The Sixers had their first loss of the James Harden era this weekend in Miami, and it was not a pretty game at any point. It showed that this will not just be a walkthrough, with or without Harden, but smart fans knew that already. The path to the NBA Finals is not easy, and with the East as tight as it is, that’s certainly the case for the Sixers. Here are the top 5 competitors that could keep the Sixers from winning the East this year:

  • 5.) Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls look really solid on paper, and it’s why they currently hold the 4th seed in the East. Unfortunately for them, though, they just don’t end up matching up well with the Sixers. It seems like Nik Vucevic could be the best matchup for Joel Embiid in the conference, but it hasn’t played out that way. DeMar DeRozan is still having an outstanding year, but for some reason the Sixers just seem to handle the Bulls well. I wouldn’t be overly worried about Chicago knocking them out.

  • 4.) Boston Celtics

    The Celtics are the hottest team in basketball right now, and they’re looking SCARY. Jayson Tatum is an absolute super star and seems like he’s capable of outdueling anyone in the NBA right now. So why are the Celtics only 4th? Well, first of all, they have no answer for Joel Embiid, which will be a huge issue in a 7 game series. Also, we’re seeing the hottest version of this Boston team, and that could certainly change by playoff time. This team reminds me of the Sixers team who won 16 straight to finish out the 2018 season. They got hot, yes, but ultimately they’re not good enough to win the conference

  • 3.) Brooklyn Nets

    The Nets are still the most talented team in the East on paper outside of Philadelphia, but they have been so bad in actual competition that it’s hard to even put them as high as 3. I believe their ceiling is still the highest of any team in conference, including Philly, it’s just looking more and more likely that they never reach that ceiling. With Ben Simmons out indefinitely, Kevin Durant being injury prone, and Kyrie Irving still unable to play home games, I still like the Sixers in this matchup.

  • 2.) Miami Heat

    The Heat are legit. They’re just a well-coached, well built, good basketball team. They play tenacious defense, they have a couple stars in Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, and an incredible bench piece in presumed 6 Man of the Year Tyler Herro. They also seem to have the Sixers’ number for whatever reason. They’re a dangerous team, they’re looking at a clear path to the top seed in the East, and I would prefer the Sixers don’t run into them.

  • 1.) Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks are the toughest matchup in the East to me, making them naturally the Sixers’ biggest competition. Giannis is still Giannis, they are the only other team in the East with a PROVEN big 3 (Giannis, Holliday, Middleton), and they are still very much the defending NBA Champions. There is certainly something to be said for a team that has already summited the mountain, and Milwaukee has that to their advantage. I think they are being severely underrated, they constantly fly under the radar, and they are the biggest competition to the Sixers in my opinion.