* * *
Your case for and against the Philadelphia 76ers going all the way to the NBA Finals?
* * *
Steve Aschburner:??OK, for the Sixers in The Finals: They have a killer starting lineup, with so much offensive weaponry, that defenses are loathe to double anybody --?which only makes each more dangerous. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in particular are matchup nightmares, a better tandem than any Philadelphia will face in the East bracket. And none of the other conference contenders is without flaws. Now my case against the Sixers: They are reckless with the ball (15.3 turnovers per game). They send opponents to the foul line a lot. Philadelphia runs “hot” in games, too, with strong, yakkety-yak personalities that can flare up in unproductive ways. And I’m not sold on the bond between the players and the coaching staff, despite Brett Brown’s comforting bedside manner. Any disconnect could show itself as the stakes and pressure get dialed up.
Shaun Powell:??Here's the "for" argument: They have the best starting five in the East and there isn't a weak spot at any of those starting positions. Also, they own a pair of defensive aces in Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler and solid 3-point shooting with JJ Redick and Tobias Harris. Here's the "against" argument: None of their main pieces (Embiid, Butler, Harris, Ben Simmons) have gone anywhere in the postseason, you wonder how effective Simmons can be in the final moments of a tight game because of an inability to shoot from deep, and their bench is vulnerable if any starter gets injured or into foul trouble.
John Schuhmann:? The case for is pretty simple. The Sixers have a terrific starting lineup and they have at least two of those starters on the floor at all times. And it's not just five good players, because Joel Embiid is one of the league's most dominant, two-way forces and a matchup problem for any opponent (even Al Horford, as we saw last week). The case against starts with the fact that, with two weeks left in the season, the starting lineup has played just nine games together. They will go into the playoffs without the same familiarity that the East's other contenders have. Embiid rolling to the basket with Ben Simmons already occupying space on the baseline remains an awkward situation. Also, the Sixers' depth --?both in general and in regard to shooting -- is a major issue. So when they do have fewer than five starters on the floor (for about 30 minutes per game), the opponent can take advantage.
Sekou Smith:??Star power is my case for the Philadelphia 76ers grinding their way to The Finals. If it were to?happen, and I'm still on the fence about the Sixers' chances with that, it would have to come on the shoulders of the NBA's most top-heavy starting five outside of Oakland. The right matchups in the postseason are critical -- as they usually are for any team trying to reach The Finals. Joel Embiid's availability,?in particular, becomes the make-or-break factor for this team. But that's also where the case against the Sixers making it all the way there shines a spotlight on Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick. Their chemistry as a group has to be sound. Coach Brett Brown must make sure his guys are locked into their roles in every game of every series. If not, they are just as susceptible to be upset in the playoffs as they are to reach The Finals. If there is a disconnect, it could be fatal.?