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Deep Playoff Run or Play-In Tournament Exit? What Is In Store For The Sixers?

By Michael Doctorovitz, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Starting on Tuesday, January 25th, the Philadelphia 76ers will begin a five game homestand. The team currently sits at sixth in the Eastern Conference but is only 2.5 games out of the top spot. How did they get here? How far can they go? What can they do to improve? How important is this homestand as they try to avoid the single elimination play-in tournament?

The Sixers started this season off slow, picking things up towards the end of December and continuing that momentum into the new calendar year. They are currently 8-3 in January and are facing a five game homestand a week before the highly anticipated trade deadline. The toughest matchup during this homestand will be on Monday, January 31, vs the 32-17 Memphis Grizzlies and perennial All-Star Ja Morant

The question remains: Can the Sixers make a deep playoff run? The odds are stacked against them and, unless they make a trade or they can get certain players back in the rotation, the team is looking more and more like a play-in team. As of right now, the Sixers are playing some good basketball. Joel Embiid is playing his best basketball and keeping the team above water with contributors like Danny Green, Seth Curry and Shake Milton remaining out. The rotation has been another problem this season due to health and safety protocols along with injuries preventing more consistency and time to gel.

With the reports this past week about James Harden and Ben Simmons swirling, a lot have questioned whether it is the right thing to keep Simmons until the offseason and waste this year of Embiid. The problem is that, although the Sixers have heard offers from the Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Hornets, nobody wants to trade a top player for Simmons who has yet to play this season. The Sixers hold no leverage. 

Currently sitting at 27-19, this homestand is big for the team. Winning all five could be possible if they play how they can. At times this year the Sixers have looked great but at other times they have looked average at best. Winning at least four of these games is crucial for the Sixers as they have already played 46 games and the All-Star break is quickly approaching. According to ESPN the Sixers currently have the fifth easiest strength of schedule (SOS) remaining with their SOS being .489. 

With Embiid having another MVP like season, the team needs to do whatever they can to help him. Whether or not Daryl Morey is right in believing it is best to keep Simmons until the offseason remains to be seen but they should still keep their focus on this years team and try to deal Tobias Harris. Harris has more trade value than Simmons, especially with the way he has been playing as of late, and dealing Harris could bring in a good playmaker along with making minutes available for the younger talent on the team to develop. 

As it stands right now the Sixers are a play-in tournament team with the potential to do some damage if they get past that round. For a team that can be on or off on any given night, they should be hoping to avoid the single elimination play-in. That is also what could make them so dangerous in a seven game series though. No team in the East has a center that can stop Embiid, in fact no team in the NBA has a player that can really contain him, and as long as the wings and perimeter players are having a good night, then the Sixers could be dangerous. 



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