When the Sixers took the floor for Media Day last month, the expectation for their 2019-20 campaign was made clear. Ben Simmons shirked off questions about individual goals, saying that the only thing he wants is a championship.
Joel Embiid stated his intentions to win NBA Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year — a combination of accolades that have only been achieved in the same season by Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. Embiid believes a season of that caliber will get the 76ers the title they covet.
The Sixers’ championship hopes hinge on those two players and their expected growth following a roller-coaster season that ended in the most devastating way. But are their goals likely to happen this season?
Call us impatient, but we decided to jump ahead a bit using the world’s most popular basketball video game, NBA 2K20.
Will this Sixers team win 60 games? How will Embiid co-exist with Al Horford? When will Simmons hit a regular season three (if at all)? Are the Sixers poised for a trip to the NBA Finals?
Here is a sneak peek at the upcoming season — according to NBA 2K20:
Record: 12-8 | Season Record: 12-8 | Conference Standing: 3 | NBA Power Ranking: 3
Opening night was a strong one for a new-look Sixers team with championship aspirations. The Sixers came away with a 118-95 win over the rival Celtics. Offensively, Tobias Harris lived up to his offseason extension by pouring in 26 points while shooting a stellar 4-for-7 from the three-point line.
Embiid hit the ground running as well with a solid 25-point, 9-rebound performance. The rest of the new-look starting five - Simmons, Josh Richardson, and Horford - each scored in double figures as the Sixers cruised to an easy win in South Philly.
The first five weeks of the season were defined by the Sixers beating up on lowly opponents like the Hawks, Hornets, Cavaliers, and Magic. But they also included some losses to playoff-caliber opponents including the Trailblazers, Nuggets, Pistons, and Raptors, and two close losses to the retooled Knicks.
The injury bug also bit the team in the form of an injury that sidelined Richardson for two weeks and a broken ankle that held Al Horford out of action for 8-10 weeks.
Record: 10-6 | Season Record: 22-14 | Conference Standing: 2 | NBA Power Ranking: 5
Despite a rash of injuries that hit the bench, the Sixers were able to maintain a steady pace in December — surpassing the Raptors to nab the second spot in the Eastern Conference standings. At 22-14 at the end of the calendar year, the Sixers finished the month 3.5 games behind the conference-leading Bucks.
The marquee matchup of the month came on Christmas Day as the Sixers and Bucks met in Philly. The Sixers looked well on their way to sending the fans home with a gift. They raced out to a 44-29 lead at the end of the first quarter and took an 18-point lead into halftime.
But the second half was a completely different story with the Bucks winning the third quarter by 16 and ultimately the game by 6. Embiid’s 31-point, 13-rebound performance wasn’t enough to overcome a Bucks team lead by Giannis Antetokounmpo and his newly-traded-for sidekick, Gordon Hayward (the Bucks sent Khris Middleton and Kyle Korver to Boston for Hayward and Enes Kanter).
Record: 9-4 | Season Record: 31-18 | Conference Standing: 2 | NBA Power Ranking: 5
January started with two straight losses, including a 123-94 loss to the Rockets. But the Sixers went 9-2 to finish the month, including wins over the Warriors, Celtics, Pacers, and twice against the Nets.
On Jan. 25, the Sixers narrowly lost to Anthony Davis and the Lakers even with LeBron James out due to injury. Simmons led the way with 29 points and eight rebounds but Davis’ 24 points and 12 rebounds were enough to get the Lakers a six-point win.
The highlight of the month was the ground gained on the conference-leading Bucks. As the calendar flipped to February, the Sixers were just 0.5 games back with Horford returning to the lineup.
Record: 9-2 | Season Record: 40-20 | Conference Standing: 1 | NBA Power Ranking: 4
February kicked off with the NBA All-Star game draft. Team Giannis wound up with a lot of Philly flavor by nabbing Embiid, Simmons, and first-time All-Star Harris. Joining Embiid and Simmons in the starting five were Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. This formidable group defeated Team James Harden as Embiid finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, Simmons with 12 points and seven assists, and Harris with 4 points.
The Sixers finished the month 9-2, splitting a pair of games with the Bucks. The only other loss of the month was by 13 to the Clippers.
The second win over the Bucks was a valuable one as the Sixers managed to sneak a 0.5 ahead of Milwaukee by month’s end.
Record: 10-5 | Season Record: 50-25 | Conference Standing: 1 | NBA Power Ranking: 4
The Sixers opened the month in Los Angeles with games against the Clippers and Lakers. The Clippers narrowly escaped with a six-point win. But the Sixers did the same a few nights later with a 3-point win over the Lakers, anchored by a double-double from Embiid and 17 points off the bench from Trey Burke.
Horford’s return to the lineup gave the Sixers a boost in February, but he was back on the pine in March with a pulled right calf muscle suffered halfway through. Even without him for the rest of the month, the Sixers managed to close out March 7-1.
They also extended their lead over the Bucks to 2.5 games and clinched a playoff spot.
Record: 7-0 | Season Record: 57-25 | Conference Standing: 1 | NBA Power Ranking: 4
With seven regular-season games left, the Sixers entered April with a chance to earn the top conference seed that they coveted. And they left nothing to chance.
The Sixers won all of their games in April to finish the season 57-25.
Embiid led the Sixers in both points and rebounds per game with 24.2 and 12.3, respectively. Simmons finished the season with a career-best 20.8 points per contest to go along with 8.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists. But despite the offseason work and what we saw in preseason, virtual Simmons did not make or attempt a three-pointer.
Harris finished the season averaging 16.8 points per game and shot 42% from beyond the arc. Richardson averaged 12.5 points per game and Horford averaged 12.1.
First round: Sixers (1) vs. Celtics (8)
The Sixers took care of Boston in six games. Richardson scored 36 in Game 1 after Embiid left with a first-quarter injury. Simmons added another 31.
In the series close-out game, Harris’ 27 points, combined with double-doubles from Embiid and Simmons, was enough to earn the Sixers a date with the Pacers in round two.
The Pacers defeated the Magic in seven games. And on the other side of the bracket, the third-seed Raptors took out the Bulls in seven, while the Bucks were shockingly swept by the seventh-seeded Pistons.
Second Round: Sixers (1) vs. Pacers (5)
Against the Pacers, the Sixers managed to do something they haven’t in their last two playoff appearances, they advanced past the second round.
And they did so in convincing fashion, sending the Pacers packing in four games.
Embiid opened the series with a dominant 34-point, 11-rebound performance in Game 1. Simmons took the lead in scoring in game two with 26 points. He also added 15 rebounds and was one assist shy of a triple-double.
Game 3 flipped back to Embiid, who notched 34 points and this time, Simmons was one rebound shy of a triple-double. And in the close-out Game 4, Embiid’s 19 points and 18 rebounds were good enough to finish the series.
Meanwhile, the Sixers’ Eastern Conference Finals opponent was quite the surprise ...
Eastern Conference Finals: Sixers (1) vs. Pistons (7)
The stage looked set for the Sixers to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals against a Pistons team that managed to defeat the Bucks and Raptors in the first two rounds.
But nothing comes easy. The series went seven games with the first two contests going to the Sixers, the next three going to the Pistons.
Facing elimination, the Sixers escaped Game 6 with a one-point win after pulling off an improbable 25-point comeback in the fourth quarter. Embiid and Simmons each finished the night with 20-plus-point double-doubles.
In Game 7, Harris took over the lead scoring role with 24 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Horford added 21 and Burke provided a spark off the bench with 20. Embiid had a solid 19 points and nine rebounds.
The outcome: a 128-100 win at the Wells Fargo Center to send the Sixers to the NBA Finals. Their opponent ...
NBA Finals: Sixers vs. Clippers
The finals included a Sixers franchise in search of its first title and a Clippers team led by Leonard who set his sights on winning a second straight title with a different team.
The Sixers opened the series with a 113-107 win in Los Angeles. Despite only 11 points from Embiid, the Sixers won on the strength of a combined 43 points from Harris and Simmons.
In Game 2, the Sixers excelled offensively, putting up 120 points. But Leonard and Paul George combined for 60 points, 40 of which came from Leonard, who shot 6-for-8 from downtown. The final: 143-120.
The Clippers defense held the Sixers to fewer than 100 points in Game 3 on their way to a 111-99 win.
Game 4 was a revenge game for the Sixers. Richardson’s 24 points and Embiid’s 23 led them to a 114-113 win to tie the series at two games apiece.
Game 5 looked eerily similar to Game 2 as the Clippers posted a 145-120 win. However, this time they were led by 30 points from former Sixer Lou Williams.
With the series at 3-2, the Sixers entered Game 6 in Philly with their season on the line. But ... the Clippers took care of business.
A 25-point, 11-rebound night for Leonard coupled with a near triple-double for George set the stage for a 127-117 win for the Clippers. Simmons led the Sixers on the night with a 24-8-8 line. Embiid managed to score 18 points, but only came away with five rebounds. And Harris only tallied 11 points.
Leonard finished with finals MVP honors for a second straight season after averaging 25 points per game in the finals to go along with 10 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
So there you have it. According to NBA 2K20, the 2019-20 Sixers are headed for another postseason showdown with Leonard — this time on the game’s biggest stage.
And remember Sixers fans, it’s just a simulation. Let the real games begin.