It seems like a lifetime ago when the Sixers started the regular season with a starting five comprised of Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid.
In reality it has only been seven months since the Sixers deployed that starting five. There were a lot of storylines early on; Markelle Fultz showing some promise of being able to shoot, another year of development for young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and new bench depth that was being led by JJ Redick, Wilson Chandler, and Mike Muscala.
Ultimately, this would be the first version of the Sixers we would see of many throughout the year.
It seemed like the Sixers were going to progress into the young season with their young and still developing starting five, but GM Elton Brand had a much different plan.
Phase 2 of the Sixers
The Sixers started off the season a respectable 8-5 before the team made a blockbusting move in acquiring all-star Jimmy Butler. The reaction to this trade was met with mixed reviews, as Dario Saric and Robert Covington were shipped off.
Jimmy Butler proved to be the guy they needed all along and was the third option that they had desperately been looking for.
We saw the second version of the 2018-19 Sixers emerge, as the team opted for a starting five of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler, and Joel Embiid.
At the same time we saw the team begin to come to fruition, we saw it begin to unravel in other areas. Markelle Fultz began to decline and was ultimately put back into a reserve role.
It didn’t take long for his agent/mother to pull him from the team, and isolate him from the ball club. The diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome (or T.O.S) was prescribed, and we never saw Markelle Fultz in a Sixers uniform ever again.
Fortunately, we saw our young assets begin to take shape in other players. Jonah Bolden began getting playing time, and fans began to fall in love with late first round draft pick Landry Shamet.
Shamet looked to be the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft and was the only real bench player the Sixers had.
This version of the Sixers proved to be very good, going 27-13 with Jimmy Butler. The team had moved into “win-now” mode with Jimmy Butler. The team had its flaws, however. The team was very shallow, in terms of depth and lacked consistent scoring outside of the starting lineup.
Before we knew it, the Trade Deadline approached us, and the team knew now more than ever that it would have to make some deals to make any kind of noise in the postseason. The Sixers had just gotten blown out at home by Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors.
Phase 3 of the Sixers
Most fans expected the Sixers to make some marginal moves in acquiring some role players to make up for the lackluster bench. But once again, Elton Brand had another plan.
He woke up the world at 2 AM on a weeknight by trading for Tobias Harris. The same player that helped carry the LA Clippers to the top 8 seeding in a competitive Western Conference.
The Sixers began to wheel-and-deal over the next few days and acquired a new team. After everything was all said and done, the Sixers were basically a new team. The team shipped off the headache that was Markelle Fultz, along with Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Shamet. We saw their new team arrive in Philadelphia with Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, James Ennis, and Jonathon Simmons.
The third iteration of the Sixers gave Philadelphia fans a massive amount of hype. They easily had a top three starting five in the NBA, with Harris now on the team.
We wouldn’t get to see the new-look Sixers often, as injuries and gastroenteritis had another plan. The NBA Playoffs came quickly, and nobody really knew how dangerous this Sixers team really was in the limited amount of playing time we saw.
Here we are
The Sixers ultimately dominated the Brooklyn Nets in the first round series, beating them in a quick five games. When the second round approached, a lot of people thought the Toronto Raptors would make quick work of the Sixers.
The series went back and forth, and here we are about to witness a Game 7 in what has proven to be an exciting series.
There’s a ton of stress that goes along with a single game; it’s arguably the biggest game the Sixers have had in 15+ years. With a win, the Sixers would get their first Eastern Conference Finals berth since 2001.
Regardless of result, the 2018-19 season proved to be a successful one for the Sixers. We saw three iterations of a team, along with a record 26 players playing for the team throughout the year. Brett Brown managed to lead the team to another 50 win season, despite all the roster shuffling.
The Sixers now hope that they have their team ready to compete for an NBA title, featuring Simmons, Redick, Butler, Harris, and Embiid. A starting five that is arguably the best in Sixers franchise history.
It’s always important to look at the big picture, and it’s hard not to be happy with how much the Sixers have accomplished in one season.
So while you’re watching (and ultimately yelling at your TV during) Game 7, stop and take a moment to just reflect how far this team has come in such little time. It’s hard for any team — let alone one that has played 20 or so games together — to get this point. Enjoy the moment, and look forward to the future of your favorite team.