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.
James Ennis III to the @PhillyInquirer on re-signing w/ #Sixers: "Because it's a good team, and a good chance of winning. The East is going to wide open. We had a good chance last year. Kawhi is gone. He went to the West. So we are going to walk to the Finals in the East."— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) July 10, 2019
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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