Philadelphia 76ers: Can They Challenge the Milwaukee Bucks For the East?

The Eastern Conference is going to experience something it hasn’t in almost 15 years.  A postseason without LeBron James. With LeBron taking his talents out west the Eastern Conference is ripe for the taking and so far multiple teams have made their cases for being a potential participant in the Finals out of the east. One of these teams is the Philadelphia 76ers who currently sit in 3rd place in the conference. They, along with the rest of the contenders are chasing the 1st place, Milwaukee Bucks. So the question is, do the Sixers have what it takes to get past this formidable foe?

For starters, the Sixers have made a bevy of moves this season in order to not only compete in the East but also a chance to compete for a title. Their first big move on the year was general manager Elton Brand going out and acquiring All-star Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves. Displeased with the situation in Minnesota, Butler basically demanded a trade. At the time it felt like Philadelphia gave up too many key guys to get Butler. Robert Covington and Dario Saric were among the players shipped off to Minnesota. Butler’s impact was felt immediately, however, as he hit multiple game-winners for Philadelphia within his first few weeks on the team. The second big move on the season came right around the trade deadline as the Sixers acquired Tobias Harris from the Clippers.

The moves the Sixers made this season transformed the team from an above average team in the East to a true threat. The main cause for concern when the team first made the Butler trade was that they were losing size and shooting. Covington and Saric played the small and power forward positions respectively but also possessed the ability to stretch the floor. Now with the addition of Tobias Harris, you get a better more versatile version of Saric. Tobias stands at 6’8 with a stocky frame. He can work defenders in the post as well take them outside. In a potential matchup against the Bucks in the playoffs he will be a key player due to the length that Milwaukee has. In addition to Harris, the Sixers received Boban Marjanovic, the 7’3 center from Serbia.

The big thing about the Bucks is just that. They are big. There is great length and size up and down the roster. This is a big reason why they are so good on defense. The Bucks rank in the top 10 defensively in terms points allowed. Milwaukee also has the lowest opponent field goal percentage as teams are only shooting 43% against them. On the flip side the Bucks rank 2nd in the NBA in scoring at just over 117 ppg. A big reason for this is having an All-Star starting lineup. Three of their starters have been All-Stars selections and Eric Bledsoe has borderline All-Star talent as well. Of course, the big worry is the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo but it’s the role players off the bench that pose a serious threat. Guys like George Hill, Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell provide a nice change of pace.

For Philadelphia to overtake the Bucks in a potential semi/conference final matchup it’ll come down to scoring and consistency. Philadelphia’s roster is made up of guys that can all just about score the ball at will, especially in their starting lineup. It’s a rotation that’s littered with not only talent but veteran talent as well. Throughout the course of the year, Philly has had games where they’ve let their foot off the gas or collapsed. Most recently their loss to the lowly Bulls where they blew a 10 point 4th quarter lead.

In saying that, they still have two of the brightest young players in Simmons and Embiid. J.J. Reddick provides the lethal three-point shooting and TJ McConnell is a reliable presence off the bench. This could be the year that “The Process” finally comes to fruition.

Do you think that the Philadelphia 76ers can challenge the Milwaukee Bucks? Leave a comment below.

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