If you want to ask a question for a future mailbag, you can tweet at me or email email@example.com
Here’s one from our own Dave Early:
@DavidEarly: The Sixers win the title in 2022, how would that script play out if it were to really happen? Including trades, redemption stories, conquering of top conference villains etc.
I love this question. I LOVE IT. There’s nothing better than letting your imagination run wild and dreaming of a title run in early November.
The Sixers are oozing fun and beating up on teams right now. Ben Simmons isn’t playing. To keep those refreshing vibes, let’s say that the team ships out Simmons next month, a perfect holiday gift for Sixers fans, to Portland for CJ McCollum, a 2023 first-round pick swap, a 2024 top-five protected first-round pick and a 2026 top-five protected pick.
In a vacuum, Simmons is a more “valuable” player than McCollum, but we exist in reality, not inside an NFT. McCollum plays like Seth Curry on steroids. Inserting McCollum into the starting lineup makes for an electric 1-2 offensive punch between McCollum and Joel Embiid. A big man and a guard who can initiate and get buckets? Is that legal? Tobias Harris, relegated to the third banana role he’s more suited for, shines getting his quiet, yet efficient, 18 or so points every other night.
Danny Green’s injury concerns unfortunately don’t go away soon, as they continue to hamper the 34-year-old wing. This gives way to Doc Rivers making Matisse Thybulle a consistent starting wing. Playing major minutes, Thybulle is a revelation on the perimeter, swarming defenders in a manner unseen since a young Kawhi Leonard, winning Defensive Player of the Year. He lands on the First-Team All-Defensive squad next to Embiid, making his First-Team appearance after receiving three Second-Team selections previously.
Embiid continues his dominance as one of the most talented big men of all time, but playing 62 games prevents him from being the league MVP again. It becomes increasingly clear as the season wears down that Giannis Antetokounmpo will win his third MVP award, riding high off his 2021 championship performance and the Bucks’ status as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Embiid remembers that.
As Sixers fans over the last few years have realized though, the regular season only matters so much. We’ve seen great regular season Sixers squads. As the second seed in the East, the Sixers are primed to finally become a great playoff team.
The Sixers draw the Knicks in the first round.
It marks the first time they’ve faced New York in the postseason since 1989, as Rick Pitino, Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson and Charles Oakley swept Charles Barkley and Maurice Cheeks in three games. The Sixers get their revenge. The Sixers smack the Knicks in the first two games of the series in Philly before heading up to Madison Square Garden. Game 3 is an unrivaled energy. Those Knicks fans are going bonkers and screaming outside MSG on camera about how Embiid is injury prone and that Curry is puny. It doesn’t matter. Taking a cue from his younger brother, Curry unloads at MSG, dropping 33 points off the bench for the win. He sucks the energy right out of the building. Game 4 is simply a formality at that point. As tensions run high late as a Sixers win becomes increasingly certain, Paul Reed gets into a physical altercation with Julius Randle in the fourth quarter. They both get kicked out. The legend of Paul Reed only grows among hardcore Sixers fans.
The Sixers draw the Nets in the second round.
Another series that makes for an easy commute, the Sixers fans take over Brooklyn this time. Given that the Nets don’t have a real fan base, Philly nuts are packed into this place as if the Phillies were playing the Nationals in Washington in 2010. After splitting the first two games in Philly, the Sixers, feeding off their pseudo-home crowd, take both games in Brooklyn. The continued absence of Kyrie Irving looms large and the distraction of a Hall of Fame talent sitting out hits a boiling point, overshadowing anything happening on the court even with players like Embiid, Kevin Durant and James Harden out there.
Anticipating a Sixers series win in Philly, Durant plays the villain role, dropping a whopping 53 points at the Wells Fargo Center, taking the series back to the borough. Headed into Game 6, the talk on Twitter and ESPN is that the Sixers blew their chance of putting the nail in the Nets’ coffin and are now undoubtedly losing Game 6 and Game 7. Game 6 is a close affair, but as the fourth quarter winds down, Thybulle showcases why he’s the best perimeter defender in the league, giving Harden continued fits, as Harden’s postseason woes continue to plague him. With the game tied and 18 seconds remaining, Thybulle steals an errant pass from Harden. After pure chaos, Harris hits a turnaround mid-range jumper over Durant as time expires, elevating the Sixers to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 21 years.
The Sixers head to Milwaukee. The last time the Sixers were in the Eastern Conference Finals? Yep, they beat the Bucks in seven games. History repeats itself once again. It’s a back-and-forth battle between two Hall of Famers in Antetokounmpo and Embiid. The home team wins every game of the series until Game 7. The Sixers, smelling themselves a bit following a 16-point home win in Game 6, are ready to draw blood. Embiid turns in the finest performance of his career, scoring 24 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, dishing out nine assists and blocking three shots as the Sixers pull out a 10-point win over the Bucks. With the Sixers up five and under a minute remaining, Embiid dream shakes Antetokounmpo for the and-1 bucket. His scream from Milwaukee can be heard all the way back in South Philly. For an entire generation of fans, it stands as the singular greatest moment following the Sixers.
It only stays that way for two weeks though...
Following a rash of injuries from the Lakers and the typical playoff blunders from the Jazz, the Suns find themselves in the NBA Finals for the second-straight year. These Finals turn out even worse for Phoenix than they did in 2021.
Man, that Game 1 tailgate.
THAT GAME 1 TAILGATE.
It rivals the legendary 2017 NFC Championship Game tailgate when the Eagles played the Vikings.
It’s a RAUCOUS crowd. It feels like the roof is going to blow off at any given moment.
The Sixers don’t disappoint. McCollum drops 37 points in a convincing eight-point win.
Game 2? ANOTHER big win. Sixers fans are treated to 42 and 14 performance from Embiid, who sends Deandre Ayton into the Quantum Realm.
The Suns put up a fight in Game 3 though. Devin Booker explodes for 39 points, giving Curry, McCollum and Tyrese Maxey problems all night.
Embiid puts the Sixers back on track in Game 4 though. The best center on the planet puts up another 40-point performance in an 11-point win. Maxey just misses out on a triple-double with 17 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists, a true coming out party to the wider basketball world as a player to be reckoned with in this league.
A closeout NBA Finals game in Philadelphia? A CLOSEOUT NBA FINALS GAME IN PHILLY?
The Suns should’ve never stepped off the bus.
It’s a party. It's a blowout. Sixers fans are watching the clock tick down as if the ball is about to drop on New Year’s Eve.
Embiid sits midway through the fourth quarter with 36 points and the Sixers up by 22. He gets the ovation from the fans he’s been waiting the last eight years for. He takes his place on the bench with the Finals MVP Award sealed for himself and becomes a gigantic towel-waver. Furkan Korkmaz hits three-point shots on three-consecutive possessions. He does a finger-gun celebration following the last one as Suns head coach Monty Williams calls time, trying in vain to stop the bleeding.
The Sixers win.
The Sixers win the championship.
I end up on a milk carton for a week following the parade.