The Phoenix Suns Will be Better than the Philadelphia 76ers in 2021-22

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns shocked the world with their run to the NBA Finals last year. But the Philadelphia 76ers disappointed everyone when they failed to even reach the Conference Finals after finishing out the regular season with the East’s best record. Ben Simmons absolutely wet the bed, over and over again refusing to try and score the basketball, leading to his team’s eventual demise and his own unofficial dismissal from the team.

But going into the 2021-22 season, the Sixers might still feel like a true threat to win it all with Joel Embiid returning and their win total from last year still fresh in everyone’s memory. However, when you distinctly look at what their front office assembled over the last few weeks, it leaves very little for the Suns and most other contenders to worry about.

The Phoenix Suns Will be Better than the Philadelphia 76ers in 2021-22

Looking first at what resembles a “clash of the titans” down low, Deandre Ayton and Embiid highlight this matchup above all else. For now, Embiid stands a tier above Ayton having nearly won the league’s most prestigious individual award last season.

But outside these two giants, the Suns outweigh the Sixers almost entirely across the board.

Nobody knows who Philadelphia might try and swap Simmons with. But barring a Damian Lillard acquisition, anything else they do likely still leaves the Suns with a better ball handler in Chris Paul.

Regardless, the instability stemming from the Simmons situation factors into the entire team as well. It makes the Sixers look like a mess, and their additional players not knowing who will run their offense at this time cannot be helpful no matter how you look at it.

No debate with this one, the Suns possess a massive advantage at the point guard slot.

At shooting guard, the Sixers carry Seth Curry—a quickly improving player with a lethal 3-point shot. But outside from his three ball, Devin Booker beats him by significant measures everywhere else. He averaged more points, assists, and put up a better field goal percentage than Curry last season. Not to mention, Curry also remains an absolute liability at the defensive end compared to Booker’s much improved defense. This becomes yet another no doubter for Phoenix, as Booker wins out at the two spot.

Danny Green and Mikal Bridges come together as this matchup’s most intriguing face off. They both embody strong wing players, who specialize at the defensive and long range shooting. However, Green finds himself entering his career’s tail-end, while Bridges is just getting started.

Either way, Bridges still scored more points, averaged more rebounds, and shot better from deep than Green last season. However, Green forced a lower opponent field goal percentage than Bridges last year, but only by 1.3 percentage points.

But with another year likely coming to improve Bridges and simultaneously deteriorate Green, that microscopic defensive advantage for him should soon tip Bridges’s way. For the same reasons, Bridges’s already established offensive gap will expand as well—consequently pointing to him as the much better player for 2021-22.

When Tobias Harris looks right, very few seem able to stop him. Last year, he enjoyed arguably his best season since joining the 76ers, averaging 19.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He also put up a career-high field goal percentage and assist numbers, shooting at a 51.2 percent clip while dropping 3.5 dimes each game.

Entering his prime and as the more complete player, he beats out Jae Crowder as the more premier power forward for this duel. Crowder might stick with Harris from an offensive standpoint if he stays relatively hot from deep all season, but Harris scores from all over the floor and in a more consistent manner.

Harris also caught up to Crowder from a defensive standpoint last season, allowing the same exact opponent field goal percentage as him at 45.1 percent, and averaging 1.6 more defensive rebounds per game.

So at this point, the Suns hold advantages over the Sixers at three starting positions, with their leads at point guard and shooting guard far larger than all others. They already formulate as the better team when addressing their starting five, but their bench only furthers the argument.

Tyrese Maxey likely leaves with Simmons before the upcoming season starts, removing him from this equation. But newcomer Andre Drummond, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, and All-Defensive Second Team member Matisse Thybulle still highlight their bench.

That group outscores Phoenix’s first four off the bench including Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Landry Shamet, and JaVale McGee, but only by 0.9 points per game. But with both these teams already carrying high volume scorers like Embiid, Booker, and Harris, efficiency off the bench matters far greater than cut and dry scoring—where Suns possess a much more notable advantage.

While Philly’s four projected reserves finished last season with a solid combined true shooting mark at 53.0 percent, Phoenix’s guys surpassed them with a 57.1 true shooting percentage. Efficiency across all scoring areas falls their way, and with that, the advantage off the bench.

Defense remains Philadelphia’s claim to fame though, especially for Thybulle. But if Philadelphia learned anything from their series with the Hawks last year—it’s that great defense only holds up for so long when your star players fail to put the ball through the hoop, and Philly just looks less equipped to do that both with their starters and bench players.

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Ultimately, the Sixers remain a team nobody willing wants to face off against in 2021-22. But too many factors make it easy to forecast the Suns still seeing the better season next year, while the Sixers stay looking for that final piece.