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Temper Expectations Ahead of Sixers Playoff Run

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As our site’s leader Kevin F. Love (not Kevin Wesley Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers) pointed out, yesterday, your Philadelphia 76ers clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the 2011-2012 season. I’ve been on a 48-hour plus binge of handing out various “L”s for people to hold. (For those that are unaware, “hold this L” is just another way of saying “take the loss”.

Stephen A. Smith, your “L” is right over there.

Marcus Hayes, here’s your “L”, sir. Please take it quickly. It’s so heavy that it’s making my back hurt. Your “L” is considerably large.

I would also like to hand out “L”s to anyone and everyone that said the Lakers rebuild would be more fruitful quicker than the Sixers rebuild. For that group, I’m handing out “L”s like Nino Brown handed out turkeys in “New Jack City” after he took over The Carter Apartments. Line up, folks. Come get your hot, fresh “L”.

All of us that were on the right side of history have been through a lot. These are the jerseys I’ve collected in the last five years. It’s a who’s who of who has come and gone.

Now, we can all look forward to potential moments like Lou Williams draining a three in Dwyane Wade’s eyeballs to win Game 4 of the 2011 playoffs.

How optimistic should we be? How far could this team go? Pretty far if you ask former Sixers general manager Billy King – who talked about it on NBA TV prior to the Cavaliers/Nets game on Sunday on NBA GameTime. King’s take is that this Sixers team has as much talent as the Oklahoma City Thunder team that went to the NBA Finals in 2012.

Whoa, buddy! Do you want to at least change gears while you’re going 0-60 like that? Sheesh!

Don’t get me wrong. I accept parts of his premise. Joel Embiid is an All-Star. Ben Simmons is a future All-Star. Lord Covington is the most underrated wing in the league. (That’s right. I said it.) JJ Redick and TJ McConnell are valuable guard pieces. This Sixers team is definitely talented. That 2012 Thunder team was stacked with Durant (scoring leader in 2012), Harden (6th Man of the Year), Westbrook (2nd time All-Star) AND Serge Ibaka (All-NBA First Team Defense). To this day, I can’t figure out how they only won one game in the 2012 NBA Finals.

King cites Embiid being a serious problem for teams in the playoffs due to his health and getting into game shape.

When he’s healthy, which he has been, one, he gets in better shape, and now, he’s going through his entire repertoire. Guys, if they close out on him, he looks to drive or he shoots the jump shot. What you’re seeing now, he’s running the floor and finishing on the break. It’s a scary proposal to have to play him in the playoffs.

He’s right. There isn’t one big man (center/power forward/whatever) that can handle Embiid. You can say Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat if you want to, but even Whiteside allows averages of 19/7 to “The Process”. Gortat (Wizards)? Sorry, Embiid’s numbers are even better against him (24/13). Valanciunas (Raptors)? Nope. 21/9 averages. Now, it’s true that no team is crazy enough to defend him one-on-one, so that’s going to open things up.

King mentions Ben Simmons first by saying he is his pick for Rookie of the Year. Thank you, William. No “L” for you. I better not find out you chose Brogdon over Embiid last year, though. He adds the fact that in the playoffs, teams will force him to shoot jump shots (duh!), but he counters with what Simmons is damn good at.

He rebounds well, and he’s an excellent passer.

That he is, William. His ten triple doubles this season (behind Westbrook’s 23 and Lebron’s 16) would speak to that.

Even with all that combined with Redick’s shooting, Covington’s shooting which has spiked up again (43% on 86 attempts), and TJ’s grittiness, saying this team is like that Thunder team MIGHT BE a bit of a stretch.

Call me a realist if you want. Call me a traitor. Call me a saboteur. Do all of those things at your discretion. There’s something to be said about tempering expectations. Remember, even if Fultz was healthy all season long, getting to the Eastern Conference Finals should’ve been a happy bonus. Getting to the playoffs was gravy. After that, the mindset of playing with house money sets in. Check another box off the progress list.

  • 50 games or more from Embiid? Check. He’s played 61.
  • Analyze whether or not Simmons can be the team’s full-time point guard? Check. Simmons averages eight assists per game, a 2.3:1 assist to turnover rate and has a 36.8 assist percentage.
  • Get a spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs? Check. The Sixers are fourth with a legitimate shot at third (1.5 games behind Cleveland with ten games left).

As far as I’m concerned, I’m good. If the playoffs started today, the Sixers play the Pacers in round one. That’s a good match-up for Jojo & Co. If the Sixers win that series, that’s another check (win a playoff series).

Past that, I still like Toronto to go to the ECF’s, and I don’t want any part of “Playoff Lebron”. Lebron will carry the Cavs to the East Finals – because a hobbled Kyrie Irving likely means the Celtics are cooked. There is no part of me that wants to deal with this:

28.4 ppg
8.9 rpg
6.9 apg
48.5% FG
33% 3pt
27.9 PER
.241 WS/48

Those are Lebron’s playoff career averages. Lebron has carried a team to the NBA Finals with far less than he does now (see 2007 NBA Finals).

Be careful how you approach expectations in this next playoff run. You can take my advice on that, or you can jump in King’s car. I’ll just throw this out there. One of us traded for the back ends of the careers of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce by giving up first-round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018 with a 2017 pick swap added in.

Last time I checked my resume, I was never an NBA executive.