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The 10 best Sixers without an NBA title

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The 10 best Sixers without an NBA title

When a franchise hasn’t won a championship in 37 years, it’s going to have some great players who haven’t won titles.

This list ranks the best 10, considering both overall career and performance/impact as a Sixer, with more weight given to the latter. It only looks at players who have never won an NBA championship with any team, meaning names like Andre Iguodala are not included. 

10. Steve Mix 
​​​​​​“The Mayor” was a key piece for some very good Sixers teams throughout the mid-70s and early-80s. He played 668 games with the team over nine seasons, winning three Eastern Conference titles and being named an All-Star in the 1974-75 season. Though he wasn’t a huge scorer, Mix chipped in across the board and was consistently an above average, winning player. 

9. Jimmy Butler 
Butler appears on this ranking mostly because of his accomplishments outside of Philadelphia. Over the last six seasons, he’s averaged 21.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals. It didn’t work out here, but denying Butler is one of the best players to pass through Philadelphia would be foolish. At 30 years old, the five-team All-Star is searching for his first championship with the Heat. 

8. Ben Simmons
Simmons, a two-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year winner, is easily the youngest player on our list. To be clear, we’re not saying he’s already had a better career than Butler, but that he deserves this spot because of his early impact as a Sixer. It would be a major snub if Simmons does not appear on an All-Defensive Team this season, and he should be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. 

7. Joel Embiid 
Because of his many injury woes, Embiid has actually played in 12 fewer regular-season games than Simmons. While Embiid isn’t happy with how he’s played this year or what he’s accomplished so far, he’s on a Hall of Fame trajectory, health permitting. He’ll hope to no longer be eligible for this particular list when his career is over. 

6. Archie Clark 
Well before it was the norm, Clark was hitting defenders with shifty crossovers and Euro steps, earning the nickname “Shake and Bake.” A ball handling pioneer, Clark played three full seasons in Philadelphia after being included in the trade that sent Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers, averaging 18.2 points and 4.7 assists. If you haven’t seen them before, his highlights are worth watching.

5. Doug Collins 
Collins’ career was shortened by injuries, but at his peak he appeared in four straight All-Star Games and posted about 20 points per contest. A tangential note: He should be an Olympic hero and gold medalist. 

4. Dikembe Mutombo 
In his 10th NBA season, Mutombo won his first conference title in 2001 as a Sixer. While he only spent a season and a half here, Mutombo is one of the best defensive centers ever, with eight All-Star appearances, four Defensive Player of the Year awards and that iconic finger wag. He’s also an internationally renowned humanitarian

3. George McGinnis 
A two-time ABA champion with the Pacers, McGinnis came close to a title in his second season with the Sixers, who fell to the Trail Blazers in Game 6 of the 1977 Finals despite 40 points from Julius Erving and a 28-point, 16-rebound effort from McGinnis. He averaged 21.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists in three seasons here before being traded to Denver. 

2. Allen Iverson
Given how beloved Iverson is with a single NBA Finals victory on his résumé, just imagine the level of adulation if he’d won a series. As a Sixer, Iverson led the league in minutes per game five times, scoring four times and steals three times. He’s a legend, even without a title. 

1. Charles Barkley 
Regardless of team, Barkley should be one of the first names that comes to mind when thinking about the best NBA players to never win a championship. During a nine-season peak from 1988 to 1996, he scored 24.9 points, grabbed 11.5 rebounds and dished 4.1 assists per game. 

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2020 NBA playoffs: Looking at where Sixers sit in Eastern Conference picture

2020 NBA playoffs: Looking at where Sixers sit in Eastern Conference picture

Though they’re calling “seeding games,” the Sixers’ primary concern in the contests leading up to the playoffs is not seeding.

“How do you go into the playoffs … how can you go into that date feeling like we’re the best we can be?” Brett Brown said on July 12. “Worrying too much about moving up because you could play this team or avoid that team, I stay away from that.” 

Through three games at Disney World, Brown wishes the Sixers were playing at a higher level. The team has gone 2-1, but that record includes a fourth quarter in which the Sixers allowed the Pacers to score 46 points, a game-saving shot from Shake Milton vs. the Spurs and a win over the 24-44 Wizards that was tight until the end. Ben Simmons exited Wednesday’s game against Washington early with a left knee injury

It’s been slower coming than I would’ve thought,” Brown said Wednesday. “I liked our practices, I thought … the preseason games you saw at times a dominant defense. We’ve started these three games, I think, very inconsistently. I think we do some good things offensively, defensively, and then you see head-scratching stuff. It hasn’t gone as quickly as I had hoped. But I see where I think it can end. 

“We’re still figuring out some things with how we’re playing the team and Shake (Milton) coming in and so on. But I think, for the most part, we’re trending in the right direction, just not as quickly as I wished.

Here's where the Sixers sit in the Eastern Conference: 

3. Boston Celtics 45-23 GB: 9 
4. Miami Heat 43-25 GB: 11
5. Indiana Pacers 42-26 GB: 12
6. Sixers 41-27 GB: 13 

Boston technically still has a chance to surpass the Raptors for the No. 2 seed and the Sixers aren’t eliminated from contention for the No. 3 seed, but both outcomes are very improbable. Kemba Walker sat out the latter half of a back-to-back Wednesday, a 149-115 Celtics win over the Nets, as the All-Star guard works through a left knee issue. After playing Toronto on Friday night, the Celtics will face Orlando, Memphis and Washington.

The current No. 4 and No. 5 seeds play each other twice in the remaining seeding games, which should be interesting. The Heat’s other opponents are the Bucks, Suns and Thunder, while the Pacers’ are the Suns, Lakers and Rockets. Before the NBA’s hiatus, Miami was 2-0 against Indiana. In case you were curious, T.J. Warren hasn’t dropped off much after his 53-point performance vs. the Sixers. He leads all scorers at Disney World with 39.7 points per game. 

Despite having the sixth-easiest strength of schedule, the Sixers don’t have great odds of rising. Basketball Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report gives them a 72.8 percent chance at the No. 6 seed, 23.0 percent at No. 5 and just 4.1 percent at No. 4. Those probabilities are intuitive when you consider the Sixers have lost their season series vs. the Heat and Pacers. 

The Celtics are the Sixers’ most likely first-round opponent at the moment by a good margin, which would potentially leave the Sixers a path of Boston-Toronto-Milwaukee. One could make the argument that such a road is best for the Sixers, since the team won its season series over Boston, 3-1, and wouldn’t have to face the top-seeded Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals, but nothing’s going to be easy for a No. 6 seed. 

We analyzed the Celtics, Heat and Pacers as possible first-round opponents for the Sixers here

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

When Ben Simmons flexed his left leg after lobbing a pass for Al Horford and immediately headed off the floor Wednesday during the Sixers’ win over the Wizards, it was logical to be concerned. But, according to a report, Simmons’ knee injury is not as severe as one might have feared watching him walk toward the locker room. 

An MRI on Simmons’ knee was clean and he’s expected to be day-to-day, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. It's worth noting this is not an official update from the Sixers, who Brett Brown said postgame he expected to issue an announcement soon about Simmons' status. 

The 24-year-old recovered from a nerve impingement in his lower back over the NBA’s hiatus, and he felt strong and explosive heading into the league’s restart. He’s now serving as the Sixers’ starting point forward, an adjustment Brown thinks he’s approached well.

“I do feel like Ben has been amazing,” Brown said before Wednesday’s game, “in regards to just being mature on ‘Put me wherever you think I can best help the team.’ At times maybe he hasn’t gotten a touch the way he needs to get a touch, sometimes — which was easier when he was always the primary ball carrier. And so I applaud him tremendously on being a great teammate, trying to accept a new type of ecosystem that we’re trying to use him in.”

Simmons looked for his shot often in Wednesday’s game, though with little success. He missed an open corner three-pointer in the first quarter, his first legitimate regular-season try from long distance since Dec. 7, and made 2 of 10 field goals overall in 23 minutes. 

If Simmons misses any games, Brown will have a few options for reshuffling his starting lineup. There’s a case to be made for just about every member of the current rotation, which Brown cut down to nine players on Wednesday. Al Horford could slide into the frontcourt if Brown wants to work on the Horford-Joel Embiid pairing, which has a plus-15.6 net rating in 40 minutes together at Disney World after being the Sixers’ worst regular duo pre-hiatus.

Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Glenn Robinson III have all started games this year, though Robinson is dealing with an injury himself, having missed the team's first three seeding games with a left hip pointer. Perhaps Brown could go with Alec Burks if he’s looking for an extra ball handler and more time to evaluate his potential backup point guard in the playoffs.

The main takeaway here, however, is not the potential ripple effects on the Sixers' seeding game rotation. Rather, it's that a player the team will surely need to have available in order to make a deep playoff run reportedly has avoided a serious injury.

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