Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers’ breakout player will be…

Whoever earns more playing time between Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle. That’s a bit of a cop out, but of the Sixers players not named Matisse or Zhaire who are guaranteed significant time this season, most of them are what they are. Smith and Thybulle both have considerable upside and both are defensively talented athletes on a team which won’t ask very much of them on the other end. Thybulle and Smith will likely get opportunities to prove themselves and I wouldn’t be shocked to see both consistently making impact plays on defense. Whoever can add a little something extra offensively may be line for a breakout. Honorable mention: Furkan Korkmaz.

It all goes wrong if…

Joel Embiid cannot stay healthy and conditioned and Ben Simmons fails to improve in a significant way. The Sixers are pretty deep in a watered down Eastern Conference, so it’s hard to imagine them being so terrible that a doomsday scenario arises and they miss the playoffs. But with that sort of depth of talent comes the expectation of title contention and anything less will likely be ‘all wrong’ in the eyes of Sixers fans. And what could hold the Sixers back from getting there are a less-than-100% Embiid and the sort of play out of Ben Simmons in the halfcourt that is largely empty and ignorable.

What we’ll be saying about the Sixers at the end of the season…

“Sure, the Sixers were a regular season powerhouse, now let’s see how it translates in the semifinals round.” The Sixers shouldn’t have much resistance on the path to a 50+ win season and a top two or three seed in the Eastern Conference, provided good health. Their defense should stifle opponents for large portions of the season and their team stats and metrics could look elite. But all that really matters is whether the offense can manufacture enough points in the playoffs to complement what should be one of the league’s most stout defenses.

Final prediction

The Sixers’ over/under win total is set at 53.5, and I think that’s a little low. A long absence from Joel Embiid could bring the Sixers in at a total in the low fifties, but with a defense that projects to be possibly the league’s best and a starting five of chock full of All-Star candidates, I think a mid-to-high fifties win total is attainable.

Final prediction: 56-26

Kevin F. Love (@Liberty_Ballers)