Everybody knows the Sixers’ hype died down after Embiid suffered a meniscus injury.
Everyone also had a lot of doubts about when he would return: Would he be healthy? In shape? Will he get injured again? etc.’

While we can’t overlook some of those doubts, he has already proven he can still be at the top of his game even after missing an extended period of time.

The team already looks brand new after just a few games back.

Biggest Beneficiaries

First off, the whole team obviously has a confidence boost after seeing Embiid take the floor and return to his dominant form.

There’s no question that any team would have their spirits lifted tremendously when the reigning MVP returns to action, but certain players will improve more than others upon his return.

Tyrese Maxey

Maxey reaps the greatest rewards out of anybody else on the team. Although they’ve played just two games back together again, you can’t help but see the freedom that Embiid gives Maxey. It’s no secret that speed is Maxey’s greatest weapon, and when teams can constantly double-team him, it is hard for him to get moving – especially for a player his size.

With Embiid back, the defensive focus instantly shifts. Teams can no longer afford to double-team Maxey because they are busily double-teaming (sometimes triple-teaming) Embiid. Now, Maxey can scream through the lane for easy buckets or use his lethal step-back move to hit 3s, demoralizing other teams.

Maxey is easily Embiid’s best number two in his whole career. They complement each other so well.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

In his last four games, Oubre Jr. has averaged 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3 assists, all significantly more than his season averages. When Embiid gets doubled, Oubre Jr. does well, placing himself in the dunker’s spot, where Embiid can quickly fire a pass over to him for an easy dunk.

Other than Ben Simmons (who would pass on that shot), the Sixers haven’t had a player who could get quick elevation for intimidating dunks like Oubre Jr. in a long time. He has a way of switching the momentum and sparking runs with his explosive play.

The Fans

Whether it’s on the radio, TV, or talking with friends/family, nobody has cared about the Sixers recently. The home games have been subdued, and nobody wants to discuss them. Now, the juice is back. Embiid is the Luke Skywalker to the Sixers: our only hope. With him back, all balance can be restored to the process, and the Sixers could possibly win their first title in over 40 years.

Playoff Picture

With just three games left on the schedule, the Sixers find themselves one game behind the Pacers for the 6-seed and .5 games ahead of the Heat, holding down the 7-seed. The Sixers do not hold any of the tie-breakers with either team, so they need to finish a full game ahead of each team to lock in their spot.

The two most likely opponents in the first round (after the play-in because that doesn’t count as a round in my book) are the Bucks or the Magic. Either one of those teams can end up as the second seed, and there is no reason the Sixers should lose the play-in game, putting them in the 2 vs. 7 seed game.

Neither of those teams should scare anybody. The Bucks were 30-13 when they fired Adrian Griffin and then hired the incompetent coach, Glenn Rivers, to take his place. He has gone 15-17 in his tenure as Bucks Head coach. I really hope we get to play the Bucks.

The Magic are a good team, but they are led by a second-year star, Paolo Banchero. Young teams typically struggle in the playoffs—especially against good, experienced teams like the Sixers. For the record, the Sixers went 2-0 against the Magic this year.

The Sixers are a nightmare matchup for any of the higher-seeded teams.

The Play-in

A lot of people want to avoid the play-in, but why? If this Sixers team is good enough to make a run, then nobody should worry about any of the 8-10-seeded teams, and if they can’t handle a game against those teams, they have no business in the playoffs. It could give them some needed momentum and added time to gain chemistry before playing the better teams.

Legacy Building

Embiid could retire today and enter the NBA Hall of Fame, but that’s not what he wants. Right now, he’s an all-time Sixers great, but he could become one of the top five Philly athletes ever with a championship under his belt.

Nobody would be angry with him about his injuries anymore.

He is finally 100% healthy coming into the playoffs, and he’s rested. He needs to put it all together to make a run.
The pieces are set around him to succeed this year—a good combination of veteran and young players, as well as a coach with championship experience.
Let’s see what you can do, big man.

Photo: Matt Slocum

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