After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.
The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.
But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:
“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.
“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.
This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.
But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.
Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.