When an NBA team feels they’re on the verge of reaching that elusive next level, they often make a midseason trade. It’s a way to find that missing piece of their overall puzzle. The Philadelphia 76ers took things a step further this season by making two blockbuster deals for star players ahead of the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline.
These moves have possibly changed the course of the already wild Eastern Conference.
Could their most recent move be the one to send Philly to their first NBA Finals since 2001? Let’s take a look.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Eastern Conference is wide open. LeBron James has won the East in eight straight seasons with both the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. It felt like whichever team had him would make the Finals.
However, James went west this past offseason for the first time in his career, joining the Los Angeles Lakers. That opened the door for a handful of teams to finally break through the glass ceiling. The favorites to reach that pinnacle were the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Philadelphia 76ers.
The Celtics haven’t lived up to their lofty expectations this season. Though the Raptors added All-Star Kawhi Leonard, there’s still a stigma surrounding that franchise for their inability to make it to the Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks have the incredible Giannis Antetokounmpo but are mostly unproven. The Indiana Pacers lost star player Victor Oladipo for the season.
While the Eastern Conference is filled with great teams, they all have questions. Never has the opportunity been this ripe for Philadelphia to leap over everyone into the Finals.
When the 76ers traded for All-Star Jimmy Butler this past November, many felt it made them a serious contender in the east. Putting him with young studs Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid arguably gave them three of the top 20 players in the league. Not content, Philadelphia came from out of nowhere to acquire Tobias Harris just before the trade deadline.
The move sent Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, and four draft picks to the Los Angeles Clippers for Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott.
The Tobias Harris trade gives the 76ers a starting five that is among the best in the league. Sure, the defending champion Golden State Warriors have five All-Stars in their lineup, but Philadephia is close. Butler, Embiid, and Simmons are already All-Stars. Harris, averaging about 21 points and eight rebounds per game, had a strong case to make the All-Star team this season.
Throw in JJ Redick, one of the best shooters in NBA history, and you’ve got a lineup that is tough to beat. Harris also happens to be a deep threat, which fills a Philadelphia need. Other than Redick, none of their players were considered great shooters. That’s no longer the case.
Not only does this move make the already tight race in the Eastern Conference even tighter, but it may also force other teams to make moves. Toronto and Milwaukee may be wheeling and dealing up to the deadline. This move also affects the Western Conference. Led by Harris, the Clippers held one of the lower Playoff seeds in the snug west. With him gone, the team probably falls from that spot.
It opens things up for the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks to possibly extend their season into the NBA Playoffs.
The Clippers also now have the financial flexibility to sign a max contract player or two this offseason. The most notable thing the Harris trade did was let the rest of the league know that the Philadelphia 76ers are going all in to try and win a championship right now.