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Philadelphia 76ers

Offseason Grades: Did the Philadelphia 76ers improve?

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76ers Offseason Grade [NBA.com illustrations]

The Philadelphia 76ers were a couple of bounces away from potentially reaching the Eastern Conference Finals this past season.

When Kawhi Leonard's Game 7 dagger cut the Sixers' season shorter than desired, Philadelphia was immediately faced with some tough decisions in regards to the future of the franchise.

The 76ers have had the talent to compete for the title these past two years but have fallen short both times. "The Process" is over - this team is ready to win now.

Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, the two key pieces they acquired via trade during the season, were set to explore their options in free agency, and Philly had to make a choice on who they were going to try and retain in order to remain competitive in the pursuit for their first championship since 1983.

76ers general manager Elton Brand made the most of that opportunity, as he has already done so many times since being hired last September.

OFFSEASON GRADES: Clippers | Lakers | Raptors | Warriors

It became clear that Butler preferred to play elsewhere, so the Sixers signed Harris to a five-year, $180 million deal. While Harris is a rising star coming off the most impressive season of his career, they gave the largest contract in franchise history to a player that has yet to make an All-Star team.

Will Harris continue to improve or will this become a contract that's looked down upon as soon as next offseason? It's a question worth asking if you're a 76ers fan.

Then, instead of letting Butler walk for nothing, Brand pulled off a sign-and-trade deal that sent the star guard to the Miami Heat in return for Josh Richardson, a Jimmy Butler-prototype who is nearly four years younger.

The Sixers re-signed key role players from their playoff push in James Ennis and Mike Scott while also adding solid backups in Raul Neto and Kyle O'Quinn to replace the losses of TJ McConnell, Greg Monroe and Boban Marjanovic.

The one piece the 76ers were unable to replace is sharpshooter JJ Redick, who left for the New Orleans Pelicans via free agency.

Philly's 3-point shooting is one of the biggest question marks for this new roster, though Brand did hint at the idea of the Sixers signing veteran shooter Kyle Korver - a player who has been linked to his former team since being bought out by the Phoenix Suns.

Even if they don't sign Korver, Brand's comments demonstrate a clear awareness that shooting is a problem the team must address.

The biggest move of the offseason came as the 76ers emerged as the "mystery team" in the race for veteran centre Al Horford, who they inked to a four-year, $109 million deal.

Not only does this take a five-time All-Star away from Philly's biggest rival, but it also pairs Embiid with the one player who does the best job at defending him in the league.

According to NBA.com's matchup data, no player in the NBA guarded Embiid on more possessions (184) than Horford this past season. Embiid's stats on those possessions? A mere 46 points while shooting 40.0% from the field and 21.4% from 3 to go along with nine turnovers and just five assists.

From a defensive standpoint, the Sixers' frontcourt tandem is the scariest in the league.

The most recent move the Sixers made this offseason is making a long-term commitment to All-Star guard Ben Simmons, giving the 22-year old Aussie phenom the keys to the franchise with a five-year, $170 million max contract extension.

MORE: Can Simmons deliver after receiving a max contract?

With Simmons as a floor general, the pairing of Horford and Embiid down low and Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson running the wings, the 76ers' starting five could go toe-to-toe with any group of starters in the Association.

Add to it their quality group of backups and a few young guys with potential like last year's first-round selection Zhaire Smith (who is now fully healthy) and an intriguing rookie duo in Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok, and it's undeniable that Philly has the pieces to win the NBA title next season.

MORE: FiveThirtyEight gives 76ers highest chance to win 2020 NBA Finals

Will they be able to put everything together and advance past the Conference Finals for the first time in nearly 20 years? Only time will tell, but they certainly have the talent to do so after a quality offseason.

Grade: B+

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