Philadelphia 76ers Preview
The Process was trusted, now it’s time to show some results.
Well we finally got to see Joel Embiid play, and it was glorious. The offense was multidimensional. There are plays where the giant was catching the ball on the 3 point line, beating his defender off the dribble and just jamming on them. He showed an outside stroke, shooting 36.7% from 3 on 3.2 attempt per game! The midrange game was also solid, 48.6% from between 16 feet and the 3 point line. And of course the low post moves. Just look at this:
On defense too, Embiid managed to average 2.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. He is an excellent rim protector and has the speed to occasionally step out and guard wings. Injuries are the only thing standing between Embiid and superstardom, the man is a marketable star after playing just 31 games in his career!
The 76ers finished 14th in the Eastern conference at 28–54, and while that’s a low win total, this is the youngest team in the NBA and they were tanking after Embiid’s season-ending injury. Robert Covington shook off an early-season shooting slump to shoot 36.5% from 3 between January and March, providing good defense along the way. Dario Saric played well and showed that he could fill in if Ben Simmons does not pan out. Nik Stauskas (Stauskas?) shot the ball well but still has defensive limitations, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot showed flashes but is not ready for a starting role yet. Reinforcements are coming in the form of last year’s number 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, an athletic generational passer who missed last season due to a foot injury, and this year’s number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, a point guard with a versatile offensive package. The team also has about 42 million in cap space (assuming they retain Gerald Henderson, 50 million otherwise) to stockpile assets.
Draft From the Past
Number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is a 6’4 point guard who can play both on and off-ball. While his defense was disappointing at Washington last season, his dynamic offense more than makes up for it. At the college level, Fultz broke defenses down with a myriad of offensive moves such as crossovers, spins, speed changes, and shooting off the dribble. Fultz also showed the ability to hit from the outside (shooting 41.3% on college 3’s), and although he might not immediately be a catch-and-shoot player at the NBA level, he certainly has the ability to develop into one. With this being said, his comparison is with Philadelphia legend Andrew Toney. Even though Toney was a SG, Fultz’s ability to play off-ball makes them similar. Both players have good shooting, ball-handling, and passing abilities. Both also play with two Hall of Famers, Toney with Julius Erving and Moses Malone, and Fultz with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid (fingers crossed).
Find a suitor for Jahlil Okafor. Okafor was the 3rd pick in the 2015 draft and while disappointing last season, he is still 21 with potential to be a great offensive center. However he does not fit the 76ers rotation, as Embiid and Richaun Holmes are both above him in the depth chart, and they traded to draft center Anzejs Pasecniks with the 25th pick. The 76ers have a lot of cap space to take in bad salary and trading Okafor to a team that still believes in his potential (again he’s only 21!) for a veteran shooting guard would be extremely beneficial to the team. Embiid has served as a de facto veteran, he is the heart and soul of the team, most recently reaching out to Simmons during his rehab and sending Fultz 75 text messages in a week. Nevertheless true veterans are paramount in guiding young players adjust to the NBA, Embiid is doing it, but he hasn’t seen it all. The team also needs more shooting and wing defense, as Fultz is not a great defender and his outside jumper is still coming along. Simmons is also a non-shooter and not having enough shooters will stagnate an offense.
Free Agency Tinder Superlike
J.J. Redick. Redick is a seasoned veteran in the NBA known for knockdown shooting. Although not the best defender, he does not lack effort, and that willingness to play hard defense is a good influence on the young core. In terms of shooting, Redick led the league in 3-point percentage in 2015–16 at 47.5% and has finished in the top 5 for that category in each of the last 3 years. Adding Redick’s elite outside shooting could catapult the Sixers to being one of the best offenses in the NBA (provided everybody stays healthy).
One Defining Stat
The 76ers had a net rating of +3.3 with Embiid on the floor, -8.2 with him off, an 11.5 point swing. The team’s offensive rating goes up from 102.9 to 105.4 with Embiid on, and more amazingly, the opponent’s offensive rating goes down from 111.1 to 102.1 with Embiid on the floor! This stat highlights the difference Joel Embiid makes, and how good a player he already is.
How far away are they
A few years for the young core to develop, but as we have seen from the Oklahoma City Thunder, young talent could break out early as Durant and Westbrook were both 21 in the Thunder’s first 50 win season, and they reached the NBA finals just 2 years later! The NBA has gotten better, but the 76ers definitely have the talent to get there if all the variables break right.
The Up and Under
Up: Everybody stays healthy. Bryan Colangelo suddenly loses his passion for basketball, quits his job and Sam Hinkie returns. Embiid becomes the best two-way center in the NBA. Simmons commands the offense like a young LeBron James and reveals that he’s been working on his shooting over the past year, and can now hit midrange jumpers consistently. Fultz’s skills translate well into the NBA, and he cuts down on his Chick-Fil-A consumption. With a healthier diet, he takes his game to the next level. Covington does not go through a shooting slump, and plays like a solid 3 and D player. Stan Van Gundy gets so mad at Andre Drummond he gives up on him and trades for Jahlil Okafor and rebuilding pieces, giving up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Fultz, Caldwell-Pope, Covington, Simmons, and Embiid make the playoffs with the average age being 23.2 year old (they would be 19, 25, 27, 21, 24 in April 2018 respectively).
Under: Embiid proves he can’t stay healthy, leaves after winning a decent amount of games for the Sixers. Simmons’ lack of shooting makes fitting a team around him too difficult. Fultz succumbs to season-ending injury, as is tradition for Sixers young talent. There are no takers for Embiid or Saric. Covington becomes even more streaky shooting the ball, Luwawu-Cabarrot doesn’t develop. The offense becomes rotating between Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric post ups, and the team can’t defend anybody. Misses playoffs, 13th pick in the draft, meanwhile 2018 Lakers pick go second.