The 29-16 76ers are currently the four-seed in the east, three games ahead of the rival Celtics. This fact on its own is not concerning. However, throughout this season, even if we ignore the off the court stuff, this team has consistently shown its flaws. An absolute gauntlet of a 12 game stretch lies ahead. This will be the Sixers first true long-term test of the season, For a team whose weakness has lied in their rotational players and lack of depth, this run of games could easily send this season into a downward spiral.
Every single one of these teams is above .500. For the Sixers to get out of this stretch alive (6-6), it’ll take some really strong efforts from Joel Embiid. He’ll presumably be stuck playing 36 minutes on a lot of these nights. No matter what, this schedule stretch will put the Sixers roster under a ton of pressure physically.
On the other hand, this gauntlet presents the first true test for Philly on where they stand in terms of championship contention. Up until now, the Sixers lack a signature win. They’ve been great at home and more often than not pull out wins against inferior teams, despite keeping the opposition in the game for far too long. It’s certainly going to be tough, but should the Sixers have success over this true test, they’ll finally prove they’re capable of beating top notch competition.
What’s the Sixers formula for success in their first true test ?
For the Sixers to survive this, it’s going to take a gargantuan effort from the big man. Embiid’s been putting up monster stats all year, but if he can put together a few career games and lead the Sixers to crucial wins, I think his MVP candidacy will really take off.
On the other hand, the bench guys have to be at least passable. Since the Butler trade, it’s been very clear that the Sixers are just desperately thin. Hopefully, this is a problem that can be remedied come buyout season, but for now the boys they have on the bench are going to have to be competitive, particularly on the defensive end.
Frankly, I’m not very optimistic about the near future for this team. The performance on Tuesday against the Wolves was promising, but this team just has too many problems. It would not surprise me at all if they lose all four of that west coast stretch in the middle. All in all, I expect them to come out of the gauntlet 5-7. Hopefully I’m wrong.
Despite the Sixers record, they’ve looked relatively uninspiring and just haven’t shown true championship potential. This run coming up, while terrifying, provides a true test on where this team stands. Come February, we’ll have a real idea of where this team stands, and maybe insight on what comes next for Butler and the team as a whole.
Featured Photo: James Anderson via Flickr