– Seeing what I’ve been seeing over the last 14 games, seeing Ben Simmons assert himself in this league without Joel Embiid— man, I filled out my all NBA ballot this weekend. The hardest person not to include was rookie Ben Simmons. He might already be one of the 20 best players in the league. That’s not even to mention Embiid, who clearly already is one of the 20 best players in the league.
And by the way, he’ll be back. If there is any threat in the East to the Cavs, it is not Toronto. It is certainly not Boston. It’s not the plucky Pacers or the defensive-minded Heat, it is these Philadelphia 76ers. And when you add to it Markelle Fultz coming off the bench– a little energy sixth man going to give you 20 minutes and somehow 15 points in those 20 minutes– I do not believe Philadelphia has the requisite experience to win three rounds in the playoffs, which is what they would have to be because of where they’re going to fall, either 3-4 or 4-3 with Cleveland.
They wouldn’t even be able to meet each other until the Eastern Conference finals. But that might– I mean, that’s positive for Cleveland, by the way, because it’s going to give them a couple rounds to get their full roster there to try to get in full playoff mode. Because Philly right now is playing better than any team in the league, except for Houston.
And they are a dangerous team that takes high-efficiency shots. The addition of Belinelli and Ilyasova has been underrated. So I said– what was it, six weeks ago, a month ago, CC– that if you were to tell me someone other than the Cavs made the finals, I would say it’s Philly. And I still feel that way. I don’t think they’re going to beat Cleveland. But they’re the only team, I feel, that Cleveland doesn’t want to play in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
– Well, one thing about Philadelphia, their coach and how they play is under-rated. People say, oh, Philadelphia is good. They’ve got good, young talent. But they don’t really know how they play. They don’t know for which the style they do play. And the one thing you didn’t mention– Joel Embiid– that’s the biggest problem for the Cavs, all right? How he could handle, how he could control the paint, leading the NBA in paints in the post-up, paints in the point–
NICK WRIGHT: Points in the paint.
– And then also–
JENNA WOLFE: Also that.
– Also his ability to build a stretch to court that he would bring either Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., to the three-point line– and they can drive to the hoop– that’s one thing I’ve seen in this winning streak, their ability to run their offense and get good looks inside the paint. JJ Redick is a nice role player. But in speaking about Philadelphia, speaking about the coach, these are all positive things.
If you’re worried about Philadelphia against the Cavs, that’s a Cavs problem, too. Might not want to admit that. But there’s a problem in the Cavs and what you seen with the Cavs. Because at this point in the process, the Cleveland Cavaliers at full strength and LeBron, they wouldn’t be worried. If they were playing good, they were playing at full strength, they wouldn’t be worried about a team like Philadelphia.
They got no experience. That’s their first time, collectively, getting into the playoffs. So yes, Philadelphia is doing well. But it’s also because one of your eyes has watched Cleveland and you realize they have some things that you don’t know how they’re going to transition to the playoffs.