For the last couple of years now, the Philadelphia 76ers have been gunning for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. After moving on from Brett Brown in 2020, the Sixers hired longtime veteran head coach Doc Rivers to shake things up.
Fortunately, Rivers coached the Sixers to a 49-23 record, notching the first seed in the Eastern Conference. After drawing the Washington Wizards in round one, the Sixers knocked DC out of the NBA Playoffs in five games.
When they faced the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the second round, the Sixers were looking to get further than they've been before during the Joel Embiid/Ben Simmons era of Philadelphia basketball.
Atlanta put up a great fight. Not only did they steal the first game on the road against the Sixers, but they went toe-to-toe with the East's top seed for seven straight games. When Game 7 rolled around, the Hawks managed to put the Sixers out in South Philly and pulled off the upset, sending the Sixers packing out of the playoffs.
Now, Philly is in a tough spot. Not only did they fail to get past the second round once again, but their second-best player is unwilling to show face at the team's practice facility this offseason. It's unclear what the future holds for Ben Simmons, but he's made it clear he's finished playing for the Sixers.
As Philly struggles to find a trade partner that's worth their time, the Sixers find themselves doubted around the league. John Schuhmann of NBA.com recently surveyed NBA General Managers to find out where they believe teams stand.
When getting a prediction of where each Eastern Conference team will land, the Sixers received zero votes for first and second place, despite coming off of a season where they landed the top seed.
Instead, the Sixers received most of their votes for third and fourth place. Ultimately, they rank fourth, according to NBA GMs. As expected, the Brooklyn Nets are the overwhelming favorites for the top seed, with the reigning NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks behind them in second.
And before the Sixers is the Jimmy Butler-led Miami Heat, a team that bolstered its starting lineup this offseason with the notable acquisition of former Toronto Raptors star guard Kyle Lowry. Behind the fourth-ranked Sixers is their most recent playoff opponent, the Atlanta Hawks, followed by the Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.