Last Year’s Record: 18-64 (14th in East)
Projected Roster (with Last Season’s Stats)
PG- Tony Wroten 16.9PPG–5.2APG-2.9RPG-1.6SPG
SG- Nik Stauskas 4.4PPG-0.9APG-1.2RPG-32%3P
SF- Robert Covington 13.5PPG-4.5RPG-1.4SPG-37%3P
PF- Nerlens Noel 9.9PPG–8.1RPG–1.8SPG–1.9BPG
C- Jahlil Okafor ROOKIE
G- Isaiah Canaan 9.2PPG-2.1APG-1.9RPG
G- Hollis Thompson 8.8PPG-1.2APG-41%3P
F- Jerami Grant 6.3PPG-3.0RPG-1.1SPG
F- Carl Landry 7.2PPG-3.8RPG-52%FG
C- Furkan Aldemir 2.3PPG-4.7RPG-51%FG
B- Gerald Wallace 1.1PPG-1.8RPG
B- Pierre Jackson (ROOKIE)/Scottie Wilbekin (ROOKIE)/T.J. McConnell (ROOKIE)
B- Jordan McRae (ROOKIE)/J.P. Tokoto (ROOKIE)
B- JaKarr Sampson (5.2PPG-2.2RPG)/Richaun Holmes (ROOKIE)
B- Joel Embiid (INJURED)…Also waiting for promotion: F-Dario Saric, F-Arsalan Kazemi,
NEW ADDITIONS: C-Jahlil Okafor, SG- Nik Stauskas, F- Carl Landry, F- Gerald Wallace, and a slew of second rounders and training camp additions.
KEY LOSSES: PF- Luc Mbah a Moute, SG- Jason Richardson, F- Thomas Robinson, C- Henry Sims, G- Ish Smith
The Scoop: The Sixers enter year three of the Sam Hinkie era with very little to show for their efforts at scrapping and rebuilding the franchise. To sum up the tank and trade philosophy to date, the 2013 draft yielded Point-Guard Michael Carter-Williams, a victim of Hink-enomics and was flipped for a possible high-end Lakers draft pick. Nerlens Noel was picked up in a swap that sent Noel and a 2014 first rounder to the Sixers for franchise stand-out Jrue Holiday, a move that has actually panned out considering Holiday’s fledgling health and inconsistent scoring touch. Noel has seemed quite good at times, a defensive stopper that is an above-average rebounder, but lacks solid moves in the half-court offense. His athleticism and acceptance of the Sixers style will be beneficial for a year 2 break-through, but Noel’s offensive game remains limited, and although currently being the best player on the team, his ceiling remains as the mainly defensive, possible fourth best offensive option on a winning team.
The following year gave the Sixers their stud, Joel Embiid, a Kansas seven-footer who shows flashes of Hakeem with a better shooting touch, and a competitive fire that is bolstered by a likeable personality and good shot blocking instincts. Embiid is now ready to miss two straight seasons with a small foot fracture, a mostly precautionary, but still alarming decision considering prior instances of highly drafted big-men’s careers cut short because of injury. We hope for Embiid to be the main franchise piece in the future, but one wonders what he’ll look like after two years away from the game, and after two foot surgeries. Doctors remain positive, as they do with Kevin Durant who has a similar issue, and hopefully Embiid’s natural athleticism and build will make the rehab easier on him than it would a heavier body like Sam Bowie or Greg Oden. The Pelicans pick that was part of the Holiday deal resulted in Dario Saric, a European crossbreed of LaMar Odom and Wally Szczerbiak that should join the team in 2016-2017.
So now, considering the MCW deal, two Hinkie drafts have resulted in Nerlens Noel and a ton of second round picks trying to play their way onto the back of the roster. This offseason, the Sixers drafted a replacement to Embiid in the fear of his permanent absence, collegiate stand-out Jahlil Okafor, a post-minded, but flat-footed center with strong one-on-one moves and a lack of athleticism. Okafor could become an Al Jefferson-type, offense first, kind of center, but his ceiling is nowhere near as high as Embiid’s and the pick scares pundits quite a bit, almost like settling for less. Next season yields four first round picks, their own, the Lakers, the Heat, and the Thunder, so another tanking season could be in the works, and hopefully, four first rounders, plus Embiid, plus Saric will officially put this team in the hunt.
The plan of the Sixers seems bent on stashing big men because you cannot win with big-men only, and then eventually, riding into the sunset with tons of wing and point guard draft picks coming at one time, joining the established big men. This can work, and there’s a chance that the Sixers upside could lead them into the highest of the East in only one or two years, but currently, the roster remains pretty void of talent.
The Point Guards: Tony Wroten remains the starting point guard, a slash and score first change of pace guy, who has become the starter out of necessity. His touch near the rim and hustle are great, but a broken jump-shot and high turnover numbers do hurt his production as a starting point guard. Wroten will be an excellent second unit player when the team finally comes together, and could be a solid scoring option for them this year coming off of injury, but his ability as a starting point guard is fairly average. The back-up Point Guard job is entirely up for grabs. The Sixers acquired Isaiah Canaan (and a second rounder) in the deal that sent K.J. McDaniels to the Rockets, and one has to figure he factors in the rotation, the problem: it’s obvious toward the end of the season that Brett Brown tired of his inconsistent and bone-headed play style, instead giving minutes to now departed free-agent, Ish Smith. Don’t be surprised if Canaan gets cut for the increased minutes of the young guys they could sign.
They signed 2nd round pick Pierre Jackson to a deal, a journeyman who ended back on the Sixers after floating around, before tearing his achilles last summer league. Now, he’s healthy and will be one of the featured young pieces on the back of the bench. The other options include camp invite Scottie Wilbekin (SEC player of the year in Florida) and T.J. McConnell out of Arizona. Although a Canaan cut is unlikely with him being owed almost a million dollars in guaranteed money, the youth of Jackson, Wilbekin, and even McConnell would provide more than Canaan. As for now, the Point Guard position remains Wroten, and trash. (IF ONLY HINKIE HAD TRADED DOWN AND DRAFTED EMMANUEL MUDIAY…..sigh)
The Wings: Let’s start with the complete frisking of the Kings by Sam Hinkie to allow the Kings to do a salary dump. Sixers acquired draft right swaps and last year’s number 8 pick Nik Stauskas (along with Carl Landry and Jason Thompson turned Gerald Wallace) for nothing on the Sixers end, just the rights to two back of the 2nd round European big-men. Stauskas will be inserted directly into the starting shooting guard role vacated by Jason Richardson, and will look to make amends for a very disappointing rookie season. Chances are, he will. Unlike some college standouts, Stauskas does have the athletic ability to create and move at the NBA level. The problem may have just been the revolving door of bad ownership, bad coaching, and bad attitudes in Sacramento, plus his decreased minutes due to the emergence of one Ben McLemore. Pairing with Stauskas is the hidden gem Robert Covington, a free-agent, D-League pickup who came in with a fearless shooting touch and a 14 point per game average. Covington may feature some scream-at-the-TV moments with bad shot selection, but no one can knock his ability to just make buckets, and along with Stauskas, provide floor spacing for the slash and kick Wroten, plus the talented bigs.
The bench is also a revolving door. We expect to see Hollis Thompson return for a third season after minor improvements defensively and a continued 3-point stroke above 40 percent. He’s a fine back-of-the-bench guy to have. Also in line is Jerami Grant, a 2014 second round pick whose ability to steal the ball, guard the perimeter, and dunk in transition surprised the Sixers enough to unload the aforementioned K.J. McDaniels in a deal with Houston. Grant will be an even bigger part of this year’s team, and his obvious commitment to his improved shooting touch and physique (you should see him) will give the Sixers a solid dark-horse candidate for a future starter. Grant could be a total stud, in the same ballpark as a better Nicolas Batum if the incremental improvements continue. 2nd rounders J.P. Tokoto and Jordan McRae will both attempt to make the team in camp, Tokoto being an athletic project, McRae being a decent half-court scorer, and returning 2nd year player JaKarr Sampson could make the team with an unguaranteed contract because of organizational favors. He actually is nowhere near as good as Tokoto, but don’t tell management that, they like this guy.
The Bigs: The Starters are easy: Returning Rookie of the Year candidate Nerlens Noel, and number 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor. Noel brings shot-blocking, rebounding, post-defense, and athleticism galore to an offensive game that features awful free-throw shooting, limited post-presence, and a below-average mid-range jumper. Expect him as a 13 and 9 guy this year, but he is not an all-star yet Sixer fans, relax.
The big problem in reality is Okafor. You may have liked him in college, but the slow-footed, score-first oriented big will struggle this season. He will struggle with stamina, his athleticism and weight, and especially in getting his shot blocked. Chances are, Okafor will turn in a double digit points campaign, and could even creep towards fifteen a game, but we must tamper expectations for the youngster. Jah will be just fine in time, especially as the third big off the bench in a lineup that will feature Embiid and Noel first, but his lack of strength mixed with slow feet and rebounding mediocrity will make him an empty numbers guy. His 15 and 8 this year will be a very misleading 15 and 8, and a 3rd big that’s used as a post-scorer would be a perfect role for him. The Sixers would’ve done themselves a favor by trading down, possibly gaining a 5th first rounder for the 2016 draft, and selecting Emmanuel Mudiay with that pick. We’ll see, in time, but Okafor is on my shit-list for this season, and this is coming from someone who is a slightly biased Sixer fan. In Hinkie-we-trust, or we ‘trust-the-process’ as long as it doesn’t involve galute, heavy, slow, seven-foot centers. The bench will feature some Carl Landry and some Gerald Wallace as veteran pick-ups, Richaun Holmes (Bowling Green) as a second round pick if he makes it, and also feature the rock-hands rebounding of one Furkan Aldemir, a dark-horse to average 40 to 50 rebounds per game. Just joking, but…barely.
Summary: The Sixers young roster will be aided immensely after the next draft, but outside of some raw athletic talent and Jah’s post-game, the Sixers will be looking at another season hovering around 20 wins. Their starting lineup is decent, but the bench is mostly young guys fighting for a spot after being picked at the end of the second round, and the Sixers give glorifying minutes to players who will only be rotation guys on the future team. The plan, or the process as Hinkie calls it, is slowly coming together, but the Sixers will EASILY be a lottery team this season again. Wroten will be a solid fantasy bball bench option, Okafor will contend for Rookie of the Year with inflated numbers, Stauskas will improve, Noel will be Noel, and Aldemir will get boards, but don’t expect much out of this scrappy group…yet…but they’re coming.
Biases: Players I Love: Nik Stauskas, Jerami Grant, The Furkan Aldemir, J.P. Tokoto, and Joel Embiid’s Bench Spot
Players I Hate: Jahlil Okafor, Hollis Thompson, Gerald Wallace (that asshole), Pierre Jackson’s contract, and Isaiah Canaan’s belly fat.