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Where Do the Sixers Stand in the Eastern Conference?

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As the NBA concludes its annual reshuffling act, the Sixers have emerged with a gigantic roster. How do they stack up in the new-look East?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

While speaking with the media before Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Raptors shooting guard Danny Green was asked about his team’s previous two playoff opponents: Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

“I’m not saying Milwaukee isn’t talented, but Philly has so many talented guys across the board,” Green told ESPN.com. “They are much bigger. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to find our rhythm against them. With Milwaukee, we knew the [fast] pace they played was in our favor. They weren’t as big.”

With a frontcourt featuring two 7-footers in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, the Bucks utilized their size and length throughout the regular season en route to the best record in the league. They weren’t small by any means, the Sixers were just huge. The average height of Philly’s starting lineup was nearly 6-foot-9; four of the five starters measured in at 6-foot-8 or taller; Ben Simmons — the Sixers’ 6-foot-10 point guard — was a head taller than Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.

Toronto didn’t have a notable size advantage in any matchup during their second-round series against Philadelphia. Brett Brown was able to put Embiid on Raptors forward Pascal Siakam because Tobias Harris (6-foot-9, 236 pounds) could physically hold his own against Marc Gasol for stretches. Beyond sheer size, the Sixers used their tremendous length to muck up the Raptors’ half-court rhythm by taking away passing lanes, trapping Kawhi Leonard along the baseline, and forcing Toronto into well-contested shots. Size became the defining trait for a Sixers team desperately in need of an identity heading into the playoffs, and likely would’ve continued to be their identifier had they ran it back this summer.

Run It Back was not in the cards for Philly this offseason, but size certainly was. The Sixers replaced JJ Redick (6-foot-4) and Jimmy Butler (6-foot-8) with Josh Richardson (6-foot-6) and Al Horford (6-foot-10), who will join a comically gigantic starting five alongside Simmon, Harris, and Embiid. Horford and Richardson bring a defensive acumen that will allow Philly to liberally experiment with matchups, switch on the perimeter, and form a brick wall below the free throw line. In addition to their high-profile acquisitions, the Sixers re-signed Mike Scott and James Ennis III, both of whom brought toughness and physicality to the Sixers’ bench unit last season. They drafted Matisse Thybulle — a defensive standout from the University of Washington who collected steals and blocks at an unfathomable rate atop the Huskies’ zone defense — which marked the second time in as many years the Sixers came away with a high-upside defender in the draft after trading for Zhaire Smith last June. Finally, they signed big man Kyle O’Quinn and point guard Raul Neto to bolster the back of their rotation.

Size, defense, and more size: the Elton Brand recipe for success.

How will they stack up in a Kawhi-less East? To answer this question, I decided to evaluate five other conference contenders in relation to the Sixers.


Brooklyn Nets

Average Height: 6-foot-7.5

Best Player: DeAndre Jordan (6-foot-11, 265 pounds of pretty good dunks)

Worst Player: Kyrie Irving (tiny and scared)

Number of Power Forwards: Not enough

Could They Beat Five Kyle O’Quinns? No

Could Any of Their Players Steal The Ball From Joel Embiid If He Put It Above His Head And Told Them To Jump For It? Maybe DeAndre Jordan, but probably not

Would They Beat The Sixers In An Arm Wrestling Competition? ABSOLUTELY not


Celtics

Average Height: The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season

Best Player: The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season

Worst Player: The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season

Number of Power Forwards: The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season

Could They Beat Five Kyle O’Quinns? The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season

Could Any of Their Players Steal The Ball From Joel Embiid If He Put It Above His Head And Told Them To Jump For It? The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season

Would They Beat The Sixers In An Arm Wrestling Competition? The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season


Pacers

Average Height: 6-foot-7

Best Player: Myles Turner (6-foot-11, 250 pounds... he’s lean big, though, which is concerning)

Worst Player: Aaron Holiday (6-foot-1, 185 pounds of not Jrue Holiday)

Number of Power Forwards: Not a lot. TJ Leaf (???) is one of them, which is all you need to know

Could They Beat Five Kyle O’Quinns? Not a chance. They’re going to spend the next decade wishing they had re-signed him

Could Any of Their Players Steal The Ball From Joel Embiid If He Put It Above His Head And Told Them To Jump For It? Joel Embiid intimidates Myles Turner, so no

Would They Beat The Sixers In An Arm Wrestling Competition? Yeah right


Raptors

Average Height: 6-foot-7

Best Player: Marc Gasol (7-foot-1, 255 pounds of kindness toward Joel Embiid after the Kawhi shot)

Worst Player: Fred VanVleet (6-foot-0, 195 pounds of non-factor in a Sixers-Raptors playoff series)

Number of Power Forwards: A few, but Pascal Siakam counts as -1 power forward until he puts on some muscle

Could They Beat Five Kyle O’Quinns? Not likely, but it’s difficult to rule out the champs

Could Any of Their Players Steal The Ball From Joel Embiid if He Put It Above His Head And Told Them To Jump For It? Maybe Marc Gasol if Embiid is feeling merciful

Would They Beat The Sixers In An Arm Wrestling Competition? It bounced off the rim FOUR TIMES before going in. I need a nap.


Bucks

Average Height: 6-foot-7

Best Player: Robin Lopez (7-foot-0, 275 pounds of twin superiority)

Worst Player: Eric Bledsoe (6-foot-1, 205 pounds of shots being blocked into the fifth row)

Number of Power Forwards: A lot. Giannis’ biceps count as five power forwards

Could They Beat Five Kyle O’Quinns? No, because the O’Quinns would just gang up on tiny Eric Bledsoe until the Bucks forfeited

Could Any of Their Players Steal The Ball From Joel Embiid if He Put It Above His Head And Told Them To Jump For It? Maybe Giannis

Would They Beat The Sixers In An Arm Wrestling Competition? Unless Giannis is the only Buck competing, no


Eastern Conference Power Rank

  1. The Kyle O’Quinn Sixers
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Toronto Raptors
  4. Indiana Pacers
  5. Brooklyn Nets
  6. The Celtics are paying Gordon Hayward $32.7 million this season