The 76ers
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Are The Nets Or 76ers Going To Be Worse Off In The Future?

The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets were many people’s presumptive matchup in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. However, both teams have been upset in the second round, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks now set to battle it out to represent the East in the NBA Finals. With the top 2 seeds in their conference now forced to look ahead to next season, here are the cases for whether the Nets and 76ers are worse off for their early playoff exit.

Why The Nets Are Worse Off

For starters, age and injuries were the only concerns for this Nets squad before experts had them as the runaway favorite for the NBA title earlier this year. James Harden and Kevin Durant are already on the wrong side of 30, and Kyrie is 29. It’s Durant in particular that needs focusing on. He should rightfully enter the 2021-2022 season as the best player in the game, but his Achilles injury still hangs around in the back of everyone’s mind. Coach Steve Nash took a risk by playing him in every minute of games 5 and 7, and unfortunately, it did not pay off. He was incredible throughout both playoff rounds, and fingers crossed he can return next season to continue playing as well as he did. Harden played the last 3 games of the series, obviously injured, and was not anywhere near his usual self. Kyrie Irving did not play for the rest of the series after spraining his ankle during game 4 in Milwaukee. Had all 3 been fully healthy, Brooklyn would have more than likely won this series, but durability is now a real question mark. Another concern for GM Sean Marks is that all of the Big 3 are entering the final year of their contracts before having a player option in the Summer of 2022. If they come up short again before the Finals, there is no doubt all 3 will ask whether Brooklyn is the right place for them. Marks will have to be ready to construct another magical rebuild since the Nets forfeited all of their first-round picks for the foreseeable future in the James Harden trade. It is without a doubt that Brooklyn is one of the teams with the most to lose next season.

Why The Sixers Are Worse Off

Injuries also remain a primary concern in Philly as well. Joel Embiid had to play through a partially torn meniscus in a losing effort, which has only added frustration toward head coach Doc Rivers and this Philly roster. Of course, many will rightfully point fingers at Ben Simmons. The Hawks exploited his glaring lack of any shooting ability, especially at the free-throw line. Simmons has quickly become a liability in late-game situations, as Rivers even chose to bench him at some points throughout the series. Anyone with eyes can see that Kyrie, KD, and Harden can all effortlessly drain jump shots. Joel Embiid is a good shooter at his position, and Ben Simmons is….. Ben Simmons. His inabilities have effectively put a ceiling on this Sixers team as a good or even great regular season team (as was the case this year, and a second-round exit once it matters. The sooner GM Elton Brand can move Simmons out of town for a different co-star, the better. There should be no better indictment of the Australian’s play against the Hawks than the fact that he recorded single-digit point totals in Games 5, 6, AND 7. He’s a great passer and rebounder and can defend any position, but what else is there to say about Ben Simmons at this point? His unwillingness to shoot makes him a finished article at 24 years old.

Verdict: The Sixers

This time next year, things could be totally different, but it’s the 76ers right now. I will more than definitely change my tune if Ben Simmons is traded and Brooklyn’s big 3 is broken up in 2022 free agency. We know for a fact that the Nets would make at least the Conference Finals if everyone was healthy, but the Sixers have not won more than a single playoff series in every year Simmons and Embiid have played together. Hell, Brooklyn was a thrilling Game 7 away from getting there without Kyrie and with an injured Harden. The Philadelphia 76ers have 2 blown game sevens in 2019 and last night to show for The Process. Unless things change, it looks like they’re in line for more of the same misery and disappointment for years to come.

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