76ers 2021-22 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record PredictionsAugust 20, 2021
Perhaps no team came into the summer with more question marks—and more potential intrigue—than the Philadelphia 76ers.
Despite being the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs a year ago, they shockingly lost to the young Atlanta Hawks in seven games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. While more than a few things went wrong for the Sixers in that series, one man largely bore the blame: Ben Simmons.
The image of the 25-year-old passing up an open dunk to dish to a less-open teammate in the fourth quarter of Game 7 was seared into the collective consciousness of Philly sports fans.
Frankly, his unwillingness to even attempt shots once the fourth quarter rolled around in the series—ostensibly worried about being fouled and sent to the free-throw line, where he struggled mightily—left a lasting mark.
Shortly after the season ended, the Simmons trade rumors began. No question has more defined the team's offseason than his future. For now, he remains. But a partnership between him and Joel Embiid no longer seems feasible. That duo has reached its ceiling.
Below, we'll take a look at the schedule the Sixers will face as they look to erase the sting of last season's second-round exit and offer a prediction on what the forthcoming season holds for the team.
2021-22 Sixers Schedule Details
Season Opener: at New Orleans Pelicans
Championship Odds: +1800 (bet $100 to win $1,800; FanDuel)
Schedule: Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice
If the old idiom for curing hangovers is "bite the snake that bit you," perhaps the one for any emotional hangovers from the season past is to "beat the team that beat you."
Expect a bit of extra spice from the Sixers in these games. The Hawks are undoubtedly a good, young team, but knocking off the No. 1 seed was a surprise nonetheless. Certainly in a postseason where the Brooklyn Nets never had all three stars healthy and a number of other key superstars went down to injury, the Sixers will have felt they blew a golden opportunity to win a title.
Beating Atlanta won't cover up this team's deficiencies. The only cure for those might be replacing Simmons with someone like Damian Lillard. But it would be a bit cathartic in Philadelphia nonetheless.
Especially if Simmons has a few dunks in the contest.
Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and the Nets are the measuring stick for the rest of the NBA.
The Bucks may have won the NBA title last year, but they wouldn't have even gotten past the second round if KD's shoe was a size or two smaller. And imagine if the Nets were actually healthy in that series?
The point is, the Nets are the prohibitive favorites to win the NBA title this year and claim the top seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Sixers want to be considered an actual title contender, beating them would be a good start.
Nobody has the pure offensive firepower to keep up with Brooklyn in a purely offensive matchup. But Philly has a good enough defense to make them work for every bucket, and the Nets don't have an answer for Embiid, either.
The Nets are the better team, especially come playoff basketball. But the Sixers will have the chance to remind everyone they're for real, too.
It's a bit difficult to get a read on this Sixers team without knowing what the actual roster will look like to start the season, given the uncertainty around Simmons.
And if he remains to start the season, or throughout the whole season, how will he react? Will his presence be a distraction after an offseason of trade rumors? Will he be unhappy?
For now, we'll proceed as though the Australian will be back and the situation will not have devolved into dysfunction. In that scenario, the Sixers are still a top-four team in the East.
Embiid should be in the running for MVP. Simmons is still a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and a visionary passer, especially in transition. Tobias Harris was fantastic in the regular season last year and arguably should have been an All-Star, even if his playoff performance left plenty to be desired. Danny Green and Seth Green are perfect floor-spacing role players next to Embiid and Simmons.
The Sixers have done well to fortify the roster in recent years by drafting well, bringing in players such as Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, Paul Reed and Jaden Springer. Georges Niang will be a nice improvement over Mike Scott off the bench as a stretch 4.
There are non-Simmons questions, of course. Was Andre Drummond really the answer at backup center? Can Reed perhaps steal that job as a small-ball 5? Late in games, given the team's dearth of perimeter players who can consistently create their own offense, who takes the last shot?
In other words, some of last year's questions remain. But the Sixers were a very good regular-season team last year. It's hard to see them getting the top seed in the East again if the Nets are healthy. The Simmons shadow lingering over the organization can't be ignored. But Philly will still be very good next year.
Record Prediction: 53-29
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