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Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Can Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid lead the Philadelphia 76ers to The Finals?

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Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid [NBA Getty Images]

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Philadelphia 76ers.

2018-19 season record

51-31 (3rd in the Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

55-27 (2nd in the Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Trey Burke (free agency)

Al Horford (free agency)

Raul Neto (free agency)

Kyle O'Quinn (free agency)

Josh Richardson (trade)

Matisse Thybulle (draft)

Notable departures

Jimmy Butler (trade)

Amir Johnson (free agency)

Boban Marjanovic (free agency)

T.J. McConnell (free agency)

J.J. Redick (free agency)

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd
PG Ben Simmons Trey Burke Raul Neto
SG Josh Richardson Zhaire Smith Shake Milton
SF Tobias Harris James Ennis Matisse Thybulle
PF Al Horford Mike Scott Marial Shayok
C Joel Embiid Jonah Bolden Kyle O'Quinn

3 key storylines

Can Simmons and Embiid get the 76ers over the hump?

The 76ers are committed to their All-Star duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid through the year 2023.

In 2017, they signed Embiid to a five-year, $148 million max contract extension that keeps him in Philly through 2023. This offseason, they locked up Simmons to a five-year, $170 million max contract extension that keeps him in Philly through 2025.

It was a successful season for the duo in their second year together - Embiid established himself as one of the most dominant forces in the NBA averaging 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game, which were both career-highs for his third season playing in the league. He was named to the All-NBA Second Team and All-Defensive Second Team for the second consecutive season, leading the Sixers to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Simmons earned the first of many All-Star bids to come, averaging career-highs in points (16.9) and rebounds (8.8) per game while his 7.7 assists per game were tied for fifth-best in the NBA.

It makes sense that the 76ers locked up this special pairing long term, but it's time for the two stars to take their team to the next level.

They fell a few bounces short of helping the Sixers reach their first Conference Finals since 2001, but the team is rebuilt and ready to compete. Philadelphia is projected to be a top-two team in the Eastern Conference and they cannot afford to settle for anything less.

How will the new additions mesh in the starting lineup?

The 76ers lost two key pieces from last year's team in playoff star Jimmy Butler and sharpshooter J.J. Redick. They re-signed scoring forward Tobias Harris to a five-year, $180 million deal this offseason, committing to him as the third star of this team expected to make a championship push.

Harris had a career-year last season, averaging 20.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game shooting 48.7% from the field - all of which were career-highs. He didn't exactly have the playoff performance the team needed to move on in the playoffs, but in signing a major deal like that, the Sixers' front office is confident that with Butler gone, Harris can step into that role as a big-time scorer for them.

Philly traded Butler to the Miami Heat and got a wiry, athletic wing in Josh Richardson in return. The 26-year old shooting guard has some big shoes to fill, especially after the performance Butler strung together in the playoffs, but he's a similar player to Butler who should fit within the Sixers' system with ease. They'll need him to improve upon his 35.7% shooting from 3-point range from last season with Redick's absence, but Richardson has a lot of potential to show improvement playing alongside stars like Simmons and Embiid.

Their biggest signing of the offseason was taking veteran centre Al Horford away from their rival Boston Celtics. Horford was arguably the best in the entire NBA at defending the 76ers' All-Star centre, and now that those two are teamed up, Philly might have the best defensive frontcourt in the NBA.

Horford gives the 76ers another playmaker along with Simmons and also adds a perimeter threat as a shooter - something the entire team will need to step up on as a whole to fill the void left behind from Redick. It might take a while to get Horford and Embiid used to playing alongside one another, but once they click, that frontcourt will be a problem for the rest of the league.

Can they get to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond?

Now that "The Process" is over with the 76ers making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, their expectations are no longer just getting to the playoffs. In 2017-18, they rode a 16-game winning streak into the postseason and looked like the team that could knock off LeBron James' reign in the East, only to be eliminated in the Conference Semifinals in five games by a Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward-less Boston Celtics team.

This past season, they were the No. 3 seed in the East and looked more than capable of making a deep playoff run with four legitimate stars on their roster. When players failed to step up they were eliminated in the Conference Semifinals again, this time by way of Kawhi Leonard's Game 7 buzzer-beater.

The 76ers are seen to be in a two-team race atop of the Eastern Conference this season as they're projected for 55 wins, second-most to the Milwaukee Bucks' 58-win total (according to Las Vegas Westgate odds).

Anything short of a Conference Finals appearance would be considered underperforming for this 76ers team, so the pressure is on.

5 games to watch

Oct. 23 vs. Boston Celtics

The Celtics-Sixers rivalry is one of the best in the NBA and it gets a bit spicier with Horford leaving Boston for Philly this offseason. The 76ers finally snapped their losing streak against the Celtics at the end of last season but have still lost seven of the last nine matchups with Boston. They'll get a chance to start this season on the right foot against their rivals on opening night.

Nov. 8 at Denver Nuggets

Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are in a battle for the title of the best centre in the NBA and we'll get to see these two superstars go head-to-head for the first time in this matchup. With how talented these two teams are, this has the potential to be an NBA Finals preview.

Nov. 23 vs. Miami Heat

This will be Jimmy Butler's first game back in Philadelphia. While he'll surely get love from the fans after his playoff performance last season, we know the type of competitor that Butler is and he'll bring his A-game without a doubt.

Dec. 25 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The biggest stage of the NBA regular season will host a matchup between the two heavily favoured teams to come out of the Eastern Conference. This is the first meeting between the two teams that are projected to represent the East in the NBA Finals.

Feb. 11 vs. LA Clippers

Although he is no longer with the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard was still the player that ended the 76ers' season with the game-winning Game 7 dagger in the Semifinals last season. The Sixers won't have their shot at revenge until 2020, but that shot will be fresh in their memory leading up to this contest.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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