The Sixers have officially been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs, and I am still waiting to wake up from this bad dream. Every Sixers’ player, at one point or another, seemed to be off their game (some more than others). The Celtics, who looked like a well-oiled machine, were able to utilize continuity going 8 or 9 deep to take advantage of the young Sixers squad. The series wasn’t a complete train wreck, as the Sixers at least got some experience under their belt. Moral victories! Still one can’t help but feel disappointed and look to areas for improvement. All you have to do is look at the Celtics’ wing depth, and you can come to the realization that, “Hey, that’d be nice!”
The lack of real, effective depth of the Sixers was exposed this series, as players like Robert Covington, Marco Belinelli, and at some points Ersan Ilyasova really struggled to find their shots and play effective defense. There shouldn’t be any worries about Covington; he is a key piece for the Sixers and his overall body of work shouldn’t be thrown out the window in favor of a 5 game sample. But Covington can only play so many minutes — or in this specific case, wasn’t playing at a high enough level for starter minutes — and the lack of depth at the position is a big factor in why the Sixers weren’t able to be more competitive against Boston.
For five games, the Sixers’ wing players gave guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown whatever they wanted. Brown and Tatum’s quick first steps usually left defenders way behind them on their way to the basket, forcing other defenders to help out and constantly leave another player open. It would have been nice to see more Justin Anderson in this series (in place of Belinelli) to bring some much needed defense, but his lack of shooting leaves something to be desired. The Sixers don’t have a balanced wing: most of them go so far in one direction, and offer next to nothing in the other. For the most part, the second unit was disappointing this series, and moves need to be made before the start of next season or the team could be destined to a similar fate.
Whether or not the Sixers decide to resign Marco Belinelli this offseason, the team needs to find someone who can come in and be a reliable option on both ends of the court. Belinelli can hit some difficult shots, but when they’re not dropping they become detrimental to the rhythm of the rest of the team. Besides the offensive side, when those shots aren’t falling there is really no reason for him to be out on the court, given what we’ve seen of him defensively.
Consistency needs to be at the top of the list when bringing in pieces this offseason, and the NBA Draft is the first opportunity for that. The player that makes the most sense for the Sixers, and could be within reach, is hometown kid Mikal Bridges out of Villanova. If he is available for the Sixers they should waste no time picking him. His combination of shooting and physical defense is exactly what Philadelphia has been missing off of the bench. It doesn’t seem like he would have a starting role immediately, which would allow Bridges to focus on what he does best in short spurts.
Besides the draft there are a few names on the free agent market that could fit. Without paying an arm and a leg in the often inflated free agent market, the Sixers could potentially look at cost effective players like Wayne Ellington or possibly even negotiating the return of all time Process great Jerami Grant to give the team some length off of the bench. Drastic moves don’t need to be made. But if this series against the Celtics has shown anything, it’s that relying on inconsistent players can come back to bite you fatally.
Some great things were spotlighted this postseason for the Sixers, but some glaring deficiencies were as well. The offseason is the time to pinpoint those problems and fix them. Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were adamant that this is only the beginning for Philadelphia. In order for them to be right, the team can’t rely on just Simmons and Embiid. A deep team is a winning team, and moves made this offseason to address the wing depth could be the main reason why the Sixers take another step forward next season.