The Celtics’ challenge to defend their Eastern Conference and NBA crowns next season became more difficult Monday morning.

The 76ers and Paul George are in agreement on a four-year, $212 million maximum contract, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. George arguably was the best player on the open market after cutting ties with the Los Angeles Clippers, and he’ll form a new “Big Three” in Philadelphia alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

“George and his agent, Aaron Mintz of CAA, met in Los Angeles with a 76ers contingent that included owner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand and Sixers legend Julius Erving, sources said,” Wojnarowski wrote. “The Sixers even brought a front office executive, Peter Dinwiddie, who is a familiar face and friend of George’s from their years together with the Indiana Pacers, sources said.”

The 76ers, who haven’t advanced past the conference semifinals since the 2000-01 season, are coming off a campaign in which they were bounced by the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. George, meanwhile, was an All-Star in each of the last two campaigns and last season played in his most games (74) since the 2018-19 slate.

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With the 34-year-old now in the City of Brotherly Love, oddsmakers believe the 76ers have the best shot of knocking off the Celtics in the East next season. Boston is a heavy favorite (+145) at FanDuel Sportsbook to win the conference crown, but Philadelphia carries the next shortest number at 4-1.

Featured image via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images