Can the Philadelphia 76ers Make the NBA Finals in 2019?

Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. Bulls up 99-87 to the Sixers. 1:20 left on the clock. Chicago is about to captivate their first playoff game with a W after finishing the regular season in 1st place. Derrick Rose just became the youngest player in the history of the game to win the MVP award. The morale in the city of Chicago is as high as it was since the days of Michael Jordan. Anyways, Rose crosses up a defender and starts driving towards the hoop. He throws the ball up in the most cringe form. Almost as if he stepped on a tack once his feet left the ground. He drops to the floor with only one leg reaching for the court. With the ball still in play, nobody notices. Everyone still focuses on the basket. It was like a shootout in the midwest. One of the cowboys gets hit, but the dust surrounds them. Anticipation rises as the crowd waits for the dust to settle, to see what happened. Derrick Rose is on the court, grasping his knee – nothing but a face full of frustration and pain. Just like that – the superstar, the new hope of Chicago, the savior of our city suffers a gruesome ACL tear. All fans, friends, and family around the country were in shock. Silently praying for him to get up – he just stayed down. Nobody cared about the game. Nobody cared about our playoff or championship hopes. We just hoped our hometown hero was going to be okay… and just like that. A young man with the potential to reach the sky, had hit his ceiling. The youngest MVP of all time would never be the same.

“What if.” What if Derrick stayed healthy? I don’t know if I see another MVP season. As much as I want to, it’s hard to do. What I do see? I see a happy and healthy person – a team player. With the motive to win a ring. Determination to be a champion. Humble beginnings often lead to humble endings.

I could go on and on about the recovery attempts. Adidas’ #Return campaigns. The external falls of #1. But I won’t. Derrick Rose is a legend to the game of basketball and deserves to be respected as one. He’s one of the best players to ever step on the court. We could dream about what could have been. But let’s not. Let’s enjoy what we witnessed and leave it at that. Being able to watch you play and see what you did for the city of Chicago was indescribable. You brought hope to a city when it needed i14

Can the Philadelphia 76ers Make the NBA Finals in 2019?

You could feel the air come out of the city of Philadelphia when it was announced that Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors. First Lebron and now Kawhi!

The 76ers fans had convinced themselves that one of the two big free agents, either Leonard or LeBron James, was coming to Philadelphia to complete “The Process” and take the 76ers to the promise land.

But LeBron took his talents to The Los Angeles Lakers, where he has two homes and a production company. And the 76ers were not willing to give up one of their three young stars for Kawhi. So the overwhelming feeling was and is that the 76ers failed.

It is a case of unreasonable expectations. LeBron James was going to Los Angeles no matter what. And it wasn’t worth it to trade away the future for a one year rental, since Kawhi wants to go to Southern California after his contract expires at the end of the season.

Because of the disappointment, Sixers’ fans may not have noticed that their team got better. They have a real path to the NBA Finals.

The team got Wilson Chandler in a trade with the Denver Nuggets for basically nothing. He is much better than anyone who was scheduled to come off the bench. And they picked up Atlanta Hawk free agent Mike Muscala, who can play both center and power forward.

The bench is stronger. And Furkan Korkmaz, a summer league sensation and three-point specialist, is ready to play in the NBA after being drafted out of the Turkish professional league.

But most importantly, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, the core three, have another year in the league and can only get better.

And Joel Embiid no longer has a game or minute restriction. With the increased minutes, Embiid should not only put up MVP numbers, but Hall of Fame numbers.

Yes, there are some concerns. Embiid’s health, Simmons’ jump shot, Fultz’s state of mind and the fact that the team is still without a General Manager (which is craaazy!).

But, at least on paper, the 76ers look just as good, if not much better than the Boston Celtics or the Toronto Raptors, the two teams that finished ahead of them in the Eastern Conference in the 2017-18 season. Just ask Nate Silver, the nation’s preeminent statistician and sports prognosticator.

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