The Sixers and Bucks face critical decisions this offseason

The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers were popular preseason picks to advance to the NBA Finals, but on Sunday both teams fell 3-1 in their respective first-round series. Maybe we’ll see a miracle comeback, but there’s a good chance both are headed for early playoff exits.

With two Eastern Conference powerhouses facing elimination, let’s take a look at the biggest question facing both teams this summer.

What needs to change in Philadelphia?

Joel Embiid didn’t sit still for even a second during the second half of the Sixers’ Game 4 loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday, and by the end, he was completely exhausted. Embiid, who played nearly 44 minutes, looked lethargic while protecting the rim, chasing rebounds and easily finishing the types of shots he usually makes.

An exhausted Embiid is undoubtedly one of the reasons the Sixers lost on Sunday. But no THE reason. He’s not playing like he deserves after missing two months with a knee injury and only returning at the end of the regular season. But the Sixers have seen positive results with him on the court, going plus-34 in his 160 minutes in the playoffs. However, without him, the story is very different; the Sixers were minus-37 in the 32 minutes he was on the court. So what’s wrong?

The Sixers have been dismal on offense without Embiid, as evidenced by a 61.9 offensive rating in this series. Tobias Harris’ bloated contract yielded little production, Buddy Hield looks like a bankrupt acquisition, and although Tyrese Maxey excels with Embiid saw his production drop without the former MVP. Maxey posted an effective field goal percentage of 60.3 during the time they shared the court in the playoffs, but that number drops to 34.6 in his minutes without Embiid.

Maxey only played 19 minutes in four games against the Knicks, so it would be unfair to blame him when he carries such a huge workload and shines for the vast majority of the game. The lack of support is simply glaring. Sixers general manager Daryl Morey acquired Hield at the deadline to secure the shot, but he has been reluctant to shoot and has missed all but one of his field goal attempts this postseason. Harris doesn’t make open 3s, doesn’t score on layups and provides no resistance on defense. Philly needed these guys to make some noise, but they’re not delivering.

The team’s offensive woes are reflected in its defensive struggles; The Sixers’ defensive rating jumped to 124.2 in their minutes without Embiid on the court. The transition from Embiid to his replacement Paul Reed was dramatic. The Sixers defense allows 46 percent shooting in the paint with Embiid on the floor and 63.6 percent with Reed because the Knicks have no fear when he’s underneath:

Philadelphia’s shaky perimeter defense doesn’t make life easy for Reed, but he doesn’t even have the size or length to deter drives. Maybe Nick Nurse should give third-stringer Mo Bamba a chance? At least he can shoot 3s and block shots. But whether Reed, Bamba or Howard Eskin play minutes behind Embiid, this streak is probably over.

The good news for Philadelphia is that this summer offers hope. The Sixers will head into the offseason with $60 million in cap space and several draft picks via the James Harden deal to help them surround Embiid and Maxey with the right pieces.

The Sixers will likely attempt to sign Paul George to add shot creation from the wing, but it might be a pipe dream to think he will leave the Los Angeles Clippers. Free agent options become slim after that. LeBron James? Doubtful. DeMar DeRozan? Intriguing. Miles Bridges? Complicated, but he’s a better player than Harris. And that’s really going to be the goal: finding upgrades. There’s no dramatic makeover coming. Despite an imperfect roster, the Sixers were on a 65-win pace while Embiid and Maxey were healthy this season. Ensuring Embiid is durable will always be a concern, but that’s why finding another source of shot creation And the depth behind him is so critical.

Andre Drummond was almost acquired by Philadelphia before the deadline before the Chicago Bulls backed out of the deal. But Drummond would have been just a replacement; he and Embiid can’t share the floor. The Sixers should consider finding a big to play with Or without Embiid. If a trade could be made, Brooklyn’s Nic Claxton would be a better fit than any other free agent since he is an excellent perimeter defender who also provides interior skills as a shot blocker and finisher above the rim.

The title window is not closed for the Sixers. But Embiid is now 30 years old, and his injuries are piling up. The upcoming offseason will be tough, but the team’s flexibility will allow it to be creative and perhaps produce the best team of the Morey era to date. Right now, though, Philadelphia’s championship aspirations are as exhausted as Embiid was in Game 4.

Who will lead the Milwaukee Bucks?

Two weeks ago, Marc Stein reported that the Detroit Pistons are interested in hiring Bucks general manager Jon Horst to run their basketball operations. Stein’s scoop did not have much success. The playoffs hadn’t started yet and the report didn’t exactly predict that anything will arrive. But league sources tell me there’s a real possibility that Horst will take the job in Detroit.

Now why would Horst leave the Bucks for the worst team in the league? He is a Michigan native and got his start working in the NBA as a front office assistant for the Pistons. During his 16 years with the Bucks, he rose through the ranks, but his power has waned in recent years. Giannis Antetokounmpo was more or less able to choose Adrian Griffin as the Bucks’ head coach last summer, even though Horst wanted Nick Nurse. Then ownership chose Doc Rivers, although Horst wanted Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson. And after years of shoring up the roster around Giannis, the Bucks now have the second-oldest team in the league, have suffered major injuries in three straight playoffs and are missing out on any of their first before 2031. Circumstances could make the prospect of a malleable fresh start attractive.

It’s easy to understand why Horst never wanted Griffin, who turned out to be one of the worst NBA coaches in recent memory, or Rivers, whose teams underperformed in the playoffs almost every year. seasons, except 2008, when his Celtics won the title. . Rivers enjoys longevity and player respect, but he has always given playing time to fading veterans rather than deserving young talent. It happens again in the playoffs, when Rivers relied too much on Jae Crowder, Pat Connaughton and Malik Beasley. Whenever AJ Green or Andre Jackson was inserted into the game, good things tended to happen, but they received little investment from Doc during the season and virtually none in the playoffs until ‘it’s too late.

Whether Horst or someone else leads the Bucks this summer, convincing Rivers that he needs to trust Green and Jackson will be crucial. They may be young, but they’ve proven to be positive contributors, and their youthful energy adds punch to the Bucks’ aging core. But while the Bucks are eliminated once again, Rivers isn’t the only one to blame. Giannis didn’t choose Griffin in the first place either. And Horst is also not in favor of building this team under increasing constraints. This is how things tend to go when teams go all-in. Ultimately, the Bucks are now just plain old. Brook Lopez is 36 years old and isn’t what he used to be. Damian Lillard is 33 years old and has a long injury history. Khris Middleton is 32 years old. And Giannis himself will be 30 next season.

There’s a good chance the Bucks will return Giannis, Dame, Middleton and maybe even Lopez. There aren’t many other options because their assets, space, and choices are limited. But how long can they keep this show together? There is a lot of work to be done to give Giannis another chance to win a championship in Milwaukee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *