East wide open in 2020? James Ennis says 76ers will 'walk' to NBA Finals

East wide open in 2020? James Ennis says 76ers will 'walk' to NBA Finals

The Philadelphia 76ers should be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference and play in the 2020 NBA Finals, and one of their players is pretty confident that's going to happen.

Sixers guard James Ennis III, who recently re-signed with Philly, told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer that his team will "walk" to the NBA Finals next season.

That's a bold statement from Ennis.

The 76ers figure to be a tough out next season after re-signing Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Ennis and acquiring Al Horford from the rival Boston Celtics in free agency. And let's not forget the 76ers' two-best players, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, should also continue to improve next season and beyond.

The East, as Ennis notes, really is wide open, however.

The Milwaukee Bucks, led by reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be a force again. The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon via trade this summer, but they are expected to return much of the same team that finished with the East's best record during the 2019-20 regular season. The Boston Celtics also will be a tough out, and no team understands that better than Philly. The C's lost Horford and Kyrie Irving in free agency, but they signed Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, and also should see improvement from young wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Indiana Pacers made a few shrewd offseason moves, too, and likely will again be a top-four team in the conference.

There are question marks surrounding the 76ers themselves. Embiid hasn't been able to stay healthy and/or in shape for a lengthy playoff run. Simmons still can't shoot from the outside and Horford is 33 years old and has battled through injuries the last two seasons. Philly's bench still doesn't have enough talent or depth, and the roster as a whole needs more 3-point shooting.

Being the favorite on paper also doesn't mean much. Many fans and experts believed the Celtics would march to the NBA Finals last season with LeBron James out of the conference. Boston instead fought through a massively disappointing season and exited in the conference semifinals. 

Ennis and the 76ers have a long way to go before they reach the conference finals for the first time since 2001, but in fairness, they do have plenty of reasons to be confident in their chances next season.

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NBA Rumors: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant won't play for Nets when season resumes

NBA Rumors: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant won't play for Nets when season resumes

Since the NBA's suspended season has given Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant months to recover from their respective injuries, some believed they could return and make the Brooklyn Nets title contenders.

That theory was put to rest on Friday.

Durant confirmed to ESPN's Marc J. Spears he will not be returning to play when the NBA season resumes in Orlando, Fla. next month. As for Irving, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski says the former Boston Celtics guard suggested on Friday's NBPA conference call it's possible he could join the team... as an inactive player.

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Durant missed the entire 2019-20 campaign after rupturing his Achilles tendon in last year's NBA Finals. Irving underwent surgery in March to repair an impingement in his right shoulder that ended his first season with the Nets after only 20 games.

Brooklyn currently holds the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 30-34 record on the season.

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck offers thoughts on NBA's 22-team return plan

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck offers thoughts on NBA's 22-team return plan

On Thursday, the NBA announced a 22-team plan to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Fla.

The plan passed by an overwhelming 29-1 vote among teams, with the Portland Trail Blazers as the only organization to vote against it. Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, obviously, was one of the many in favor of the plan and discussed why Friday on Felger & Mazz.

"The point that seemed the most fair is not to give a team that was lagging farther behind in the East, and that was for example [the Charlotte Hornets] who are seven games back," Grousbeck said. "In the history of the NBA, no one has ever come from seven games back at this point in the season. And so, it's more fair to say no, we can only take so many teams because of safety.

"We don't want to have 500 more people with all 30 teams. We'd just have more of a chance of getting shut down because of the virus. So there was a line to be drawn, and we all decided 29-1 that this was the most fair line."

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With safety as the No. 1 concern going forward, it's a no-brainer to limit the teams heading down to Walt Disney World to only the ones that can fight for a playoff spot.

Grousbeck also suggested that the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks could be the C's first opponent when the league returns to action. The Celtics were preparing for a matchup in Milwaukee when the season was suspended in mid-March.

"I think our first game is going to be Milwaukee, which that would be interesting," Grousbeck said. "Because that's what the schedule looks like just from the current schedule. We don't have the new schedule yet. But we'll probably start right off with Milwaukee."

The C's currently have the No. 3 seed in the East as they prepare to return to the court.

You can hear the rest of what Grousbeck had to say in the video above.