article written by Chris Giannotti
Philadelphia 76ers fans have endured much heartache over the last three years. During this time the Brett Brown led squad have accumulated a 47-199 record, as it will be a big tall order along with patience to right the ship. Even though this is the type of record has led to fan unrest, the losses have also presented the Sixers with the greatest chance of future success. During the last three NBA drafts, Philly has selected Center/Forward Nerlens Noel, Center Joel Embiid, Forward Dario Saric, Center Jahlil Okafor and Point Forward Ben Simmons.
These five lottery front-court players provide the foundation of the club’s future. This article will not deal in hypothetical trade proposals nor will it delve into alternative draft selections. However, this article will examine the team’s future as it pertains to current players, existing picks in next year’s draft and a brief synopsis of the current state of the Atlantic Division conference’s top teams. Here is “Big Tall Order”.
This position is clearly the strength of the team. The above mentioned five players; Saric and Embiid’s availability withstanding, still provides quality NBA talent. While there is an abundance of players for basically two positions, these players are all talented for a team that is clearly lacking talent.
In our opinion, Nerlens Noel (11.1pts, 8.1reb, 1.5blk) is already one of the best defensive forwards in the league. Noel provides the team with an athletic big who enjoys playing defense. He has displayed rim protector potential and does not demand the ball on offense. His offense leaves a lot to be desired, and while he probably will improve on this end, I don’t think that he will ever be compared to Kevin McHale. We believe that Noel is definitely a keeper for future 76ers success.
Jahlil Okafor (17.5pts, 7reb, 1.2blk) already possesses some of the best low-post move footwork in the league. He has demonstrated that he can score consistently without the benefit of being surrounded by capable outside shooters. While Okafor is not a quality defensive player, he is a solid rebounder. The easy comparison to make when comparing Okafor is Al Jefferson. I don’t think any comparison regarding the former high school all-american can be made yet until he has the benefit of playing with NBA quality guards. Legitimate NBA shooters will provide him with enough spacing to really showcase his complete offensive arsenal.
Joel Embiid is the biggest enigma in the NBA since Greg Oden entered the league more than a decade ago. His health is the biggest question mark surrounding the Sixers heading into this upcoming season. If Embiid’s foot is healthy, then he provides the Sixers with another legitimate front-court option. He provides 76ers management with the option of trading either Noel or Okafor, and at worst he provides quality depth off the bench. It is important to remember that Embiid has not played meaningful basketball in close to three seasons. He was injured during the second half of his brief Kansas Jayhawk career and has not played a second in his first two NBA seasons. Embiid needs to show potential this season, or he will probably be forgotten next season.
Now that Dario Saric is signed and ready to suit up for the Sixers, it will be interesting to see where he fits into their future plans. We envision Saric coming off the bench to start the season. His Turkish League highlights showcase his above average passing skills. Saric also showcases the ability to step out and knock down outside jumpers. If Saric can do this consistently, then he can possibly develop into the new wave stretch-four that is essential in today’s NBA. Another trait that Saric showcases in his game highlights is toughness. If he can continue to display this at the NBA level, then he will be fan favorite in Philly in short time.
After watching the recent NBA Summer League action, we can definitely say that 2016 number 1 overall pick Ben Simmons is the truth. He displayed passing skills and a feel for the game that was beyond what he showcased at LSU this past season. Simmons will start at one of the forward positions, but we feel that he will be the primary ball handler before long. Simmons’s relationship with Brown goes back to his infancy, and that trust and familiarity, combined with extraordinary talent will see the 20-year old being the offensive facilitator early into next year’s regular season.
Philly signed Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez to man the point guard position. We believe Bayless will start at point guard with Rodriguez being a solid reserve. These two signings were underrated and provide veteran depth as they are a drastic improvement at the position from last year.
Gerald Henderson is another solid veteran who will start at the 2 guard spot. Henderson’s father played in Philly, and is well regarded. His son also played his high school ball here and is another solid veteran pickup. The former Duke star is a major upgrade at the position from last year and provides Brett Brown with another veteran to assist in pointing the youth in the right direction.
Robert Covington (12.8pts, 6.3reb) was Philly’s best outside shooter last season. The former D-Leaguer is developing into a solid 3 and D player. He possesses a nice stroke from deep and is also not allergic to playing defense. We believe Covington will start at the small forward position this season. He should see a lot of wide open looks with Okafor and Simmons on the court at the same time.
Rounding out the players that will see time this season are forwards Hollis Thompson and Jerami Grant. Thompson is a small forward with an erratic outside shot. Grant is an athletic tweener who is solid defensively but also has an erratic jumper. However, both players are considered solid on-ball defenders.
Promising rookie wing player, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarot flashed highlight reel potential in both the Las Vegas and Utah Summer Leagues. Look for TLC to be on the finishing end of Ben Simmons passes in the near future. He is definitely a player to keep an eye on.
Furkan Korkmaz was the 76ers third 1st round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He will be stashed in Europe for at least another season, however is another player youngster with a promising future. He possesses a solid jumper and is underrated athletically. We feel that new general manager Bryan Colangelo did a very good job drafting on the back end of the 1st round with Korkmaz and TLC.
One other possible player of note is Anthony “Cat” Barber. The undrafted free agent from NC State was a solid college player who recently signed with Philly. The Sixers signed him to a partially guaranteed contract, who we feel is worth at least a D-League stash. He plays out of control, but you can’t teach his end to end ability to push the ball. If he develops a solid jumper and harnesses his speed, Philly might have a steal.
Future Implications and Atlantic Division Opponents
Philadelphia has their own 1st round selection in next year’s draft. They also possess the Los Angeles Lakers pick if it falls outside of the top 3 picks. They also have the rights to swap 1st round selections with the Sacramento Kings. Next year’s NBA draft is deep at the point guard position. Look for Bryan Colangelo and management to heavily scout the college ranks next season as they search for their point guard of the future to team with the prodigy Simmons.
It is our belief that the 76ers should be focused on developing and crafting their front-court this season. They need to find out what combination of big-men can play together. They also need to find out whether Simmons can be a point forward and if Saric can develop into the stretch-4 that we feel he can be.
While the Cleveland Cavaliers will still be the favorites in the eastern conference, the Boston Celtics are a strong candidate to be the 2nd best team. We feel that Philly should not trade any of their talented big-men this season, and if they do, definitely not to Boston. Brad Stevens is just starting to get the Celtics moving and he is one of the top coaches on the planet. The promise in Philadelphia is bright, but Boston’s might be brighter. Danny Ainge is going to make a power move soon, and it would be foolish for Philly to give up one of their promising front-court players to their once fierce rivals.The next few years will hopefully bring back yesteryear battles of the Bird Man and Dr. J. The future is finally starting to look bright in the city of brotherly love.
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