After perhaps one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent history, now is a good time to reassess the Eastern Conference.

With Ben Simmons holding out and the drama surrounding that whole fiasco, it looked like it was going to be another lost season for the 76ers. Joel Embiid was carrying the Sixers on his back, but it looked like the goal for this season was not to win, but develop the team’s young talent, mainly Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle.

Thybulle is one of the best on ball defenders in the entire league. We know that Thybulle can play defensively, what is holding him back is his offensive game. At just 24 years old he has solidified himself in the NBA but has shown an improvement offensively every year thus far.

As Maxey has taken the leap from year one to year two, he was forced to take on more playing time without Simmons in the lineup. Maxey in the midst of his second year was the Sixers starting point guard, a position he’s never played before. He played the position so well that the former 21st overall pick established himself as an untouchable at this year’s deadline.

In more minutes played this year (15 minutes per game last year to 36 minutes per game this year), Maxey saw a drastic increase in 3P% (30% last year to 40% this year) and has been much more aggressive averaging almost four more shots per game this year. Maxey’s quick development is a major reason why they can contend beyond this year.

The news broke yesterday just a couple of hours before the 3 pm Eastern deadline that the Brooklyn Nets agreed to trade James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Sixers in exchange for a package without Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle. The Sixers sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first round picks the Nets way in exchange for Harden.

Pairing Harden with Embiid creates the best duo in the NBA currently, and if you add Maxey to that mix, the Sixers big three looks like it could be one of the league’s best in the coming years. With all the offensive firepower the Sixers now possess, they no longer need to rely on Tobias Harris for offense and can allow him to settle into a role a smaller role in the offensive which is what he was in 2019 behind Embiid, Simmons, and Jimmy Butler.

The Sixers look deep now, a lot deeper than they did a week ago. The Harden trade was exactly what the team needed as they paired a superstar with Joel Embiid who is playing the best basketball of his career, and were able to keep their young stars in Maxey and Thybulle out of the deal. Not to mention that they cleared the team of all the drama surrounding Simmons and can now focus solely on winning this season.

It all looks to be breaking the Sixers’ way as the East seems to be wide open. If a showdown with the Nets happens in the playoffs, get your popcorn ready it should be fun to watch.

Photo via Getty Images

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