Philadelphia 76ers can’t break the door down

    It was supposed to be “the year” for the Philadelphia 76ers, which started 2023-24 scorching hot. Then Joel Embiid was sidelined for multiple months and, obviously, things sort of fell apart for the Sixers. 

    Then Embiid came back and it looked, momentarily, like this could be the season after all. But Philly had fallen so far down the standings that it faced a first-round playoff matchup with New York, where Jalen Brunson and the Knicks fought their way to a six-game series win over Philly. 

    Being sent home early has been an unfortunate theme during the Embiid era. So, now what? Can Philly afford to just keep trying the same thing over again?

    A third guy

    Philly’s roster this season was good – but it also has a sizeable drop in top-end talent after Tyrese Maxey and Embiid. New additions like Kelly Oubre Jr., Nicolas Batum and Buddy Hield all had nice moments throughout the year but none of them have the consistency to be the team’s third option. So, the Sixers should be on the hunt for a star this offseason, and there are a few that make sense next to Philly’s main guys.

    Paul George is the obvious choice. He would fit perfectly in the Sixers lineup, bringing the creation and scoring ability that Oubre and Tobias Harris flash on occasion – on a far more consistent basis. George has a player option for next season, and should he opt out, the Sixers made a whole lot of sense.

    Year 2 of All-Star Maxey

    Maxey’s ascent hasn’t been a surprise, but after his first season as an All-Star, the Phillies now know exactly what they have in the young point guard. It should be easier to build a team with Maxey’s strengths in mind, knowing exactly what he’s capable of and not having to speculate before the next season begins.

    Hope and pray

    What else is there to do regarding Embiid’s health at this point? Seemingly every year the Sixers superstar enters the postseason with numerous ailments. This season, it was a meniscus injury that kept him out for a chunk of the season and clearly hampered him during the postseason (but didn’t stop him from posting a few silly statlines.) Should Embiid just play way fewer games in the regular season? That could work, except we saw what happens when he misses extended time; Philly went 16-27 without him this year. Adding another star player who can help Maxey keep the ship from sinking could earn Embiid some more rest next year, but even then, there’s not much other course of action aside from “hope he’s healthy one of these playoffs.”

    Not a bad fallback

    The Sixers are in a weird spot. Most teams would swap rosters with Philly in a heartbeat, based on talent alone. But still, the franchise has made the playoffs seven years in a row now and hasn’t made it past the second round in any of those years. So what gives?

    How do you fix a team that, on paper, should be competing every year? Philly can say that it got a bad draw in the playoffs this year, but if this team, with this core, falls short again next season, how many Sixer fans would be averse to The Process Part 2?

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