era of The Process, the Sixers have found themselves in third place in a highly competitive Eastern Conference for the last two seasons. Both times, the Sixers fell in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the hands of the Boston Celtics and the eventual Eastern Conference Champions, the Toronto Raptors, both due to weak defenses and poor playmaking.
Now, in the off-season, it all comes down to how the Sixers can lick their wounds and take the next step in the Process to the top contender of the Eastern Conference. To do that, it’s necessary to look at the starting five and how something interesting pops up when you look at them as individuals.
First, Ben Simmons, the point guard with the build, height and physique of a power forward, offers a natural advantage, considering the standard size and build of a point guard, as it would allow him in a man-on-man situation to break clean through the defense and score. His playmaking, too, is somewhat impressive, having averaged 7.7 assists in the regular season, the sixth highest in the NBA.
However, Simmons lacks two consistent aspects which prove to be deadly within the playoffs. The first is his lack of offensive prowess, having scored considerably less than the star of the Sixers, Joel Embiid, and his overall shooting percentage at 56 percent, with none of them coming from beyond the three-point line. The lack of three-point conversions would need to be profoundly improved, especially considering the current landscape.
Second, and even scarier, his lack of defensive ability. Sure, he may have averaged 8.8 rebounds a game this season, but someone who is nearly seven feet tall should be averaging more than one block per game. In the playoffs, you’re going to see many players not only go for three-pointers, which are notoriously difficult to defend, but also attacking the post. With the right coaching, Simmons could easily prove to be a massive threat to any team facing the Sixers.
Next, we look at J.J. Reddick. When at Duke University, he was able to single-handedly destroy any team that faced him with his sharpshooter style, averaging under 41 percent across his entire tenure at Duke and the 2006 Naismith. Now, he seems to have cooled down, and his points show, averaging 18.1 points per game. Reddick is a fantastic opportunity wasted. If the Sixers were able to coach him to get not only open and hit more three-pointers, but also become a tremendous playmaker who could get Jimmy Butler, Simmons or Embiid in the perfect spot for an easy basket, it could quickly improve the team’s standing.
Butler is one of the few players that doesn’t really have to change. His numbers show that he is not only an All-Star but a player who can get the job done in the modern NBA.
Tobias Harris is a great scorer, with an average of 20 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. However, his three-point game could use a bit more work, as he averaged about 40 percent behind the arc this season. It is possible to have a big man who can shoot, just ask Kevin Durant.
And finally, we come to The Process himself, Embiid, who, stats-wise, cannot be beaten. With 27.5 points per game and 13.6 rebounds per game, he is, in short, a double-double in every game he plays and a force on both ends of the floor, like Chris Bosh, only better. However, when considering Embiid plays in over three-quarters of the NBA season and how his poor diet is that of legend within Philly, it is clear that Embiid needs to get healthy and lose weight, so that he can put his strong stats to better use, playing all 82 games instead of merely 64.
In short, the 76ers will have a lot of work on their hands. Not only will they need to make sure that Embiid can get healthy but also that Simmons and Butler become the guard tandem that can light up Philly from beyond the arc, with Reddick coming in as a rotational player. Harris will need to be moved to the small forward position to compensate, and a healthy and injury-proof Embiid at center. The question is, though, who would be the starting power forward? It would need to be a defensive juggernaut who can also put up modest numbers offensively. And, even more importantly, it would need to be at the draft, since it would be nearly impossible for the Sixers to sign someone in free agency.
In any case, it is time to take the next step in The Process. It is time to cash in the chips and go all in, straight to an NBA Championship.