Call me what you want but when doing so you must do it with a straight face. The Philadelphia 76ers will be in the NBA Finals by the year 2020. I will say it until I’m blue in the face but the “Trust the Process” phase is over in the City of Brotherly Love. The 76ers are set to attack the NBA next season, however, it’s what’s going to happen by 2020 that will make the NBA stand and applaud.
Each year, very quietly, the 76ers have managed to improve. It’s not the Cleveland Cavaliers type of improvement where they were lottery bound again until LeBron James decided to go back home, but it’s the kind that goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Last season, the 76ers made an 18-game improvement with a bunch of unknown players and three rookies that either spent half the season on the bench, half in street clothes and one who never touched the floor. So how did they manage to win 28 games?
Team ball and trust.
While the majority of the NBA is engulfed in Super Teams, the 76ers are building theirs with the same blueprint that Sam Presti did with the Oklahoma City Thunder or RC Buford did with the San Antonio Spurs. No big free agents signing, just home-grown talent. The 76ers are loaded with young players such as Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington and more. But these guys alone is not the reason why I have the 76ers making the NBA Finals in 2020.
Currently, the Eastern Conference belongs to the Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics but after that, it’s anyone’s race. The Cavs will see a dip in production over the next 2 years as annual trips to the Finals will begin to take its toll on the players. The Celtics are young and have the talent to stick around but the Salary Cap will be their downfall. The Raptors are dealing with annual injuries to their top players and with Kyle Lowry possibly set to leave this offseason, the Raptors run may be over. What other team in the East is set up to make a run beside the 76ers?
28 wins are not much to bank on but it goes well beyond the wins and losses now.
We have yet to see what a full season of Embiid, Saric, and Simmons can do as a unit. Let’s not forget to mention the upcoming NBA Draft where the 76ers can sure up their perimeter game with Dennis Smith Jr. or Josh Jackson. As great as a draft as this could be for Philly, it could set up them for that Finals run in 2020. Here’s why.
That 18 game improvement not only woke up the 76ers fans but it put the NBA spotlight on them as well. Think about it. Embiid was robbed of an All-Star berth and now he and Saric are both mentioned for Rookie of the Year. What happens next season when Simmons plays his first season and their N0.3 pick produces? The bench is solid with Covington, Nik Stauskas, Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Jahlil Okafor. But then again, this is where the 76ers will build towards that Finals run.
While the NBA Draft has been a blessing to the team, it will be the trades and Free Agent signings that will push them over the rest of the East. While the 76ers grew in 2016, players took notice. They loved the team’s chemistry, their fight despite the roster and their potential. Don’t think for one second that players don’t see the writing on the wall for teams like the Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Hornets, Heat, and Knicks. When players are ready to move on they look for a team that is currently winning or one that’s a piece away from making that big splash.
The 76ers are not there now but by the end of the 2017-18 season, we will know for sure what’s missing.
The 76ers have trade bait in Okafor, Holmes, and Covington. They have the No.3 pick and now they have the spotlight. If they can manage to get to 35+ wins in 2017 that will set the stage for a FA class that will include Paul George, T.J. Warren, Elfrid Payton, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, Jabari Parker and more. If one of these guys take notice and see the direction the 76ers are heading in, their signing will change the landscape of the East.
Everyone loves a winner and the 76ers are closer than a lot of people think.