2017 Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers finished last season by winning the Ben Simmons sweepstakes and taking the #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. While this is a positive, the 10-win season was certainly a negative. Going forward, the 76ers will be crossing their fingers that Simmons reaches his potential and becomes a superstar. This season will probably result in another sad Philadelphia fan base, but there is a bright future ahead. Apparently the Sixers are still looking to trade Noel or Okafor, and their roster could look dramatically different if that happens. But barring a trade, here is what the roster and the season might look like in Philly.

2015-2016 Record: 10-72

Roster Breakdown

Starting Lineup: Jerryd Bayless, Nik Stauskas, Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel.

The Sixers took some steps in the right direction with their offseason, but how far will that take them? Obviously they are not going to be competing for a title this season, and they probably aren’t even fighting for the playoffs, but they are moving forward. Jerryd Bayless had a very good season with the Milwaukee Bucks and hopefully he can continue his hot shooting this year. Along with that, the Sixers will be hoping that Nik Stauskas can become a knockdown shooter at the 2-guard. In his first two years in the league, Nik has struggled from deep, as evident by his 32.5% career mark. However, with Simmons as the primary ball handler, Stauskas should get more open looks on the wing. In his rookie year, Simmons will be called on to do a lot of things for the Sixers, and he will most definitely take on a Point Forward role. Down low for the Sixers, they have a lot of young talent. In their starting lineup, they will likely go with Okafor and Noel, which is a nice duo due to their differing play styles. Okafor was a polished offensive player in his rookie season even though his defense was incredibly lacking. As for Noel, he is just an athletic body on offense in comparison to his outstanding rim protection.

Key Reserves: T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric.

Off the bench, the Sixers do have some reliable options. T.J. McConnell is coming off of a pretty solid rookie season, scoring 6.1 points and dishing out 4.5 assists per game. In 20 minutes a night, he was very efficient and is a nice player to handle the ball when Simmons needs a break. Robert Covington has been a steady player for the Sixers the last two years, and he will most likely continue his double-digit point production off the bench this year, although he could easily start over Nik Stauskas. For the last two bench players, it will be their rookie seasons. Joel Embiid has looked good in a few offseason videos, but that means nothing when he actually steps on the court. He will need to be an interior presence who can be a mixed bag on both sides of the ball. He doesn’t have to be an outstanding scorer or rim protector, but at least being a threat on both sides would be enough. As for Saric, it might take a while for him to get accustomed to the NBA game. He has talent, yes, but how well will it translate and when? There are lots of questions about those two, and the rest of the Sixers.

Strengths

To be honest, the Sixers didn’t do a lot right last season. They made 764 threes, which was good enough for 9th in the league, but those came on a 33.9% clip, which was only 24th in the league. They also showed a slight improvement in their free throw shooting, but their 69.4% ranked 28th . On a high note, they were 3rd in the league in blocks. With Jerami Grant, Jahlil Okafor, and Nerlens Noel all hovering around 1.5 bpg last year and returning for this season, we can expect that number to be among the league’s best again.

Weaknesses

For a team with this much size, one of the biggest downfalls of the 2015-2016 Sixers was their rebounding, as they finished last in the NBA in total rebounds. The additions of both Dario Saric and Joel Embiid should help with that, but not getting enough rebounds are often the result of high opponent field goal percentage and below-average defense. The hope for next season is that the Sixers will be able to shoot the ball more efficiently with better ball movement behind the point forward play of Ben Simmons.

2016-2017 Projection

After only 10 wins last year, it will be hard for the 76ers to get any worse. With that being said, I don’t think it gets too much better. If everything goes to plan, the Sixers will likely find themselves in the lottery once again, probably after a season of about 25 wins. On the low-end, they could suffer through another disastrous season where they win only 12 games. In realism, I think that the most accurate prediction for the 76ers record this season would be 18-64.

Photo courtesy of CSN Philly.
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