Despite Stinging End of Season, 76ers Possess Positive Outlook on Future

Despite Stinging End of Season, 76ers Possess Positive Outlook on Future Apr 12, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) and guard Tyrese Maxey (0) stand together during a break in action in the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers’ season ended in stinging fashion with a 118-115 loss to the New York Knicks in Game 6. With the loss, yet another season has ended with the Sixers falling short of their ultimate goal: winning a championship.

The first-round series between the Sixers and Knicks went down to the wire in every game. Both teams were evenly matched. The Sixers lost the overall points scored in the series by just one.

While the Sixers again came up short in the playoffs, this iteration of the Sixers evokes a different feeling than years past. They battled through a myriad of injuries throughout the season. Once the playoffs arrived, they poured their heart and soul onto the court in an insanely tight series against the Knicks. While the result was ultimately disappointing, there is a lot of reason for optimism moving forward.

After years of searching for the right player to pair with Joel Embiid, this season proved Tyrese Maxey is a perfect fit. Maxey averaged 25.9 points and 6.2 assists this season. His stellar play earned him both his first All-Star berth and the Most Improved Player award. He then improved his play in the playoffs, averaging an efficient 29.8 points and 6.8 assists per contest. Maxey’s play throughout this season cemented his rise to stardom.

The Embiid-Maxey pairing produced dominant results for the Sixers in the 2023-24 season. Due to Embiid missing multiple months with a left knee injury, the pairing played only 36 games together during the regular season. However, the Sixers in those contests finished with a 29-7 record that would have over a full season been the best in the league.

Embiid battled through a sore left knee and a case of Bell’s palsy to average 33.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game this postseason. His efforts were not enough to power the Sixers past the Knicks in the first round. Despite the sting of having his season end, he took the blame for the loss and then spoke glowingly about his younger co-star sitting next to him at the podium.

“I’ve got to be better,” Embiid said after Game 6 against the Knicks. “Starting with myself, the whole series I could’ve been better. Maybe if I was better, we would’ve won it, so that’s on me. That’s why we lost. Just got to find a way to get better as a basketball player, as a person, as a leader and come back and hope that everything else aligns.

“[Maxey] has a chance to do something special next year again. I hope he becomes All-NBA this year, but I think he can be in stuff like MVP conversations. I think he can take that next step.”

The flourishing partnership between Embiid and Maxey is a huge reason to be optimistic about the Sixers’ future. Philadelphia is also entering this offseason loaded with cap space and trade assets. The Sixers have approximately $55 million in salary cap space available. They also have a cupboard full of draft picks to potentially use in trades.

President of basketball operations Daryl Morey will have multiple avenues to add premier talents to the roster. He could go after one of the top free agents, such as LeBron James or Paul George. Trading for a star like Jimmy Butler or Brandon Ingram could be in the cards for the Sixers. If Morey strikes out on acquiring another star, filling up the roster with multiple high-end role players is another potential path he could take.

The exact path the Sixers will take remains unclear. There is no question they will have their hands full attempting to maximize the roster around the Embiid-Maxey duo.

“Like I said, we’ve got some work to do,” head coach Nick Nurse said after the Sixers were eliminated by the Knicks, via Paul Hudrick of Liberty Ballers. “We’re going to have to figure that out here this summer. But I certainly like where we’re going, especially with Tyrese. I think people were wondering where he fit in this thing, but I think we all know now that Joel-Tyrese is a helluva combo to start with. And we’ve just got to — maybe not tomorrow, but maybe on Monday — get back to work.”

For the first time in multiple years, the Sixers are entering an offseason with no drama and a lot of warranted optimism.

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