With the season still in its early stages, we’ve seen flashes of what this year’s Philadelphia 76ers can be at full strength. They’re pretty clearly a very good team when everyone plays, but how good can they be? And are there any trades out there that significantly improve the team’s title odds?
To this point, the 76ers are 9-5 overall. The record is not a clear indication of how good the team is due to Joel Embiid missing some games and obviously the Covid protocols that forced the team to play with a shorthanded roster multiple times. It’s been a short sample size of games played with the whole starting lineup, but they are yet to lose when they all play together.
Reports have come out in the aftermath of the James Harden to Brooklyn trade that suggests the Sixers thought they had a deal done. Knowing that Daryl Morey was ready to pull the trigger on a trade for the 2018 league MVP and reunite with James Harden says a lot about where he thinks the team is and where they can go. A trade like that raises a team’s expectations to title or bust. At this point, the Sixers are a really good team, but may no longer have an external route of reaching title contender status. With James Harden off the table, there may no longer be a trade that drastically improves what we already have.
Zach Lavine and Bradley Beal are the names that are being thrown around recently, but neither the Bulls or Wizards are overly excited to trade away their star players, despite their tough starts to the season. It’s also important to note that neither of those players is James Harden level. Beal is the league’s leading scorer so far this season and would be beneficial to this roster. But giving up Ben Simmons for Bradley Beal may not improve the team the same way that James Harden would have.
For the Sixers to be title contenders this year, they likely need to get healthy and build together. While Daryl Morey will most likely end up making at least one trade before the deadline to improve the team, there probably isn’t one out there at this time that’s worth putting all of our chips in for. I have no doubt that he’ll be patient and let the team grow together if there isn’t a deal he likes before the deadline. This is a difficult position for the team to be in because on the one hand, you don’t want to waste an MVP level season from Joel Embiid. On the other hand, you don’t want to make a trade that gives up all our assets if it doesn’t truly give us a great chance of winning a title.
Patience will be key for Daryl Morey and the 76ers as the season progresses. There are still a lot of unknowns about how good this team can be. Internal development from players already on the roster may be the only route to success for this season, and that’s okay. When the time is right, the Sixers can and will position themselves to be true title contenders: it’s just yet to be seen how soon that will come.
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