The 2016-2017 NBA season is fast approaching with preseason almost underway in the upcoming weeks. Many teams have high hopes and dreams, like the hometown Philadelphia 76ers, who are just hoping to continue to rebuild and get better. Las Vegas gambling sources have the Philadelphia 76ers over/under for win total at 27 1/2. That number is not a high number over the course of an 82 game NBA season, but it is a higher projection than last season’s 21 1/2 win projection, which the Sixers failed to reach. I think that the number this season is more accurate of what to actually expect from this young rebuilding team, but I still think they will finish under that win total. I believe the Sixers will win about 20 games. Before I get bashed for that, I do believe that the team has the potential to get to 30 wins on the season. Many fans believe the Sixers have a chance to sneak into the playoffs, but I find that highly unlikely. The Sixers will still be one of the bottom three or four teams in the league, but will also be one of the most promising teams in the league. I am going to state my case as to why I believe the Sixers will win about 20 games and also why I believe that they have the potential to get to 30 wins.
The Sixers will win about 20 games due to the fact that they are still a very young and rebuilding team. The team has too many what ifs with their younger talent and it is extremely difficult to rely upon young talent to be your best players. The team did sign a few veterans such as Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson who should provide great leadership and be great mentors for the younger players. Bayless will provide much needed shooting and scoring and Henderson will provide a solid all around game. Elton Brand was signed again more as a mentor than as a player. He is a true veteran of the game and a player who knows what it takes to be not just a professional, but an All Star in this league. His leadership is huge for the big men, especially his fellow Duke alumni Jahlil Okafor, who has had some off court issues. The team also received some more backcourt help with the signing of Sergio Rodriguez from Spain. Rodriguez has excelled as a floor general over in Spain and has some NBA experience. He has experience playing against NBA players and knows what it takes to be a leader on the floor.
The Sixers have a roster full of young and up and coming talent. The main issue is that their top young talent all play the same position and are all frontcourt players. Nerlens Noel is a high energy big who is a great defensive rim protector. Offensively, he doesn’t provide anything except for dunks and layups, put backs, and setting screens. He is only effective in the pick and roll on lob attempts at the rim. He can’t shoot, so the pick and pop doesn’t work well with him. Jahlil Okafor is a highly skilled big man on offense, but doesn’t have anywhere near the defensive ability or athleticism that Noel has. Okafor relies upon low post moves to score and has shown a pretty solid mid range game. Okafor’s conditioning and health are keys for him. The long awaited debut of Joel Embiid is finally upon us. If Embiid lives up to the hype and potential, he could be the best big man and best player that the Sixers have. Embiid has great low post moves and great size for a center. Embiid can also shoot the ball pretty well, making him more effective in pick and rolls. His defensive game as a rim protector is expected to be good as well. Embiid has a lot of promise and potential. His biggest concern is staying healthy. The Sixers have already stated that Embiid will more than likely not play back to back games that are on consecutive nights, at least not right away. I expected that would be the case all along. I haven’t heard the Sixers come out and state it yet, but I highly expect them to also limit Joel Embiid’s minutes. The depth at the power forward and center position makes that decision even easier. These players have all been on the roster for more than one season, but the team has a couple of highly talented draft picks joining the team this season.
The Sixers have two more high potential young players in rookies Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. The expectations for Ben Simmons are very high as is for any number one overall pick. Ben is expected to come in immediately and help speed up this long rebuilding process. While I like Ben Simmons and his style of play a lot, fans need to be patient with him. He is far from a polished player and needs a lot of improvement before he is considered one of the league’s top players. Simmons has elite passing and playmaking abilities for a rookie and for a player his size. Simmons is also athletic and quick. His major weakness is his jump shot. The guy can’t shoot right now and really needs to work on that aspect of his game. In college he was able to just speed past his defenders and get to the hoop for easy baskets, but the talent in the NBA is far superior than the college game. Simmons will have defenders sag off of him until he can prove that he can hit a jumper consistently, especially mid range jumpers. Simmons will have trouble scoring early in his career because of this and I see him only averaging about 12-15 points a game, which isn’t bad for a rookie. If Simmons can draw fouls and make his free throws at a solid or a high rate, I could see his point average being a little higher than 12-15. Simmons could easily average anywhere from 5-7 assists a game though. Dario Saric is a talented young big man from Croatia. Saric doesn’t mind playing physical and he can also shoot the ball a little bit. Saric seems like a “jack of all trades” type of player. He seems like the type of player who does a lot well, but nothing great. The athleticism and the speed of the NBA game should be a big adjustment for the young player, but I expect him to be more of a role player off of the bench, so the pressure won’t be as high as some of the other Sixers young talent. Timothe Lawawu-Caberrot is one of the other draft picks from this past draft. He has the potential to be a high energy guy off of the bench and one who could be a key role player. I think he has a lot of polishing of his game still needed, but I think he has good potential. Don’t be surprised to see him play a lot for the Sixers D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers so that he can continue to get minutes and continue to improve on his overall game.
Now that you know my stance as to why the Sixers will win about 20 games, here is my stance as to why I think they can exceed my expectations and many other people’s expectations by winning 30 games. The Sixers could reach 30 wins because other teams around the league will take them lightly or lighter than they should. Every team in the NBA is talented and could beat anyone on any given day or night. The Sixers where very close to upsetting the Warriors last season if it weren’t for a Harrison Barnes game winning three. The Sixers are one of those teams that will continue to play with heart and passion and continue to fight until the end of the game. The Sixers could also have some luck on their side, catching more talented teams in the second game of a back to back while the Sixers had an extra day of rest and things of that nature. Two other factors that could play into consideration are the fact that the veterans play a bigger role than expected and really elevate their games with more opportunity. I think a guy like Jerryd Bayless could really excel with more playing time. He is by no means an All Star, but he is definitely a good NBA player. The other factor could be that the younger guys play up to expectations and their potential right away and the team gets really hot and strings maybe a five game winning streak or two together. Teams always look good or bad on paper, but the game isn’t played on paper. The game needs to be played on the court in order to really gauge each team. With the exception of the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, the Atlantic Division is pretty weak. The Knicks could be a borderline playoff team if Rose can stay healthy, but I don’t think they are that much better than the Sixers. The Nets are actually projected based on these odds to win less games than the Sixers. I personally think the Nets might end up with the worst record in the league. I still think that making the playoffs is unrealistic for this Sixers team unless they play way better than expected. In the East, teams usually need to be around .500 to even have a chance of getting the eight and final playoff seed.
As a Sixers fan I remain optimistic that the team will play better than expected and I hope to see them play at the best that they can. If the team goes out and gives high effort and energy every game, I am okay with the losses. The team has always given high effort and energy in the past and I don’t expect anything less than that this season. The Sixers have finally turned the page and have much bigger and brighter days ahead, but fans still need to be patient. One thing I can say for sure is that Bryan Colangelo is committed to bringing balance throughout the roster and is committed to turning this rebuild around and building a true contender for the city of Philadelphia.
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