Seven Sixers Predictions For 2021-22
If these are wrong, they were just a joke.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He has been legally banned from covering the team in person, and when that ban was set to be lifted, Covid-19 struck. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
We’re finally here, folks. After a Sixers offseason that was somehow both typical and like no other, the NBA regular season has arrived.
With that comes preseason predictions. Let’s be honest: who doesn’t want to let some takes fly that people will probably forget about by the end of the year? Be assured, if these work out, I’ll remind you all about them at the end of the year. If not, this was just a joke. Let’s go!
Prediction #1: Ben Simmons will not be traded during the season
Simmons has made his way back to Philadelphia, and may be ready for opening night on Wednesday. While his desire to be traded has been perhaps the biggest story in the NBA, his attempts to force his way out have so far been unsuccessful.
Conventional wisdom says Simmons will be dealt at some point early this season after being “showcased” by the Sixers, waiting for a team to bite on their reportedly massive asking price. There’s no question Simmons would still like to be dealt, and the Sixers have clearly shown a willingness to move him for the right price. So, why wouldn’t he get moved eventually?
During the regular season, Simmons will continue to be what he always has been: nothing short of excellent. The issue has never been his performance in the regular season, rather how he looks in high-leverage games and situations, where he has continually failed -- culminating in an embarrassing round two performance against the Atlanta Hawks last summer.
Contrary to popular belief, NBA executives are smart. They already know that Simmons is a two-way force in the regular season, a brilliant transition player who has become possibly the league’s single best perimeter defender. Meanwhile, as the Sixers wait for someone to give up a superstar-level collection of assets, other teams wait for Simmons to actually look like a superstar.
Simmons will not be able to ease the nerves that exist surrounding his postseason play until he… actually lives up to those moments. With as patient as Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey is, and the uneasy perception Simmons currently holds, I think this saga will get dragged out for several more months.
Prediction #2: Shake Milton will fall out of the rotation
It was not long ago that Milton was starting at point guard for the Sixers amid a torrid run in which he blossomed into a quality offensive player. Since the middle of last season, however, he has failed to impress.
Milton’s lack of burst has troubled him as a ball-handler/initiator, which is the role the Sixers have asked him to play for quite a while now. I believe Milton is much better suited in an off-ball role, especially with Simmons being back in the fold. But somebody has to lose minutes, especially to make this next prediction true...
Prediction #3: Isaiah Joe will become a regular rotation player
This is a take I’ve believed in for months now, and Joe did everything he possibly could to satisfy me during the preseason. Joe showed off the lethal shooting ability, versatile shot profile, and defensive instincts that I believe will make him a good NBA player for a very long time.
Prediction #4: Furkan Korkmaz will be the best player coming off the bench
The Sixers have a surprisingly solid bench these days, featuring several exciting pieces across multiple positions. Out of all of those reserves, I think one will be most helpful: not either of Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle, not Andre Drummond, but Furkan Korkmaz, who once again this preseason showed that his offensive repertoire will only expand as time goes on.
Korkmaz has of course always been an excellent three-point shooter, but since emerging as a reliable bench player, he’s grown in significant ways. He became much better at attacking closeouts, turned himself into a competent defensive player, and now has shown even more passing chops than he already had. Korkmaz is legitimately one of the team’s very best offensive players.
Korkmaz and Joe could provide the kind of dual three-point shooting that the Sixers have not had coming off their bench in years.
Prediction #5: The Sixers will need to find a third center
Paul Reed is currently the third center for the Sixers, not counting small-ball options such as Simmons or Georges Niang. While Reed was a great draft pick by the Sixers in 2020, and he absolutely dominated the G-League last season, I remain unconvinced that he can hold down what may be the most important third-string spot in the NBA -- because of how often Joel Embiid rests, Reed is in line to frequently play as a backup center.
Cross your fingers that I’m wrong here, but I don’t believe BBall Paul (or Charles Bassey, for that matter) is going to be a consistent rotation player yet. Whether it’s Simmons and/or Niang or whether it’s a free agency or trade acquisition, I lean towards Reed not quite being ready for the moment.
Prediction #6: The Sixers will finish the season as the Eastern Conference’s third seed
Last year’s Sixers’ run to the top seed in the Eastern Conference was excellent and impressive. But is it repeatable? Color me skeptical.
With much better health, Brooklyn should easily surpass the Sixers. And I’m also giving the benefit of the doubt to the Milwaukee Bucks, who last season were the third seed but had a better Net Rating than the Sixers, a much better indicator of team quality.
While I would not be shocked if the Sixers fell to the fourth or fifth seed behind teams such as Atlanta or the Miami Heat, for now I’m going to stick with the third seed for these Sixers, a solid outcome given the major talent advantages that Brooklyn and Milwaukee have.
Prediction #7: The Sixers will be eliminated in the second round… again
I wish I had a more fun prediction to end this with, but I simply cannot sell myself on this team, as currently constructed, winning a series against Brooklyn or Milwaukee. Those teams simply have too much firepower right now, while the Sixers are bringing back the same group and hoping for different results.
This should not be interpreted as predicting that the Sixers will be a major disappointment. They have a very good roster and will surely be a very good team. But in my eyes, this continues to be a very good team that fails to stack up as a genuine championship contender.