The Sixers have finished their regular season in the bubble, going 4-4 in the the process and securing the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play Boston in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but will be doing so without one of their best players.
The biggest news for the Sixers since the restart is obviously the loss of Ben Simmons. He dislocated his knee cap and left the NBA Orlando Bubble to have surgery. His season is likely over.
Simmons was one of the best defensive players in the entire league this season (his performance versus TJ Warren notwithstanding). And for all of the headaches created by his lack of outside shooting, he was immensely valuable in every other aspect; rebounding, passing, transition play, timely steals. It is hard to imagine the team going on a postseason run without him. Hell, it’s hard to envision them beating Boston and their slew of athletic wings without Simmons providing some resistance on defense.
If the Sixers have any chance at all, it will rest on the shoulders of Embiid. The good news is that the big man is playing at very high level (and he’s got new shoes). He dropped 41 and 20 rebounds in his first game in the bubble.
His passing has been particularly good, especially out of double teams. He has been more decisive with the ball, entering his actions more quickly.
But aside from Embiid, the rest of the team has simply not looked sharp. Shake Milton and Alec Burks have been nice surprises, and they should have the ball in their hands more without Simmons. If anything, these next few games (however many it may be) will be a way for the Sixers to observe how Embiid plays without Simmons. That dynamic has been reversed up to this point; Simmons has been remarkably durable during his first two full seasons, and Embiid has been the one to miss chunks of time.
The schedule for the series against Boston is as follows: