Since the 76ers didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline, the next thing to examine is how the Eastern Conference looks after the moves that were made.
The biggest thing that happened Thursday was the Cavaliers completely revamping their roster. Cleveland added Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Lakers, Rodney Hood from the Jazz, and George Hill from the Kings. In doing so, they got rid of Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, and their 2018 first-round pick.
It seems like every season there is a ton of worry about the players, coaching, and status of the Cavs, and this year was no different. But then LeBron James takes over in the postseason and Cleveland sails into the Finals. The Cleveland front office is clearly on board for allowing that storyline to continue for at least one more year and has now surrounded James with a younger, more dynamic team.
It’s not the top tiers in the East that should be concerning for the Sixers, those teams look like they are not going to have a problem staying where they are, including the Cavs. It’s the lower rungs on the playoff ladder that will be closely watched in relation to the Sixers.
On Jan. 29, the Pistons acquired Blake Griffin from the Clippers. Since then, Detroit is on a five-game winning streak, including the last four with Griffin on the floor. On Thursday, the Pistons added Jameer Nelson from the Bulls, and James Ennis from the Grizzlies. This is potentially the biggest threat to the Sixers in terms of playoff positioning.
The Sixers (26-25), at the eighth spot in the East, are closely trailed by the Pistons (27-26). If the Sixers continue to teeter on the edge of the playoff standings, and the Pistons make the most of their new depth, continuing to win games at a high rate, this could push the Sixers out of the postseason picture.
The other team close to the Sixers that made a move was Miami (29-26). The Heat got Wade back, but it was more ceremonial than it was about trying to make a push. Wade’s time was clearly limited in Cleveland and it’s Miami, the city he was able to give three championships to, where he will likely finish off his career.
But don’t doubt the emotional boost that bringing back a future hall of famer and the team captain can do for the morale of the Heat. And, though Wade is not the the player he once was, there are definitely moments when he can make a big difference, especially with players that he already has established chemistry.
The Sixers will meet the Pistons one more time this season and currently have a 3-0 record against Detroit, ensuring the Sixers will win a tiebreaker situation if the two teams end up with the same record.
With Miami though, things are not as clear. The Sixers have only played the Heat once (a win) and will face them three more times before the season is over.
What all of this means for the Sixers is that it’s important now, more than ever, to compete no matter who the opponent is. This could all end up coming down to one or two games.
In the end, it’s probably best that the Sixers are waiting to make acquisitions or unload cap space. Any other disruption to the team could mean more time building chemistry and finding a rhythm and there isn’t much time left for that sort of thing.