When the 2019-20 NBA season finally resumes in Orlando, the Philadelphia 76ers will be sitting in the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference with eight games to play. They're tied in the loss column with the fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers and two games back of the fourth-seeded Miami Heat. If current matchups hold, the Sixers would play the Celtics in the first round. If it's not Boston, it'll almost certainly be Miami or Indiana.
Either way, Philly is in for a fistfight right off the bat.
In one way, you could argue the Sixers don't have much to lose in these playoffs. They've been disappointing all season -- one of the worst road teams in the league -- and a first-round loss for a No. 6 seed, or even a No. 4 or 5 seed, is not anything that would typically surprise anyone.
But the Sixers aren't your typical lower seed. Beginning with the 2018-19 season, contending for a championship became the expectation both inside and outside their locker room. General manager Elton Brand moved all in with blockbuster trades and behemoth contracts, and not a single one of them is beyond reproach.
You could argue that Tobias Harris' five-year, $180 million max deal and Al Horford's four-year, $109 million deal are two of the worst contracts in the league. Paying Harris felt, and still feels, a lot like chasing a bad bet with an even worse one -- a cornered franchise trying to simultaneously mitigate the loss of Jimmy Butler and justify the hasty, shortsighted trade Brand probably never should've made for Harris in the first place.
Horford, meanwhile, was added on the premise that he would protect the Sixers during their non-Joel Embiid minutes, when they had traditionally gone in the tank. That's an outrageously expensive insurance plan for an effective backup who was never going to be a good fit alongside Embiid, further crowding interior space and exacerbating an already ill-fitting roster.