Is Philadelphia 76ers the new Queen of the East?

Is Philadelphia 76ers the new Queen of the East?It is a known fact that for the last decade or more, the Western Conference has been the more powerful one because it has the better teams.  The competition was more intense in the West than in the East, where the throne was held by LeBron James. But in the summer, the quadruple NBA MVP decided to sign with Lakers, meaning that he would leave the Eastern Conference for the first time in his career.

With this move, the Wild West became even wilder than it was and the East was left with three real contenders – Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. The Canadian team managed to meet the expectations but the other two candidates didn’t start so well. Instead, Milwaukee Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, surprised everybody and has become a force in the league.  ‘The Greek Freak’ showed us how important can a player be and how much influence does a superstar have on the game.

This is also the case with Jimmy Butler, one of the best players in NBA. The athlete started his career at Chicago Bulls, where he played for 7 seasons, before leaving to go to Minnesota Timberwolves. Coached by Tom Thibodeau, his old coach with the Bulls, Jimmy Butler had a great year but he didn’t seem to get along with his teammates, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Consequently, the Texas native requested a trade saying that his first options are LA Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, and New-York Knicks. At first, Thibodeau didn’t want to trade him but after a few talks with the president and the general manager, he started to look for possible deals. Last night, after one month and a half, Jimmy Butler was traded to Philadelphia 76ers along with Justin Patton. In exchange, Minnesota Timberwolves received Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second round pick.

We can talk about what this means for the Wolves, but I think it is more important to focus on how this move influences the Eastern Conference. First of all, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are already some of the best players in the East. The big man born in Cameroon is a beast under the basket, and in this season he started to shoot pretty well from the outside too. Ben Simmons is a true point guard, having the abilities to get inside the paint and pass the ball at a near-perfection rate. So, on this kind of team, if we add Jimmy Butler, an excellent defensive player and an athlete that can shoot at ease, it becomes really scary for the other competitors. It is true that they lost two young talented players in Saric and Covington, but they still have Markelle Fultz, which is the number 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft. Also, with the ability of Butler to space the floor and create shots, the percentages of JJ Redick will grow.

If we look at the matchups between Brett Brown’s team and Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics or even Milwaukee Bucks we observe that the Philadelphia 76ers has added a player that can defend important opponents such as Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum or Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee the success for the team from Pennsylvania but it gives bigger chances than they had last year.

This being said, I conclude that the Philadelphia 76ers will become much better than it was before, but I don’t know if it has enough to beat the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors. No matter what will happen, this is excellent news for basketball and for the Eastern Conference, which gets stronger with this addition.

David Istrate,

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