What's this then?
This is the first of (hopefully) many previews for each and every team in the NBA before the season starts. These articles will be a bit long, so brace yourselves. The 76ers are first in line as they had the worst record in basketball last year, and I will work my way up from there, ending with the Warriors.
About Last year: 10-72
The Sixers were really bad last season. Although once they (re)-acquired Ish Smith they managed to go from “historically bad” to just “really bad” as they started the season 1-30, and after that went 9-42, which is still bad, but not as bad. (also should be noted, Ish was not the only reason they improved, just that is a clear turning point.)
Jahlil Okafor had some off-court issues and was pretty miserable defensively, but did show a very impressive offensive game. Nerlens Noel continued to look like an excellent defensive player and a raw offensive one, while most of the rest of the roster did nothing of note other than kind of stink. (shouts to Covington for somehow being good still) Although when Okafor was not on the floor, the Sixers actually were a decent defensive team. Last year was the last year for Hinkie and his process, (that whole situation was kind of a mess, and I'm not going to get into it) throwing out lineups every night full of D-Leaguers in an attempt to stink. The biggest disappointment from last year was probably how poor Nik Stauskas played, he is not a totally lost cause yet but it was a worrying year for him.
The biggest additions this season will be #1 overall pick Ben Simmons, (hopefully) a finally healthy Joel Embiid, and a finally arrived from Croatia Dario Saric. These are collectively 3 of the guys that Hinkie was continually waiting for (Embiid to get healthy, Saric to arrive, and to finally land a top pick for an absolute blue-chipper in Simmons) and the Sixers finally have them all on the team and ready to play. (Right now, everyone gives one massive knock on wood for Embiid.) There are also a couple other rookies who joined the team but do not figure to be as impactful (right away at least) as these 3.
In free agency the team made 2 notable additions with Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson. Bayless should be a really nice fit playing next to Simmons doing largely the same thing he did next to Giannis with the Bucks as an off-ball shooter and secondary ball handler. Henderson will be a solid scoring option on the wing and legit 2-way wing player as well, which is something they have not really had other than Covington. The main question around both of them is how well they shoot from 3, both shot well last season, but it was a bit of an outlier from their career marks. The biggest thing that those two bring to the team though is some veteran stability, the Sixers have not really had a PG or SG that are actually good the last few years and even though Henderson and Bayless are far from all-stars they are actual NBA caliber players who will give good minutes every night.
About the Bigs:
The Sixers have too many bigs, plain and simple, everyone knows this. They are almost certain to trade one of their young bigs, and most seem to be leaning towards it being Nerlens Noel. I am but a mere mortal with no sources or anything like that. So I will assume that guys will be on the team, even though we all know one of them is almost certain to leave.
Things/Storylines to watch
- Ben Simmons vs. Expectations: Ben Simmons is hugely hyped and is generally being viewed as the chosen one for the Sixers, (although due to the other youngins on the team, he does not have as much pressure as he might other places if he was the only young stud.) and the excellent rookie years we saw last year does not help to temper expectations at all either. He also is exactly the sort of player that might really struggle as a rookie as he will essentially be playing point regularly, and rookie point guards almost always struggle. He also (probably) can't really shoot which is a nice saving thing to have when the game is too fast for you. Essentially he is the perfect archetype of player to struggle as a rookie, which would not be ideal for his situation of coming to a team desperate to win at least a little bit. HOWEVA, Ben Simmons is not just any player, there is a chance he is such a stud that he is good despite being the type of player that usually struggles. I will say this for sure if Simmons is good from day 1, he is going to be phenomenal down the road because by all rights he should struggle at the start.
- Joel Embiid vs. Health: (knocks on wood) Embiid is the true wild card for this team, he will be a rookie, but he is 22 and been working with NBA coaches the last 2 years, he also does not figure to play a ton right away. Truthfully, of all the non-Pistons stuff, Joel Embiid being healthy and being awesome is one of the things I am hoping for the most this season, and if he is awesome then this team could suddenly find themselves in a great position.
- Successfully trading someone: As stated earlier, the Sixers are almost certain to trade one of their young big men. Whichever one they do trade, they need to make sure that they get a good return and don't just dump him for the sake of dumping him.
- Jahlil Okafor vs. Stupid: Okafor did some real stupid stuff last year, don't do that again.
- Jahlil Okafor's game with new teammates: Okafor's rookie season was largely ignored by the national media last year as it was overshadowed by KAT and Porzingis, combined with his own off-court antics and being hurt occasionally. HOWEVA, Okafor quietly had a really good rookie season last year. He scored 17.5ppg on 53.6 TS% while playing just 30 minutes per game, which is a really great number. His defense was bad but all rookies are bad on defense, and he legitimately torched some people on offense while being the only offensive threat on the whole team basically. With the Sixers trying to add some actual NBA players to the team, he could explode onto the scene in a big way. (assuming he isn't traded)
- Does Nik Stauskas suck? Maybe, the evidence certainly leans that way right now (which as a UofM fan makes me sad) but if there was a situation that could give you some troubles in your first two years, starting with the Kings and then go to the Sixers is a decent excuse. If he does play poorly this season, though, he may be on his way out of the NBA, but then again, he might find his game playing with less crappy teammates and hopefully being allowed to do more spot up shooting.
- SARIC HYPE TRAIN: This dude looked pretty good in the Olympics, and has finally arrived for the Sixers. I admit, that even after the Olympics I don't really know for sure what to expect from him because I haven't watched him enough, but what I have seen looks good and he could be great for this team and provide some much-needed shooting in their front court.
- Can this team win some games? The Sixers have been awful the last several years and this is the first year that they are not trying to be explicitly bad. They do not need to be challenging for the playoffs or anything, but for the first time, there is some real pressure on this team to not suck. A lot of people say that losing so much can do things to players, and it can affect the culture and whatnot, so there is some wonder how the team will transition into trying to actually win some games.
So what's the best-case scenario for the Sixers?
Ben Simmons is a legit once in a generation talent and it is obvious from the moment he steps on an NBA floor, Joel Embiid is actually Hakeem 2.0, Dario Saric is the next great European player, and Hinkie is finally showed to be a genius who has helped create the most promising young team ever to step on the floor. This coming season they break the 30 win mark behind solid fusion of the steady veterans and electrifying youngins, and they are the new spooky team in the NBA.
Worst case scenario?
(Doesn't even dare to mention Embiid here) Ben Simmons can't score against NBA defenses, and doesn't try on defense, Dario Saric is actually Darko but shorter. The Veterans all are clearly overstretching their games and struggle as a result, and they trade one of their bigs for nothing. The team fails to break 20 wins and people seriously wonder if they should blow this whole thing up.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
- Joel Embiid is sliding into all of the Dms.
- Ben Simmons is putting others on Shaqtin a fool by faking them out so badly.
- Dario Saric is nailing 3s on and off the court.
- Jahlil Okafor doesn't get into any fights.
- They trade Nerlens Noel for, I don't know, D'Angelo Russell or something.
Run for the hills if:
- Joel Embiid gets hurt.
- Ben Simmons hasn't hit a jumper by the all star break.
- Nik Stauskas hasn't hit a jumper by the all star break.
- They trade Nerlens Noel for.... JJ Barea.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
- Joel Embiid is healthy and is dominant when he plays.
- Ben Simmons is a generational talent.
- Okafor is an all-star.
- The Sixers fuse together and win 30 games.
What do you think? Will you let Embiid slide into your Dms? Is Ben Simmons Jesus?