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Everyone needs to slow their roll on penciling in the Brooklyn Nets into this year’s NBA Finals. It’s as if people forget who the number one seed in the East has been for the majority of the season. It’s as if people forget the team with the favorite for defensive player of the year and an MVP candidate on the roster. Oh right, the team I am referencing… The best team in the East besides Brooklyn? They reside in the city of Brotherly Love: the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Sixers have been among the league’s elite teams for the whole season. Joel Embiid has seemingly unlocked his potential this season, as he is one of the best big men in the NBA and a candidate for league MVP. He has been tearing the league up to the tune of 29.4 PPG, 11 RPG, 1.5 BPG, and 1.1 SPG, while shooting 52% from the field, 38% from three, and 85% from the line. His impact on both ends of the floor for this team makes him a true matchup nightmare. He will surely give Brooklyn problems on the inside as they do not have one player on the roster that can even contain Joel Embiid. He is not the only player that will give Brooklyn fits though. Ben Simmons, Philly’s uber versatile guard who is the leading candidate for DPOY, has been amazing for Philly this year. While he is averaging an efficient 15 PPG, 7 RPG, and 7 APG, while shooting 54% from the field, Simmons has been the engine that makes the Philly defense go this season. He is holding his opposing players to 42% shooting from the field, and he is second in the league in pass deflections and loose balls recovered. Philly is four points better on defense when he is on the floor, because Simmons has led them to the second best defensive rating in the league. He is tasked with guarding the other team’s best offensive player night in and night out, and he consistently delivers. 

Another great thing about this Philly team is their depth. They have Tobias Harris, an efficient 21 PPG scorer who can be a perimeter mismatch for the likes of Blake Griffin and Jeff Green in Brooklyn. Matisse Thybulle, another big part of the Philly defense can guard 1 through 5 and brings undeniable energy to this team. They also have a trio of knockdown shooters in Seth Curry, Danny Green, and Furkan Korkmaz. Those three are going to be huge as Embiid will likely be looking for them on kick-outs, when he gets double teamed. Dwight Howard, their backup center, brings championship experience and is another paint beast that Philly has outside of Embiid. Finally, they have the duo of bucket-getters in Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey. When these guys get hot, they get red-hot, and they are more than able to create their own shots and get a bucket when Philly needs it.

People need to stop overlooking this Sixers team; they can beat the Brooklyn Nets in a seven game series. I get it, Brooklyn has three elite NBA players in Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. They also have tremendous depth like Philly does in Joe Harris, Jeff Green, Nicholas Claxton, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bruce Brown, and Blake Griffin. However, this Philly team is perfectly constructed with shooting, defending, paint beasts, and the coaching from Doc Rivers, all to knock the Nets off. DO NOT be surprised if Philly grits, and claws their way to the finals.

Photo credit: Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports