The Philadelphia 76ers (2-2) knocked on the door of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, losing to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 in the second round of the playoffs.
Many pieces of that young, athletic team are back this season. But looking to build on the team’s success, Sixers management made a big splash in the off-season and acquired two high-caliber starters and a new cast of role players.
So, will the Sixers find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals this season? Or better yet, the NBA Finals?
To answer those questions and more, NewsWorks checked in with Phil Allen, better known as “Phil from Mt. Airy.”
The long-time resident knows sports. So much so, that he landed a spot in the on-air rotation over at 97.5 The Fanatic, Philadelphia’s FM hub for sports radio.
NEWSWORKS: The Sixers made some big off-season moves this year, namely acquiring former Los Angeles Laker Andrew Bynum at center and veteran Jason Richardson at shooting guard. Is the team better off as a result?
Phil Allen: If you look at the Sixer’s roster, they’re as deep, as talented as all but about, maybe, two teams. I’ll take the Sixers against anybody right now, obviously with a healthy Andrew Bynum.
First kinda go back and look where we were two years ago. We were kind of stuck in that NBA quicksand where you’re going to finish seventh or eighth in your conference; you have no realistic shot of winning anything, maybe you steal and around and you go home. You end up with the 15th or 16th pick or the 18th pick, which is not generally in the NBA draft good enough to elevate you into the upper echelon of the league.
I think what [President] Rod Thorn and [Coach] Doug Collins, Adam Aron and Josh Harris has done has been brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant.
NW: Which Sixer newcomer will have the most immediate impact on the team?
PA: Until Andrew Bynum gets healthy, I think the biggest impact will be made by Jason Richardson. He’s a veteran. He knows how to win. He’s a strong three-point shooter. He’s a very physical player who can go to the basket and it’s just a great fit for the Sixers.
The idea that you were able to get a veteran like Jason Richardson and Andrew Bynum for just Andre Iguadola and Nikola Vucevic can’t be better.
NW: How do players like Bynum and Richardson change the team’s dynamic?
PA: The Sixers were a great defensive team last season. I mean, they set NBA records for defense. Doug Collins demanded that they defended the court. But at the same time they would lose games 78-75, 80-79. They were unable to get baskets. They just couldn’t shoot from the perimeter and didn’t have a big enough presence in the center. Spencer Hawes is good, but he’s not able to bang bodies with the 260’s and 270’s every night.
Now they have a big body that you can walk it up the floor and throw it into the low post. He can turn on somebody and either he’s going to get the basket and a foul or at least a foul. His presence in the middle makes them a legitimate contender.
When they go to double Andrew Bynum, and you’re going to have to at some point when the ball goes in low, now he has historically great shooters. Dorell Wright hit more three pointers than anybody in the NBA two years ago. Nick Young is a known assassin. Jason Richardson, I mean, do I have to give you his resume? He’s a great three-point shooter and if you come out to the perimeter against him then he’ll just go to the basket and bang on you. I mean, Spencer Hawes can knock down that 14 to 16-footer from the free throw line extended area all day long.
So now when the ball goes into the low post, if they double, somebody is open and they are going to knock that shot down.
NW: Is this a rebuilding year or a championship year?
PA: I think it’s a step to the championship if everything goes right and you get a little lucky, because obviously there’s injuries and you can’t look that far forward, but if everything goes well, I think they can be in a very hotly contested seven-game East Final against the Miami Heat, a team that the Sixers match up very well with. We’re a lot deeper. We can beat both of their guards off the dribble. Ray Allen and Dwayne Wade both look, all of sudden, very old. Dwayne Wade has obviously lost his step.
I don’t think there’s a team in the East that matches up well with us. The teams that we’ll struggle with are the OKCs and the Lakers. I don’t see a team in the East that the Sixers can’t go toe-to-toe with.
NW: What’s your prediction for the NBA Finals and the winner?
PA: My heart says Sixers/OKC. If I’m wagering money, I go Heat/Oklahoma City or Heat/L.A. The San Antonio Spurs are obviously ageing; I think they’re probably jumped ship a little bit. Clippers look good early, but they’re always the Clippers – they find a way to fail.
I’ll put my neck in the noose and say Sixers/Thunder, NBA Finals. That’s with a healthy Bynum. Without a healthy Bynum, Miami Heat goes back to the finals and loses to the Oklahoma City Thunder.