While the start of the NBA season might be overshadowed in Philadelphia by the success of the Phillies (who kick off the NLCS tonight) and the Eagles (the only undefeated team in the NFL), when the attention of the Philadelphia sports fan does eventually shift to Joel Embiid, James Harden, Doc Rivers and company this will be one of the most scrutinized teams the franchise has had in decades.
On the one hand, the core members of the Philadelphia 76ers have had more than their share of accomplishments throughout their respective careers. Joel Embiid has been named runner up in the MVP race in two consecutive season. James Harden won the award in 2018, and has four other top-3 finishes. Doc Rivers was recently named one of the 15 greatest coaches of all time. The Sixers, as a team, led the Eastern Conference with a 49-23 record in 2020-21.
Yet despite all that, the playoff success has not followed up to this point, with the Sixers having never advanced beyond the Eastern Conference semifinals at any point during Embiid's tenure in Philadelphia. In fact, the only member of the Embiid, Harden, Rivers and Daryl Morey core that has made a trip to the NBA Finals is Doc Rivers, but his last appearance in the ultimate game came more than a decade ago at this point.
There is perhaps no better chance for all four of them to cement their legacy, both in the city of Philadelphia and in the NBA at large, than right now.
This is, I think almost undeniably, the best basketball team that the franchise has had in decades. Embiid has the best co-star, and also the deepest team, he has ever had, thanks in no small part to Harden opting out of his contract to take a pay cut. Tyrese Maxey is a rising star, and poised to make yet another significant leap on top of the already massive jump he made last season.
This is their chance.