76ers Bold Predictions Ahead of 2021-22 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2021

76ers Bold Predictions Ahead of 2021-22 NBA Season

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    The Philadelphia 76ers are in a strange place.

    Normally, the idea of a team trading away a 25-year-old All-Star would be laughed out of existence. But in this case, it doesn't qualify as a remotely bold prediction.

    The Ben Simmons saga took another turn Tuesday, as Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Simmons told the team he wants a trade and has no intention of attending training camp. A Simmons trade has long felt like more of a when than an if, and that when just moved up a lot sooner.

    So, no, this collection of bold 76ers predictions for the 2021-22 NBA season won't include any Simmons trade talk. Instead, they will focus on the players who will be around in Philly when the campaign tips.

Tyrese Maxey Averages More Minutes Than Danny Green

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    The 76ers know what they have in Danny Green. He's tough, reliable, accurate from distance and active on defense. He's worth the two-year, $20 million deal they gave him this summer.

    But he doesn't raise the ceiling for this roster. Tyrese Maxey might.

    The second-year guard flashed a few big performances as a rookie but then looked out of place—for a good reason—at Summer League. He can create shots off the bounce and finish explosively, and while he's iffy at best as an outside shooter, that could be less of a concern if Simmons is gone and replaced by someone with a jumper.

    Last season, Green averaged nearly 13 more minutes per game (28) than Maxey (15.3). This year, Philly could lean heavier on the young guard, both to see what he can offer and to keep the 34-year-old fresh for the postseason.

Seth Curry Ranks Top 20 in Threes, Top 5 in Percentage

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    The Sixers need more from their three-point attack. Despite finishing 11th in three-point percentage last season (37.4), they were only 23rd in threes per game (11.3).

    Swapping out Simmons for a shooter would bolster that number, but Philly could get just as much mileage out of increasing the green light for Seth Curry.

    He's a lights-out sniper—it sort of runs in the family—but he has never had the chance to cook. Last season, he attempted 4.9 threes per game. That buried him at 104th overall. But his torrid playoff run, in which he averaged 3.4 makes per outing on 50.6 percent shooting, should clear the path for (many) more attempts and (many) more makes.

    Trusting he can handle a volume increase without losing efficiency, Curry could be given enough shots to climb all the way into the top 20 of average threes. Last season, he didn't even make the top 60. That's wasting what he could offer, and the playoffs should have shown Philadelphia as much.

Joel Embiid Wins MVP and DPOY

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    Last season, Joel Embiid lost 21 games to injury, played alongside an ill-fitting co-star in Simmons and still finished second in MVP voting and landing on the All-Defensive Second Team.

    Just imagine what could happen if Embiid trims his absences by at least half and shares the floor with someone who complements his skill set. It could be the recipe for the kind of hardwood dominance that puts Embiid alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.

    Sure, that's as lofty as expectations can get, and Embiid's track record doesn't leave much room for optimism on single-digit games missed to injury. It's also possible Simmons' absence pulls Philadelphia's second-ranked defense out of the elite tier.

    But if you can't dare to dream during the offseason, when can you? And maybe swapping out Simmons for a lesser stopper puts more pressure on Embiid at the defensive end, which could be just the kind of narrative boost he needs to wrest the DPOY hardware away from Rudy Gobert. It could happen. Embiid nearly showed us that last season under less-than-ideal conditions.