Breaking Em’ Down Pt. 1: 76ers

Tell the people far and wide that better times are coming

Stephen Collins Foster, Better Times Are Coming

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Philly fans far and wide have struggled through many a season.  The last three seasons, the team failed to exceed 20 wins, and not an ounce of hope is to be found since the departure of Iguodala and A.I. all those years ago; but, now, a new dawn is on the horizon in Philly.  By replacing their nothing-but-detrimental GM Sam Hinkie, the 76ers have avoided more heartache and replaced their sorrow with the hope of rebuilding their franchise for the future.

In the most recent NBA draft, they added their most important piece of the puzzle yet:Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.01.37 AMGranted, when you win just 10 of 82 regular season games, it’s tough to bounce back, no matter which way you look at it: sideways, blindfolded – it doesn’t matter, but now the potential of this team is finally worth talking about.  The immediate future will be dark, but there’s certainly hope for years to come.  

Something is better than nothing, right?  Especially when that something comes in the form of a 6′ 10″, 240 lb wingman with elite court-vision, passing ability, and a level of composure that is rarely seen in young athletes.

From what I observed of Ben Simmons during his brief time at LSU, I was impressed, but more so baffled, as I’m sure others were too – how does such a talented player only have 8 or 9 FGA’s per game?

Simmons will no doubt be asked to do more than that for this franchise, as he should be expected; but he will certainly be bearing the weight of the hopes and dreams of the entire city of Philadelphia on his shoulders.

Will he live up to the hype?

Let’s take another look further now into the free agency signings and draft picks the 76ers managed, and how they will affect their rotation this year:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.01.47 AMKorkmaz will be return to Turkey for another season, and could perhaps stay another season after that.  Luwawu will most likely be suiting up for their D-League affiliate for the interim, but will no doubt be in the 9-12 spot in Philly’s rotation at some point soon.

Rodriguez is a very savvy pick-up. Former Euroleague MVP and seasoned veteran, Sergio Rodriguez, was another saavy pickup who played for Real Madrid with fellow Spaniard Rudy Fernandez – another player that Philly has also been linked with.  Negotiations with Fernandez appear to have since broken down, however.

Gerald Henderson, another notable addition, will certainly make an impact as well.  He’s another veteran two-guard, who with most recently played for Portland and Charlotte as a well-established D and 3 guy that will compliment Rodriguez in the backcourt.

Jarred Bayless is a solid addition too.  His signing is certainly not a game changer, but he will be a solid piece in the rotation, at least as an offensive boost off the bench.

What will these additions mean for Philly next year?  How are these new additions going to impact the 76ers for the up-and-coming season and beyond? Well, here’s a few stats to compare last year’s 76ers against the rest of the league:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.01.56 AM

These numbers put the 76ers’ last season into perspective.  The general consensus in the NBA is that the 76ers were a very young team with limited vets on the squad, no real consistency, and no consistent scorer, or rebounder for that matter.  Jahlil Okafor and Ish Smith were their only real offensive bright spots, with 17 points a game each, which highlights the team’s key weaknesses.

Many of their possessions didn’t result in a shot attempt at all, and their turnover ranking was ultimately a serious factor in their excessive losses; but even when they looked to get to the foul line, the 76ers were wildly inconsistent, with just 69% from the line as a team.  That has to change this year.

Philly has confirmed that Embiid will finally be ready to play this season, which should positively impact their rebounding numbers – not so much from crashing the glass offensively, but more so because they’ll have a big man in the middle to help close possessions out with defensive rebounding.  This will be key, especially if they want to run-and-gun with Simmons on the break, which will be a pivotal role for Simmons in Philly.

There are bright spots, though: the length and quickness of a big man like Noel helped them stop possessions with steals and blocks, putting them in the top 10 in both categories last year.  Hopefully with Embiid back, and now with Henderson in the line-up too, a lot more defensive stops will take place from the top of the key and from corners, which, in turn, will make life easier on the Embiid’s recovering.

filigree-divider_13_lg copy 4Overall Grade: B-

For the 76ers, the worst is behind them. They have a new owner, a new franchise centerpiece, and some solid free agency additions who will bring some much needed depth and veteran leadership to the rotation.  Selecting Simmons with the #1 pick was the right choice because of is ability to facilitate for others and create mismatches.  We will have to see how that works alongside the low post presence of Okafor.

My prediction:

The 76ers will most likely find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference again, but certainly not with a 10-72 record.  If they can get even marginally over 20 wins this year, next season will be deemed a success. I don’t see their record being any better than until there are enough pieces around Simmons; just give Simmons and Okafor time to learn to work together as a tandem, and put more young role players around the new veteran additions, and we may just see Philly make some noise in the regular season soon.

Stay strong Philadelphia, good times are coming to the City of Brotherly Love.

By Rob Bray a.k.a Mighty Stretch