We’re still firmly in the NBA offseason, but that hasn’t stopped fans and even players from thinking about next season, including the Philadelphia 76ers’ James Ennis III who has a bold prediction for the 2019-20 season.
Ennis, who re-signed with the 76ers on a two-year $4.1 million deal, has a good reason for staying in Philly and has everything to do with going to the NBA Finals and nothing to do with facing Kawhi Leonard.
Here’s what he had to say about his decision:
“Because it’s a good team, and a good chance of winning. The East is going to be 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,” via the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Ennis’ prediction is bold, yes, but it has some legs.
Beyond re-signing Ennis, the 76ers made some major upgrades to its team with the re-signing of Tobias Harris and the signing of free-agent Al Horford. Harris is staying with the 76ers on a five-year $180 million deal, while Horford signed a four-year $109 million deal.
Beyond those two, the team received guard Josh Richardson in a sign-and-trade deal with the Miami Heat that sent Jimmy Butler to South Beach. The team is also working on locking up former Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons to a long-term deal.
In short, the 76ers will be largely returning the same team that took the eventual champion Toronto Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. With the Raptors losing Leonard as well as Danny Green, its status as a powerhouse remains to be seen.
Still, it won’t be a cakewalk for the 76ers. The team will still have to deal with the Milwaukee Bucks and perennial All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks stand as the second favorites to win next year’s NBA Finals and Antetokounmpo is favored to repeat as league-wide MVP.
The 76ers will also face competition from the Brooklyn Nets who signed the trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan when free agency opened.
Nevertheless, in a league as crazy as the NBA where any one thing can change at a moments notice, optimism, even bold optimism, can go a long way.
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