Does Paul George Make the 76ers a Favorite in the East?

Following the George trade, Philly's odds to win the East moved from +750 to +400, just slightly behind the Celtics and ahead of the Knicks.
Paul George traded to Philadelphia 76ers
Paul George brings playoff experience and clutch shooting to the 76ers.

The first major domino in NBA Free Agency has fallen. Paul George is returning to the Eastern Conference to join the Philadelphia 76ers. It will be George’s fourth stop in the NBA and for Philly, it gives Daryl Morey a legitimate title contender with a core three of Maxey, George, and Embiid.

Let’s dive into the details and how this impacts the Eastern Conference landscape, starting with a look at how the news impacted betting odds.

The 76ers odds of winning the NBA Finals moved from +1600 to +800 after the trade. Similarly, their odds to win the Eastern Conference moved from +750 to +400, leapfrogging the Knicks in the process.

Nurse Gets a Big Three in Philly

The last time Nick Nurse had a roster this strong was during the 2019 Toronto Raptors' run to their first title in team history. That squad featured standout players like Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, and Pascal Siakam.

Now, with a new big three in Philadelphia, Nurse arguably has an even more talented trio. The question remains: will they work well together?

Paul George is a low-key star who welcomed the arrival of James Harden and Russell Westbrook in LA, allowing them to shoulder the offensive load. However, we never saw George play alongside a talented big man. Now, with Joel Embiid in the mix and Tyrese Maxey on the wing, defending the pick-and-roll will be must-see TV.

Nick Nurse will integrate rookie Jared McCain, re-signed wing Kelly Oubre, sharpshooter Buddy Hield, and newly signed Eric Gordon into the rotation alongside their Big 3. Looking up and down Philly’s roster, this is the deepest group they’ve had since the Process Era began with the shooting to compete with Eastern Conference contenders.

Nurse has Drummond, KJ Martin, and Paul Reed in the frontcourt to take pressure off Joel should he miss a handful of games. If there is one coach who could take Morey’s offseason moves and game plan for success, Nick Nurse has to be one of the few names I’d trust in this process.

George Brings Clutch Shooting and Playoff Experience to the 76ers

We all have seen what Tyrese Maxey can do in the clutch. A sharpshooter that can get to his spots in the midrange at will. That said, Paul George might bring an even bigger clutch factor.

PG had a 71% True Shooting percentage in the clutch last season on high volume. His ability to knock down shots and create offense on an island at 34 years old is a sight to behold, and a fresh set of teammates in a city that should welcome him with open arms might make for a perfect match. That is if Joel Embiid gets out of his own way.

We’ve heard all the noise with Joel. From the tears after Game 7 playing against Nick Nurse to this summer when he made a scene on the NBA Finals broadcast, I wonder if he will still play this villain role with two of the league's quietest stars on his team in George and Maxey.

Embiid has averaged less than 40% FG in 11 elimination games while turning the ball over five times per game in comparison to just 2.7 dimes per game. This not only should sound the alarm for Nick Nurse and the coaching staff - but it should also sound the alarm for George and Maxey.

The big three - if they haven’t done so already - need to work out a 4th quarter solution. The best big 3s seem to play off each other with a rhythm and normally, one star player makes end-of-game sacrifices on one end to help the team to victory. Embiid needs to seriously think about some sacrifices during the 4th quarter and into the postseason in order for Philly to get to the promised land.

Back to PG, after missing virtually the entire 2014-15 season, it has to be rewarding to sign a 4-year deal upwards of $200 million with an Eastern Conference contender about a decade later. After the best shooting year of his career (47/41/90 splits), he’ll look to keep these numbers afloat with Tyrese Maxey’s enhanced playmaking over the years and Joel Embiid’s command in the post. Expect plenty of catch-and-shoot opportunities for one of the most underrated deep-range shooters in our league.

Can the 76ers Compete with the Celtics and Knicks?

After the New York Knicks traded for Mikal Bridges, piecing the Nova Knicks into existence, the Boston Celtics winning a ring with Tatum and Brown at the helm, and the Indiana Pacers developing at a scary pace, Daryl Morey decided it was his turn and got his guy. Paul George brings a consistent outside shot and energy to the 76ers that has been missing in recent years.

From Ben Simmons to James Harden, it’s been an uncertain ride both on and off the court. PG, despite the ever-present concern of injuries, feels like a true professional and is expected to work hard on developing a seamless fit with his new team.

However, I’m not labeling this 4-year deal as a win just yet. Trust issues with Joel Embiid in the clutch moments will live on until the star big man rewrites the narrative. While MVP trophies and All Star appearances will fill his resume when it is all set and done, a massive reconstruction of who Joel Embiid is as a player and person will be the determinant if this Paul George experiment works for Philly and Morey.

As for George and Morey, they both are at the points in their careers where an experiment in the weaker conference is well worth it.

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