Originally posted on Around the Arc  |  Last updated 10/9/12

With the NBA preseason getting into full swing this week, this seems like a good time to consider the current state of the Sixers heading into the season, and how they stack up against the rest of the East. If you recall, last season ended with the Sixers sitting one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals, a position that the Sixers hadn’t even sniffed since their infamous run to the 2001 Finals. The truth is however, that the Sixers’ success in last year’s postseason masked what was in many ways a mediocre season for the 7-6.

The effort put forth by last year’s team is well-noted, but beating a short-handed Chicago squad, and pushing a rapidly aging Celtics team to a seventh game in no way guaranteed success for the following season, and the front office knew this. Changes had to be made and changes were made. The Sixers now sit on one of the youngest, most athletic, and potentially explosive lineups in the League, centered around their prized pick-up of the offseason, Andrew Bynum.

But what does this mean for the franchise? Are they finally ready to be considered a serious contender? Should I prepare for a parade down Broad Street in June?

Unfortunately, not so fast. While the addition of Bynum and shooters Nick Young, Jason Richardson, and Dorell Wright directly remedy what were enormous issues for the Sixers last year in the form of post presence and outside scoring, it does not automatically catapult the team to the top of the East’s elite. The Sixers were not the only team that was busy this offseason, as a plethora of other contenders from the East made some tweaks to their rotations, hoping to contend with that team down in Miami eyeing up their second straight Championship. Players were shipped all over this summer, and in fact not one Eastern Conference Contender’s lineup looks identical to last year’s, making for what should be an extremely entertaining regular season.

The 76ers finished eighth in the East last year after a promising start and it is safe to say that sneaking into the last playoff spot was at least slightly disappointing to Sixer fans, especially after the team spent a week atop ESPN’s power rankings early in the season. However the team now boasts one of the League’s best young big men and an array of position players around to compliment his game, which, should be more than enough to at least keep the team from sweating out a playoff spot. But where exactly do the 2012-2013 76ers fit in the playoff puzzle?

It is a little too early to tell exactly how good this current incarnation of this Sixer squad will be, considering that there are so many new parts that have yet to play together, but the talent is certainly there to contend. Miami is still clearly the class of the East, as well as the clear-cut favorite to take a repeat trip to the Finals, but after that things are not quite so clear.

Orlando and Atlanta have faded as true Championship contenders, while Indiana and New York look to take the step toward becoming perennial playoff teams. Brooklyn is quickly building itself into a contender, while the Celtics remain solid despite a few major roster moves. Questions still surround Chicago and the return of their superstar Derrick Rose, and until he is back and healthy on the hardwood the Bulls cannot be viewed as a serious threat.

So what does all of this mean for the Sixers?

It means that in an ever-evolving Eastern Conference the Sixers are right in the thick of things, for the first time in a long time. Are they the favorite to reach the Finals? No. Are they the best team on paper? No. Are they going to win the Championship this season? Probably not, but hey anything is possible, and they have certainly put themselves on the short list of teams that pose a serious threat to Miami’s title defense. There is a handful of teams in the East that could be seriously considered as contenders, and while they may not be at the top of this list the Sixers are certainly on it, in there among the elite, which is about all you can ask for heading into a season almost thirty years removed from your last title.

Technorati Tags: Philadelphia 76ers,Miami Heat,NBA,Eastern Conference,Andrew Bynum,Boston Celtics,Chicago Bulls,New York Knicks,Brooklyn Nets.
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