Are the Doc Rivers Led 76ers Championship Contenders in 2021?
The New Look 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have made some big changes after getting swept in the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics. First, the team fired coach Brett Brown and replaced him with Doc Rivers. Additionally, the 76ers fired former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to run the franchise’s basketball operations. Will these moves make the 76ers a perennial NBA championship contender?
Adding Coach Doc Rivers
Doc Rivers agreed to a five-year deal to be the next coach of the 76ers. Rivers, who won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, spent the previous seven seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he had an up and down tenure. Despite coaching talented teams that were headlined by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan, the team was never able to make the Western Conference finals. However, in 2019, when the team was devoid of talent, Rivers coached the team to a playoff birth in a loaded Western Conference and took the Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant led Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round. After blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets this past postseason, Rivers and the Clippers decided to part ways.
After being in the Houston Rockets organization for over a decade, Daryl Morey will now run the 76ers basketball operations. With the Rockets, Morey had the Rockets playing at a style that heavily emphasized shooting three-pointers. The Rockets have led the NBA in three-pointers attempted each of the past four seasons. Will Morey implement that same style with the 76ers? Philadelphia’s two best players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are not known for their three-point shooting. Simmons has only made two three-pointers. However, Joel Embiid prefers to play near the basket and is just a career 32% three-point shooter. Based on their personal, it would not make sense for the 76ers to shoot as many threes as the Houston Rockets.
76ers Chasing a Ring
If the 76ers want to be a consistent NBA title contender, they need to see improvement from Ben Simmons. Simmons is currently a very good player, but as a former #1 overall pick who drew comparisons to Lebron James, Simmons was expected to be a great player. Many people focus on the fact that Simmons only has two career made three-pointers, but he doesn’t need to be a good three-point shooter to dominate. Despite being a poor three-point shooter, Giannis Antetokounmpo has won the past two NBA MVP awards. Antetokounmpo and Simmons have similar skillsets. However, Antetokounmpo is far more aggressive, willing to attack the basket when he has the ball in his hands. Simmons could become one of the best players in the league if he learns to be more assertive.
Key Cornerstone Pieces
Another key for the 76ers is the performance of Joel Embiid. In the team’s four postseason games, Embiid averaged 30 points and 12 rebounds per game while shooting 46% from the field. The reason why the 76ers got swept was that they got minimal production from Tobias Harris and Al Horford. Harris averaged 16 points per game while shooting 38% from the field and 13% from three. Horford on the other hand averaged just seven points per game. Since Harris and Horford have annual salaries of 32 and 28 million dollars respectively, their postseason performance was unacceptable.
The 76ers will look different this season with Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey pulling the strings. If the team wants to be a title contender, they will need Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to play like stars while receiving consistent production from Tobias Harris.