Joel Embiid tweeted last month about playoff spots opening up in the Eastern Conference thanks to several star players moving out west (see story).
Embiid presumably meant that would allow the Sixers to snag one of the precious postseason slots. However, former Sixers great and Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley, left no doubt.
“The playoffs are a definite for the Sixers this year,” Barkley said Friday to CSN’s Danny Pommells from the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe.
While other teams have been weakened by core players changing conferences, Barkley still believes the Sixers’ rise will have more to do with the squad coming into its own.
“If Embiid is healthy and (Ben) Simmons is healthy, I think they’re definitely gonna make the playoffs,” he said. “Obviously the injury thing has really hurt them the last couple years. But if those two guys are healthy, I think both of them are terrific players. Now you’ve got (Markelle) Fultz, you’ve got JJ (Redick). They’ve done some good things with the guys coming off the bench. (Dario) Saric was fantastic last year.
“If they don’t make the playoffs, I’d be totally shocked.”
A big key to the Sixers' reaching that level will be how Simmons and Fultz mesh together on the court. The last two No. 1 picks could make up the team’s starting backcourt in a non-traditional pairing.
“One or the other is probably going to have to defer a little bit because they both want the ball,” Barkley said of the Simmons-Fultz pairing. “They’re both dominant guys with the ball. I think coach (Brett) Brown is gonna have to really talk to them about that. That could be an interesting dynamic of their team because they’re both ball-dominant guys and they both will probably have to sacrifice a little bit in that area.”
No matter which of those players ultimately has to take a back seat on the floor, Barkley is confident the Sixers will figure things out and move up the NBA ranks.
“The Sixers, man, they’ve just got a really bright future,” he said.
For more from Barkley on the Sixers and LaVar Ball, watch the full video above.