Sixers must prioritize improvement, not NBA Finals

Philadelphia 76ers NBA Joel Embiid JJ Redick

Several Sixers were talking about the NBA Finals before the season began. They should stop talking.

The NBA Finals aren’t close for this version of the Sixers. Right now, they need to focus on simply improving. Small victories would be nice such as avoiding games with 28 turnovers, which afflicted them in a maddening loss on Sunday night at Brooklyn.

Through the first 11 games, the Sixers are 6-5 with six home wins and five road losses. Not exactly the mark of a championship contending team.

While expectations were quite high entering this season, it was a bit of fool’s gold. The Sixers finished 52-30, defeated the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs and then were bounced in five games by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Sixers lost Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli in free agency and then surprisingly traded away Mikal Bridges in a bizarre draft night deal, which brought them, Zhaire Smith. Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler are a downgrade from Ilyasova and Belinelli, even though financial ramifications clearly played a role.

How about point guard Markelle Fultz’s issues with his confidence and shooting? The former No. 1 overall pick does not appear to be close to becoming that third star the Sixers are craving. He also doesn’t appear close to becoming a consistent player let alone a star.

Ben Simmons, on the other hand, may be driven to become an All-Star, but his reluctance to shoot must change. Having two point guards – Simmons and Fultz – who can’t shoot well, is not a promising sign.

Forward Dario Saric looks heavy-legged and tired and the 76ers need more from him. That’s hardly a secret. Without Saric’s contribution on a nightly basis, the team isn’t nearly as talented.

In addition to the inconsistency from the starters, the bench is thin without Ilyasova and Belinelli. Since both of those players could shoot well and score in bunches, the Sixers had options last season. If JJ Redick is having an off shooting night, the Sixers are struggling to score and ultimately struggling to win.

“We need more from others,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown told reporters. “Everybody is aware of it.”

Brown was referring to the production from center Joel Embiid, who entered the season healthy and is quickly becoming a candidate for Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year. Embiid’s game looks more polished in every way on both offense and defense.

Simmons and Redick have had solid games alongside Embiid to help propel the Sixers to a 6-0 start at home.

The Process began under Sam Hinkie, continued with Bryan Colangelo and is now in the hands of Elton Brand. After 75 wins in the four previous seasons, Philly won 52 last season. For those who believed it would result in a trip to the NBA Finals in 2018-19 are going to be disappointed.

Even young standouts like Embiid and Simmons need several years at least to becoming true All-Stars and team leaders. The pieces around them have to fit perfectly.

This team is imperfect right now. Can Philadelphia become a very good team? Of course. Can the Sixers win a playoff round and possibly two? It’s a possibility.

However, they’re not going to the NBA Finals. Not yet. Not with a flawed roster. This may upset the hard-core fans. For now, the 76ers have to just continue getting better every single day and not discuss long-term goals in public.

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