The Philadelphia 76ers, despite all of their inconsistent and sometimes frustrating play this season, entered the Orlando bubble as one of the top contenders to win the Eastern Conference and reach the 2020 NBA Finals.
There's no denying this team is absolutely loaded with talent and has one of the best starting lineups in basketball. Joel Embiid is one of the league's best centers, Tobias Harris is a quality scorer, Al Horford is a very good all-around big man, rookie Matisse Thybulle is an excellent defender and Ben Simmons is among the top point guards.
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When healthy, the Sixers are capable of beating any team in the league, but having a full roster has often proven to be difficult for this group. The latest player to be hit with an injury is Simmons, who, according to the team, has suffered a knee injury.
Ben Simmons suffered a subluxation of the left patella (knee cap) in yesterday's game, MRI confirms.— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) August 6, 2020
He is OUT for tomorrow's game against the Magic.
Treatment options are currently being considered.
We don't yet know how long Simmons will be out, but if he misses any length of time in the playoffs, it will have a huge impact on both the Sixers and the other contenders in the East. One of those teams is the Boston Celtics. In fact, if the season ended today, the Celtics and Sixers would meet in Round 1 of the playoffs as the No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup. ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI) also projects the C's and 76ers to meet in the first round.
Simmons makes a tremendous impact offensively, even without being a threat from 3-point range. In four games versus the C's this season, he averaged 18.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Philly won three of those four games. Simmons also is a very good defensive player, and his combination of size and length is enough to give a lot of opposing players trouble.
The Sixers would have a decent chance and maybe even be favored to beat the Celtics in a seven-game series if Simmons was at full strength. But without Simmons -- or even with a less-than-100-percent Simmons -- it's hard to envision Philly taking down Boston, especially when he's such a valuable defender to put on the Celtics' top scorers including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker.
The Sixers looked like a terrible first round matchup for the Celtics all season, but given Philly's less-than-stellar play in the bubble and Simmons' injury, a Round 1 series with its longtime rival might actually be a favorable scenario for Boston.