Sat. Mar 6th, 2021

An offseason of change has delivered the Philadelphia 76ers a real chance to compete.

Two blockbuster trades. Three infamous bounces. The 2018-19 NBA season changed the lives of Philadelphia 76ers fans forever. The Sixers came into the season with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, two generational talents that stood to be pillars for the franchise to build around.

They also had former number one overall pick, Markelle Fultz, still on the roster. Fultz had a rookie season that was riddled with puzzling injuries, but he was still slated to be the missing piece to the puzzle. A combo guard that possessed a tight handle, supreme confidence, and elite shot creating abilities.

The season ended with a starting lineup that consisted of Ben Simmons, J.J. Reddick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid. The team was that started the season was nowhere to be found, with several players being traded away.

The new starting lineup overpowered teams, an offense revolving around Joel Embiid. Despite this starting lineup that outscored opponents by 19.8 points per offensive possession, Kawhi Leonard made the infamous triple-bounce game winner in game seven that sent Joel Embiid home in tears.

While the 76ers could have re-signed both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in the offseason, Jimmy Butler bolted for Miami. The deal was facilitated by a sign-and-trade that brought the Sixers two way slasher Josh Richardson. In turn, the Sixers signed Tobias Harris to a questionable contract worth $180 millions across five years.

The most puzzling contract of all, though, was the one Al Horford received. Horford had long stifled Embiid in matchups against the Celtics, but $109 million for an aging Horford was a contract that Elton Brand and the Sixers immediately regretted.

The Sixers went on to struggle mightily in the 2019-20 season. One season completely changed the franchise’s outlook. The 76ers went from a team with several assets, a bright future, and championship threats, to an underachieving team with a murky future.

The clunky Sixers staring lineup offered little spacing, leaving the paint congested, as Simmons, Embiid, and Horford struggled to mesh together. Injuries piled up, as Simmons had not one, but two season-changing injuries that season (one pre-bubble, one during the bubble restart). Simmons missed the playoffs with an injury, and the Sixers were swept by the hated Celtics.

One season is all it takes to swing an NBA franchise’s fortunes. After getting swept, Sixers management worked swiftly. Brett Brown was finally fired, to the tune of cheers from many of Philly’s most faithful. Doc Rivers, one of the most respected NBA coaches of this generation, took his place.

Daryl Morey, an elite NBA executive was brought in to be the president of basketball operations. One season is all it takes in the NBA. Quickly, the Sixers’ fortunes did a complete 180, the second time in two seasons.

Daryl Morey worked quickly, swapping Horford (and his horrible contract) and Richardson, two pieces that didn’t fit, for elite shooters Danny Green and Seth Curry. He drafted Tyrese Maxey in the first round, a great value at pick 21.

Doc Rivers held the stars in check, elevating Joel Embiid to an MVP candidate and Tobias Harris back to All-Star form. Joel Embiid went into the offseason with a chip on his shoulder after being left on all three All-NBA teams. He returned in the best shape of his life, ready to lead the 76ers.

The NBA is a league that shifts quickly, a constant power struggle as teams fight to remain at the best of their respective conferences to ultimately battle it out in the playoffs for a chance to hoist the championship trophy in the air.

The city of Philadelphia has seen that one season worth of change is all a franchise needs to have its future altered. This leaves 76ers fans with one question; Is this the one season that will make all the difference, bringing home the Larry O’Brien trophy to Philadelphia for the first time since 1983?