Lessons that the Sixers Need to Learn from NBA Playoffs
While the Philadelphia 76ers are sitting at home after a disappointing end to their 2021 NBA Playoffs run, I would hope they spend some time watching the remaining teams playing in the Conference Finals. As I watch the remaining four teams fighting to win the 2021 NBA Championship, there are lessons that the Sixers players and organization can learn from these Conference Finals games:
1. Versatile, Tough-minded players are a Must-Have if you want to win a Championship:
All four teams have multiple role players who are two-way players that compliment the star players.
*Unlike the 76ers who once Danny Green went down with an injury they lost their veteran voice on the court, the Bucks lost Donte DiVincenzo but still had guys like PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis who can play multiple positions on the floor to take pressure off Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
*Despite Kawhi Leonard being injured, the Clippers found a way to get to the Conference Finals and have been competitive thanks to players like Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, Patrick Beverley, and Terance Mann stepping up on both ends of the floor.
*Chris Paul could have been an NBA MVP Candidate this year, but he hurt his Shoulder in the First round and missed the first two games of the Conference Finals due to COVID-19 Protocols. Filling in the void was Cameron Payne who has played beyond anyone's expectations in the postseason. Plus, the Suns have Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges playing major minutes in supporting roles for Phoenix whose franchise haven't been to the NBA Finals since 1993.
*The Atlanta Hawks, who took advantage of the Sixers numerous mistakes, got to the Conference Finals in part thanks to Trae Young getting support from Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanović in an offense that is made to compliment the Hawks' Superstar.
Any of those role players could have helped the 76ers in their series versus the Hawks and fill in on both ends for what the teams lost when Danny Green went down along with make up for the lack of consistency from guys like Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons. Remember the 76ers "Cabal" Front Office traded away Mikal Bridges for Zhaire Smith and the draft pick they used in the trade to get Tobias Harris; A ton of "What If's" to process there.
2. Tough mindedness is more important than talent in the NBA Playoffs
*Watching the Suns-Clippers Game Four on Saturday Night was a throw back to the 1990's era of the NBA in which Phoenix found a way to win 84-80 in game where both times shot 36 Percent or worse shooting. We always hear sports concepts like "The Will to Win" and "You Play to Win the Game" but this isn't the first game like that in this year's postseason. Remember the Bucks won 86-83 over the Brooklyn Nets in Game Three of their series while the Hawks have won four games in which their opponents scored less than 100 points. Plus the Clippers are now 3-3 in the NBA Playoffs without Kawhi Leonard and those three games were lost by a combined total of 11 points, showing how resilient that team is.
-Remember the Sixers blew multiple double digit leads in the 2021 NBA Playoffs and they would have been in the Conference Finals instead of the Hawks if they would have just been able to close out games
3. Teams win Championships and not individual Superstars
*The 76ers have a Superstar, MVP Candidate type player in Joel Embiid on their roster, which means they should be a contender to win the Eastern Conference every year. But having a Superstar is not enough to win an NBA Title, you need the other players on the team to "Put Up or Shut Up" or your team cannot reach the NBA Finals:
-Giannis has Khris Middleton making big shots and PJ Tucker has been playing taking pressure off the Two-time NBA MVP on the defensive end of the floor plus Bobby Portis can shoot threes along with hit the glass consistently.
-No Kawhi Leonard, no problem? In the six games without Kawhi, Reggie Jackson is averaging 22.5 Points Per Game and Terance Mann is averaging 15.5 Points per game, meaning Paul George is not alone carrying the Clippers Offense.
-While Devin Booker has ascended to "Superstar" status, it's in part thanks to the leadership of Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton averaging a Double-Double in the postseason (16.6 PPG and 11.4 Rebounds Per Game), along with three other player averaging Double digit scoring in the NBA Playoffs: Mikal Bridges (11.3 PPG), Cameron Payne (10.6 PPG), and Jae Crowder (10.3 PPG).
-Yes, Trae Young is practically unstoppable on Offense, but this isn't like Allen Iverson's Sixers team in 2001. Atanta has three players shooting over 36 Percent from three point range: Kevin Huerter (38.7%), Danilo Gallinari (39.1%), and John Collins (36.2%).
Remember when it was only Joel Embiid and Seth Curry scoring all the teams points in the second half of that game versus the Hawks? That's unacceptable for a team that has Championship expectations.
I know Daryl Morey never sits on his hands during an NBA Offseason and Doc Rivers has almost four decades of experience in the NBA between his playing days along with his coaching career. We can rest assured that the organization does not have complacent people making decisions. But will the Front Office, Coaches, and Players learn the lessons right in front of them playing out in the NBA Conference Finals? We can only hope they do.