The Philadelphia 76ers sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 28-16 record, and an extremely difficult upcoming schedule could determine where they finish in the standings.
Star center Joel Embiid is embracing the tough stretch of games coming up, and the 24-year-old explained why it could determine how the 76ers' season plays out as they look to make a run at the championship.
"I'm excited," Embiid said, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. "We're going to see how good we are and how good we can become—or how bad we are. ... I think the next three weeks are really going to shape our season. It will be exciting. It will be a good test."
Philadelphia currently sits 4.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the top seed in the East. Between Thursday and Feb. 12, they'll be playing a large portion of the NBA's elite teams - featuring contests against the Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors.
After their contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, Philly won't play a team that currently boasts a losing record until Feb. 13, when they visit the New York Knicks. This is one extremely difficult test for the 76ers, but they have a chance to showcase themselves as one of the NBA's elite teams as well.
The 76ers haven't played their best basketball against some of the top-tier opponents this season. They're 1-2 against the Raptors, 0-2 against the Celtics, 0-1 against the Milwaukee Bucks, 1-1 against the Pacers and 0-1 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
If the likes of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler want to show that the 76ers are truly a force to be reckoned with, they're going to have to get through the next month as a great deal of difficult opponents await.
What This Means
The 76ers traded for Butler in hopes of increasing their chances at winning a championship. This stretch of schedule gives them the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the playoffs, as the young 76ers try to show they belong in the discussion of championship contenders.