The 76ers were among the many NBA Eastern Conference teams that made several key offseason moves.
Before the start of the 2020-21 regular season, here is a look at the expected contenders in the Eastern Conference (listed alphabetically) and whether they improved themselves with the draft, trades, and free-agent signings.
Key additions: Center Tristan Thompson was signed as a free agent from Cleveland. Jeff Teague, who played with Minnesota and Atlanta, was signed to be a backup point guard. The Celtics’ initial first-round pick, Aaron Nesmith of Vanderbilt, was among the top shooters in the draft. Their second first-round selection, Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard, could be an early-season rotation player.
Key subtractions: Gordon Hayward signed with Charlotte. Guard Brad Wanamaker, the former Roman Catholic star, signed with Golden State. Backup center Enes Kanter was traded to Portland.
Conclusion: Boston’s biggest weakness was at center, and in a conference with Joel Embiid, that is important. Thompson, while undersized at 6-foot-9, is a welcome addition, while Teague is capable and will be needed even more since starter Kemba Walker is out following a stem-cell injection in his left knee. A further update on his game availability will be provided the first week of January. Nesmith brings a perimeter threat that Boston needs. It appears that Boston needs to make one more move, and with a $28.5 million trade exception, it could happen.
Key additions: Former Sixers guard Landry Shamet, who had a poor postseason, comes from the Los Angeles Clippers via a three-team trade that also included Detroit. Defense-minded guard Bruce Brown, was acquired from Detroit. Veteran Jeff Green, at 34, won’t move the needle, but he will help with bench depth. New coach Steve Nash will likely lean heavily on assistants Jacque Vaughn and Mike D’Antoni.
Key subtractions: Swingman Garrett Temple (10.3 ppg) signed with Chicago as a free agent.
Conclusion: Retaining free-agent sharpshooter Joe Harris was a major move because he helps with the Nets’ spacing. Plus the obvious upgrade is getting Kevin Durant back from injury. If Durant and Kyrie Irving can stay healthy, the Nets should challenge in the East.
Key additions: The Pacers basically bring back their entire team, but the biggest addition is new coach Nate Bjorkgren, a Toronto assistant the past two years. One key move was re-signing free-agent guard Justin Holiday.
Key subtractions: Basically all the main players are back.
Conclusion: The Pacers could be improved with better health. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, are reportedly healthy. Oladipo ruptured his right quad tendon in January 2019, and it has taken a long time to get him back to 100%. Sabonis, who scored 26 points in last week’s 113-107 preseason loss to the Sixers, missed the NBA’s entire restart with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. If these two former All-Stars stay healthy, the Pacers will be competitive.
Key additions: Signed free-agent guard Avery Bradley from the Los Angeles Lakers and swingman Moe Harkless from the New York Knicks. First-round forward-center Precious Achiuwa will vie for rotation minutes.
Key subtractions: Jae Crowder signed with Phoenix and former Archbishop Carroll star Derrick Jones signed with Portland.
Conclusion: The biggest move was retaining Goran Dragic, who was a free agent. Dragic even at 34, is a great shot creator and was the Heat’s leading playoff scorer until he got hurt. Bradley will help the team defensively. With nearly the same cast that reached the NBA Finals returning, the Heat should contend again, barring injury.
Key additions: Former Sixer Jrue Holiday was acquired in a trade with New Orleans. He is an upgrade offensively and defensively over Eric Bledsoe, who departed in the four-team deal that also included Oklahoma City and Denver. Guard Bryn Forbes, a 40% career three-point shooter who comes from San Antonio, and Torrey Craig, a defensive-minded wing from Denver, are two underrated signings. Veterans D.J. Augustin and Bobby Portis should provide bench strength.
Key subtractions: Veteran guards Bledsoe and George Hill were traded in the four-team deal. Guard Wes Matthews, who averaged 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists, signed with the Lakers. Backup center Robin Lopez signed with Washington.
Conclusion: The Bucks seem like a better team, but how much remains to be seen. With two-time MVP Giannis Antekounmpo agreeing to a supermax deal, there is now stability and no doubt the Bucks are one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference. Antekounmpo must come up bigger in the postseason for the Bucks to take that next step.
Key additions: Guard Seth Curry was acquired from Dallas and brings much-needed perimeter shooting. So does Danny Green, fresh off helping the Lakers win the NBA title, along with center Vincent Poirier and wing Terrance Ferguson. First-round combo guard Tyrese Maxey of Kentucky has the ability to compete for rotation minutes and looked good in the preseason. Center Dwight Howard was signed as a free agent from the Lakers and provides a solid backup to Joel Embiid, especially on the defensive end. Tony Bradley, acquired from Detroit, gives the Sixers an option at the No. 3 center spot. New coach Doc Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey have given the organization two proven winners and fill two areas that fans had long campaigned for change.
Key subtractions: Al Horford was dealt to Oklahoma City, but that is addition by subtraction since he never clicked with Embiid and was owed three years and $81 million (with $69 million guaranteed). Josh Richardson was dealt to Dallas, and while the Sixers will miss his perimeter defense, he was streaky offensively. Alec Burks, who had his moments as a bench scorer, signed with the New York Knicks, and Glenn Robinson III signed with Sacramento.
Conclusion: With the additional shooting of Curry and Green, plus the defense of Green, assuming at 33 he can still play at a high level, the Sixers improved. Howard should help the second unit, especially on defense. While the Sixers won’t be a favorite and enter this season with a lower profile, there is no reason why this seemingly improved team can’t contend in the Eastern Conference.
Key additions: Center Aron Baynes, who shot 35% from three-point range with Phoenix, should be a starter. First-round point guard Malachi Flynn should fit immediately into the guard rotation. Former St. Joseph’s swingman DeAndre Bembry signed as a free agent after playing his first four seasons in Atlanta.
Key subtractions: Even in an NBA that is going toward small ball, losing power forward Serge Ibaka and center Marc Gasol to the Clippers and Lakers respectively, was huge.
Conclusion: Re-signing guard Fred VanVleet was crucial since his career has continued to ascend. The Raptors remain contenders, but losing Ibaka and Gasol might make them take a step back.