Philadelphia 76ers went into the 2023/24 season with high hopes of winning the NBA championship for the first time since 1983.

However, an injury sustained by reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid has derailed what was looking to be an extremely promising campaign for the Sixers. Embiid, who was averaging 35.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in 39 appearances, has missed eight games since Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga fell on his left leg at the end of January.A disappointing 3-5 run since then resulted in their title odds on Betway being pushed down in the latest NBA odds out to double-digits, highlighting Embiid’s importance to the team.The Sixers were without several other players for their most recent outing, but it was Embiid’s absence that was felt the most as Miami Heat recorded a 109-104 victory.

While one man does not necessarily make a team in professional basketball, everything the Sixers generally do revolves around having Embiid in the line-up.

After the 29-year-old recently underwent surgery on his left knee, team president Daryl Morey hinted he could be back in time for the play-offs.

“We’re hopeful,” Morey said ((h/t ESPN). “Feedback has been more good than bad since we first heard about what led to his procedure.

“So, we’re hopeful and we’re building the team to make it better this year. Obviously, it’s not at 100 percent. But with Joel playing at an MVP level, hopefully, he could get back to that. And this is a year that we have a real shot.”

Photo: ClutchPoints

With the NBA season heading into the All-Star break, the Sixers have an opportunity to formulate a plan to cope more effectively during Embiid’s absence.

Head coach Nick Nurse must somehow create a functional defensive unit without a player who is one of the best in the business at both ends of the court. Nurse will need to utilise the talents Buddy Hield, Kyle Lowry and Tyrese Maxey, who must collectively pick up the slack until Embiid returns.

While the trio are unlikely to be able to carry the Sixers to an NBA championship, they undoubtedly have the ability to ensure they progress to the play-offs.

Two victories prior to the defeat against Miami indicated that Nurse’s coaching methods were having the desired effect and the break could help him hammer those messages home.

The Sixers return to action with a challenging run of four games against the teams directly above them in the Eastern Conference.

Emerging unscathed from games against New York Knicks (H), Cleveland Cavaliers (H), Milwaukee Bucks (H) and Boston Celtics (A) will not be easy, but would set them up for the rest of the season.Nurse acknowledged after Sixers were defeated by Miami that his players were beginning to get to grips with coping without Embiid in the line-up.

If they make further improvements during the break, the Sixers could keep themselves in play-off contention.
If they get over the line and Embiid returns, anything is possible.

Photo: ClutchPoints

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