As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Philadelphia 76ers, who last year had a record of 34-48 and did not make the playoffs.
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Coach: Brett Brown
General Manager: Sam Hinkie
2012-2013 Record: 34-48
Place in Conference: Fourth in Atlantic, 9th in Eastern Conference
Leading Scorer: Jrue Holiday (17.7 PPG)
Key Additions: Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten Jr. Darius Morris, Royce White, James Anderson, Brett Brown (Head Coach), Sam Hinkie (General Manager)
Key Losses: Jrue Holiday, Andrew Bynum, Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Doug Collins (Head Coach), Tony DiLeo (General Manager)
Coming into the 2012-2013 season optimism was running high for the Philadelphia 76ers. The team had made the Eastern Conference Semifinals the season before and had just made one of the biggest trades in franchise history, sending out Andre Iguodala, Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic for center Andrew Bynum. While it was a steep price to pay, Bynum was coming of a season in which he averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game, started the 2012 All Star Game, and was named Second Team All-NBA. It seemed that the 76ers finally had a star to play with point guard Jrue Holiday and the rest of its talented roster. Of course, nothing worked out for the Sixers at all. Bynum missed the entire season with knee issues, swingman Evan Turner showed little improvement in his third year in the league, and the players began to tune out demanding head coach Doug Collins. After the season was over Collins resigned, Bynum was allowed to simply walk away in free agency, and Holiday was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in one of the most surprising trades of the summer. Philadelphia’s ownership also brought new leadership to the franchise. General Manager Sam Hinkie comes over after building an excellent reputation while assistant general manager of the Houston Rockets. New head coach Brett Brown is also a highly respected former assistant of Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. One year after hoping for a deep playoff run, the Philadelphia 76ers are now hoping to rebuild their team through the draft, starting with this year’s picks, center Nerlens Noel and point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
Considering the talent level of the current 76ers roster, the main strengths may be the men in charge. Hinkie is respected across the league as an executive who had tremendous input in the construction of the current Houston Rockets roster. He is known to put a heavy emphasis on analytics, and many of the players he has brought in graded out well by analytic measurements in college. The consensus on Brett Brown is that the new head coach will instill a positive culture of hard work and competitiveness in his young team. Brown’s best characteristic may be that he is not Collins, whose blunt and demanding nature had worn thin on many of the players. Among Brown’s current players, there is some promise for the future. Noel had an excellent freshman season at Kentucky, and should become an elite shot blocker at the NBA level. His athleticism and motor are elite for a big man. Fellow rookie Carter-Williams has tremendous size and athleticism for his position as well. He is also a tremendous passer who sees the floor well. The Syracuse product has drawn comparisons to Rajon Rondo and a young Shaun Livingston. Among the returning players, Thaddeus Young is the best of the bunch. The combo forward is tremendous in transition and has improved as a rebounder as well. He is also extremely efficient, averaging over 15 ppg per 36 minutes for his career and has had a PER over 18 in each of the last three seasons. The 76ers were better on both offense and defense with Young on the floor, and he remains one of the most underrated players in the league. At 25 years old, Young could either be part of the franchise’s future or fetch the Sixers a solid haul in a trade with a contender.
There are plenty. Brown is a rookie head coach and despite his experience with the Spurs, this year will be just as much of a learning experience for him as it will be for many of his players. Among those players, even the most promising ones have notable holes to their games. Carter-Williams struggled with his shot in college, hitting just 28.4% of his jumpers. Until he can become at least an adequate shooter, defenders will play off of him, taking away his ability to attack the rim. Noel’s injury history is well documented. Even as he recovers from a torn ACL, one has to wonder if injuries will always be a part of his career. At just 19 years old, the young big has already has had two major surgeries on his knee and after weighing just 205 pounds at the NBA combine, experts are unsure if Noel will ever put on the necessary bulk to bang with some of the bigger centers in the NBA. Noel is also an extremely limited offensive player, which caps his ceiling in the NBA. Among the veterans, Evan Turner has disappointed since he was selected second overall in the 2010 NBA draft. While he is a capable defender and elite rebounder for his position, Turner is an inefficient offensive player who lacks a consistent jump shot and doesn’t get to the free throw line. The shots he does create for himself are highly inefficient and rarely go in. Even Young, the consensus pick for best player on the 76ers roster, is a tweener forward who lacks the jump shot of a small forward, but lacks the size to successfully guard many power forwards. Players such as Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen simply don’t move the needle on a team like the 76ers.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
Despite beginning to set the foundation for the future, the present will not be pretty for the 76ers. This is a team that has two goals, giving their young players experience and obtaining the best possible odd for winning the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery. Cavaliers fans should be able to relate to what Sixers fans are about to go through. While one can understand what the front office is doing and see why it is the logical path for the long term health of the franchise, actually watching this team is going to be rough. Just remember, there is already light at the end of the tunnel, that end is just several years away.
Final Prediction: 16-66 15th in the Eastern