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NBA Playoff Contenders: Philadelphia poised to finally compete

No shortage of talent in the City of Brotherly Love but will it translate to wins on the court?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media Day Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With an over/under win total released at 41.5, Las Vegas is trying to tell me the Philadelphia 76ers are a legit threat to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. While I agree they’re no longer a pushover, I’ve got a hard time believing winning more than half their games is feasible. Unless, of course....

1. Joel Embiid plays at least 65 games.

What’s the maximum height allowed for ceilings? Whatever the answer, it’s shared by Joel Embiid’s potential on the basketball court. A true unicorn, the 23 year old is the centerpiece of The Process and it’s not hard to imagine Embiid as the best player in the NBA in the not-so-distant future. In the games he played last year, Philly was a legit tough matchup for darn near everyone. There is zero chance he plays all 82 even if he’s perfectly healthy throughout the entire season. If, however, he can manage to break a sweat in at least 65 games his talent alone dictates the 76ers to be taken seriously.

2. Ben Simmons flirts nightly with a triple-double.

“Flirts” is a loose term but the 6’10 point forward is the epitome of modern day basketball and if he can foster a reliable jump shot then Embiid’s ceiling will need bunk beds.

3. J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson firmly enforce team curfews.

Both guys are new to Philly and both players own traits that are equal parts respected and desired. This 76ers team is Y-O-U-N-G and the season is L-O-N-G, Redick and Johnson will be called upon to show the gang how to compete game in and game out. It’s especially important for the vets not to try and be the “cool” Dad and buy these kids alcohol or tobacco products or sneak them into R rated movies.

4. Flip Jahil Okafor for something, anything.

Ah yes, the lottery pick that time forgot. There is a place for Okafor’s skill set in the league, I’m just not sure where? If the 76ers can get any sort of return for Jahil they should seriously consider it. Plus, with the possibility of Emeka Okafor making the team, they wouldn’t have to worry about question number two:


5. Markelle Fultz makes an impact as a rookie.

The 76ers obviously believe in Fultz’s abilities as they traded up for the right to take the University of Washington product. The point guard position, though, is a beast to conquer for any rookie. The good news is Fultz won’t be the full time point guard as many of the ball handling decisions will be delegated to the previously mentioned Ben Simmons. Playing consistent minutes off ball will be something new for Fultz and if he can find a way to maximize his time on the court then Philly could be playing meaningful basketball in April.

So, if all those happen then the 76ers could be punching a ticket to the postseason. Unfortunately, not all five must haves will play out.

1. Joel Embiid plays at least 65 games. Survey says: False.

0, 0, 31 games played in season one, two and three. Until I actually see Embiid stay healthy for nearly 80 percent or more of the regular season, my faith will remain in flux. Doesn’t mean I’m not rooting for it!

2. Ben Simmons flirts nightly with a triple-double. Survey says: True.

I’m all in on Simmons. His passing is already elite and would be a staple of the 76ers’ equivalent to our High/Low. If I had a son, I’d flirt with the idea of naming him Ben Simmons Snyder.

3. J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson firmly enforce team curfews. Survey says: True.

Say whatever you want about Amir Johnson but be careful what you say about J.J. Redick, that’s my guy. In all seriousness, both these guys are true professionals and conveniently enough, they represent a big vet and a small vet to cover all positional vet needs. But seriously, watch your tongue in regards to Redick.

4. Flip Jahil Okafor for something, anything. Survey says: True.

Okafor’s best days are still ahead of him but it won’t be in a 76ers’ uniform. Ideally, if you could flip him for a draft pick, you pull the trigger with few questions asked.

5. Markelle Fultz makes an impact as a rookie. Survey says: False.

“Impact” is a vague term but very few true rookies have the capacity to even sniff whatever your definition of impact is on a nightly basis. Questions regarding his shoulder health have already popped up and the real season hasn’t even started.

If you’re a Philadelphia 76ers fan, it’s hard not to get excited for this team but temper postseason expectations. Next year, though, we’re going to asking “what seed?”

Prediction 36-46