Nick Wright on Embiid’s playoff debut: The Philadelphia 76ers we saw last night can win a championship

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Reflecting on Joel Embiid's playoff debut where he notched 23 points in Philadelphia's Game 3 win over the Miami Heat, Nick Wright explains to Cris Carter and Jenna Wolfe why he believes the Sixers are a legitimate championship contender. Do you agree with Nick?

- I mean the team that we saw last night, is a team that can win a championship. Not just win the East, win a championship. That team, Embiid at nearly full strength, Simmons controlling the game with the ball on a string and hitting every 3-point shot imaginable, not Ben Simmons, but his teammates, that's a team with that level of defense that is as good as any team in basketball.

With that said, after three games, the closest a series can be is two games to one. And we do a weird thing in these playoffs where every single game after game 1, what was a lot of questions? Is it going to be a sweep? Are teams going to get swept? Like the, it was.

- You have to get used to this television.

- Right, exactly.

- It's the question is, what about the end?

- Right, and so I say all that to say this. There is no real criticism of Philly from last night. The game was close through 40 minutes. It was a 2-point game going into the fourth. And then they did in the fourth quarter what they did to Miami in the entire second half of game 1, which is blow them out and make it look more lopsided than it actually was.

But 2-1 after 3 with the home team having a 2-1 lead is about where you're supposed to be. I'm not ready to anoint Philadelphia as the Eastern Conference champions. What I am ready to say is this, Chris. Their best, we talk a lot about best versus best. Philly's best is, it's not quite the Rockets and Golden State's best, but it might be the next best we have in the league right now.

- And the reason why we should look at Philadelphia and talk about them, is because if there was a team that said, OK, there's a dark horse team. If there's a team going to surprise people in the playoffs, before the playoffs started, Philadelphia was that team.

Doing a lot of talk shows, they were getting a lot of feedback. And we didn't know what they would look like with Joel Embiid. We have to take this in consideration. The guy hadn't played in the NBA game in a month. Now this team has had great success. Now their back was against the wall, they lost home court.

But I knew that Dwayne Wade couldn't have that type of performance. It's franchise record, number of points off the bench. So with Joel Embiid be coming back, even if they had unfortunately lost this game, I would have had a lot of confidence in them because it's him being back added to a team that has tremendous amount of momentum.

And now you can start to look at, because we were watching Philly during the season. We talked about Ben Simmons being rookie of the year. Joel Embiid, oh, is he going to be able to stay healthy? We never looked at position by position how the team is put together.

And now once you're into the playoffs, you can see, man, this team is dangerous. Because we saw with LeBron against the Pacers. But LeBron, as you go into the playoffs, people won't have an answer for LeBron, but if they had got to the finals against Harden or Durant and Steph Curry, they can fight firepower with firepower.

The only guy in the playoffs there is no answer for is Joel Embiid. And you talk about the good team surrounding him. They got shooters, they got Ben Simmons, who's playing I believe the best basketball of his rookie year. Like they are a dangerous team.

- And they've got, when you talk about the complementary pieces, two of them are guys they got from the Atlanta Hawks after the trade deadline, Belinelli and Ilyasova. They were bought out by the Hawks. They went to Philadelphia, which by the way, was a testament to how important it was that Philly had that good January that made them.

Because those guys go to playoff contending teams. Philadelphia had played well enough in January. Now when you look at them post-Christmas, they have the best point differential in all of basketball. They are scoring more compared to their opponent in all of basketball.

And when you look at the roster, do they have dominant big more than any team in the league, other than maybe Anthony Davis? Yes. A floor general? Ben Simmons, yes. Amazing shooting. The guys I mentioned, plus Redick. Yes. And let's not forget, since Christmas, the number two defense in basketball. They are right now checking all of the boxes.

- With the best defensive player.

- Oh, in Joel Embiid. And one of the best defensive guards in Ben Simmons.