Season Previews: Philadelphia 76ers

Introduction

The Philadelphia 76ers finally had their dream season last year, finishing with the worst record in the league (10-72), having the league reward them with the #1 pick by dumping Sam Hinkie for Bryan Colangelo, which they used to draft the herald Aussie Ben Simmons. The Sixers also had the 24th pick in the draft, which was used on a three and D shooting guard from France, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Sixers had their superstar talent in Ben Simmons, now it came time they finally looked to round out their roster, with the signings of Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, former Buck Jerryd Bayless, and Elton Brand returning to the team to help potty-train the new pups.  The 2016-2017 season is finally the year the Sixers will get some payback for their investments of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric in the 2014 draft.  The increased roster talent isn’t anything to impress the GM’s gal with, but they should make the team competitive, finally allowing a Sixers rookie to start his career with a team trying to win games.

Roster Breakdown

Starting Lineup: PG: Ben Simmons (eventually), SG: Jerryd Bayless, SF: Robert Covington, PF: Jahlil Okafor, C: Joel Embiid

The Sixers have a ton of different options regarding who to start.  They could go with their young players and go through the normal developmental growing pains.  Can Ben Simmons and Dario Saric play together?  Can Jahliil and Embiid share the floor better than Nerlens and Jahlil? Is the team better off playing the youngsters as many minutes as possible or limiting their roles to allow more shooting on the floor.  With the team trying to change their reputation around the league, I suspect they’ll try to be as competitive as possible, going with shooting and experience in their starting lineup.

Ben Simmons was being worked in many different roles during his first couple of practices before his injury.  With his quickness and playmaking ability, I think the coaching staff will settle on playing him at point guard.  While he’s recovering from foot surgery, newly acquired Sergio Rodriguez will probably get the starting nod alongside Jerryd Bayless.  Jerryd will be the perfect complement to Ben Simmons playing point.   As we saw last year, Jerryd can play off guard to a young freak trying to figure his way around the position by hitting threes off screens and helping his point guard out of tough positions as a secondary ball handler.  Needing the spacing, I think Robert Covington starts at small forward, but like I said they have many options, they have the ability to start another guard as Ben Simmons can guard the three or four while playing point guard, so perhaps Nik Staukas gets another chance at the starter role. As for down low, I think they’ll begin the season starting Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid next to each other.  Embiid is capable of stretching his range to the short corner, allowing Jahlil Okafor to get buckets down low.  It’s still not a perfect combination, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started Dario Saric next to Embiid shortly into the season.

The Bucks should be able to match up with the Sixers quite well.  We have a more experienced lengthy point guard of our own.  Matthew Dellavedova should be able to force some turnovers with his high effort play matched up against Simmons.  Rashad Vaughn has some physical advantages over Jerryd Bayless, but I suspect Jerryd’s craftiness will give Rashad some trouble.  Against this Sixers starting line-up, I think Jabari would end up guarding Covington on the wing.  Jabari has more talent, but Covington can take advantage of Jabari’s issue with over committing on close outs, beating him off the dribble into the lane.  The key to the game is whether the Bucks are capable of slowing down the Sixers post game.  Giannis is probably forced to guard Joel Embiid, which could lead to some foul trouble for our young star, but I just don’t think we want to leave Giannis banging in the post against Jahlil all game.

Against the 76ers, it’s all about forcing turnovers and limiting them in the post.  They aren’t going to out shoot anyone, which puts them in a tough position most nights.

Key Reserves: Who are their best bench players?

The Sixers have a lot of young talent they need to find minutes for off the bench like Nerlens Noel, Nik Stauskas, Dario Saric, and Richaun Holmes.  The 76ers also signed Serigo Rodgriguez and Gerald Henderson to significant deals, both are expected to come off the bench this season.  That’s a whole lot of talent for a second unit.  But much like their starting unit, spacing the floor will be a problem.

Strengths

The 76ers are a very young team with more height than just about anyone in the league, excluding our Milwaukee based franchise.  They have two 6’10” players that can play as the primary ball handler, and three talented seven footers to plug the paint for 48 minutes a night.  No other team has the surplus of young 7 footers to have a legitimate starting center prospect on the floor every minute of the game, thus with extended depth at the center position, the Sixers have the option to run as much fast break as they desire. Really, their biggest strength heading into this season are their options.  They can bring Ben Simmons around slowly playing small forward, much like rookie year Giannis, or they can just bite the bullet and let him make his mistake as the team’s primary ball handler, since they will not be a playoff team this season regardless. I’m sure they’ll find a consistent starting five, but they do have the option to be more defensive oriented by starting Noel, or if they feel an offensive combo of Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons gives them the best shot to upset the Cavaliers, put ‘em on the floor and see if you can out gun ‘em.

Weaknesses

The problem with the Sixer’s roster this season, is that all their strengths could easily be exposed as the team’s weaknesses.  Too many options could cause some chemistry issues if the players are never placed into consistent roles.  Nerlens Noel has already spoken outwardly that the team needs to make some changes at his position. The team enters this season with a lot of hope, but much like the Sactown Kings of last season, things within the locker room may go real south as the losses start piling up.

They might also struggle using their size advantage productively game in and game out.  Too many teams around the league are carried through perimeter guard play for the Sixers to pack the paint and expect anything but a three point barrage.  If they plan on starting two centers again this season, they will struggle with power forwards like Jabari Parker who can operate in all three areas of the offense.  Noel is quick enough to follow stretch fours to the perimeter, but offensively he doesn’t have the skill set to negate his lack of spacing at the four.  Last season when on the floor with Jahlil Okafor, Noel spent his time in the high post setting screens for his perimeter teammates and posting up, looking for the ball so he can either drive to the rim or drop it down to Jahlil in the low post, high school style.  Both he and Jahlil struggled trying to operate against the extra post defender their teammate’s lack of spacing allowed, leading to many wasted possession in route to a ten win season.

Although the Sixers future looks bright behinds the likes of Ben Simmons and a potentially sometimes healthy Joel Embiid, their roster is still too unbalanced to consistently pose a threat to their opponent game in game out.  Maybe they can use their size to beat up on some guard driven teams and pull one out, but against teams like our all length bucks, they’re going to find themselves the less skilled, worse shooting team, and I’m comfortable saying that knowing the Bucks haven’t showed to be competent shooting the ball.

2016-2017 Projection

Where do you think this team ends up by the end of the year? What kind of record do they have? High level for wins, low level for wins, and an over/under spot. Where do they finish in their division/conference?

I expect the 76ers to finish fourth in the Atlantic Division and second to last in the Eastern Conference.  Win increase phily!  I’m very impressed with Ben Simmons’ talent, but missing the first month of the season could really affect how well he showcases himself this season.  It’s too early to have any idea how he’ll respond to the injury, but he wouldn’t be the first player to be wary of reinjuring a foot.  Should they have Simmons back in early December, I think he’ll provide the offense a boost and help them play more competitive ball, but I doubt many wins come with it.  With Ben Simmons playing point guard, I think the 76ers threaten some good teams and finish the year between 20 and 25 wins.

Sam Hinkie’s plan worked.  The 76ers have some top level talent, but both Joel Embiid and Benny boy Simmons are just starting here, with Simmons already finding adversity with his broken foot.  This season isn’t so much about wins, it’s about playing competitive basketball, and of course staying healthy. If Embiid makes it through the season and they win eleven games, so be it.  Great season.  Brett Brown gets to stay on board, the team’s trainer Kevin Johnson shall be paid like AI back in the day, and Bucks nation can spend the summer debating if we should have drafted him instead of Jabari.  I know it really does sounds groovy.

 

 

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