76ers fans cover your eyes, this season is going to be rough.
And rough is a very generous assessment indeed. The Sixers new GM Sam Hickie has elected to push the Sixers into rebuilding mode and of all the teams that are looking to tread that same path this season, Philadelphia come the closest to what could be described as tanking.
While NBA franchises would never admit to intentionally making themselves worse in order to secure high spots in the draft, however to believe that Philadelphia’s gutting of their roster over the summer had nothing to do with the outstanding 2014 draft class would be foolish. This isn’t to say that what Philadelphia is doing isn’t smart, it’s just that they’ll be rebuilding from the basement of the NBA.
After last season’s disappointments, most of which came in the form of Andrew Bynum’s knees, it’s understandable that Philadelphia might want a fresh start. With Bynum sure to depart, the Sixers made their biggest and boldest move on draft night when they traded their All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 6th draft pick Nerlens Noel and a first round pick in 2014. They then acquired Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams with their own pick.
These two young players have been polarizing NBA critics. Nerlens Noel has guaranteed NBA potential in the form of his length and athleticism of the defensive end of the court, however he arrives in Philadelphia carrying an ACL injury that has caused many to question his body’s durability, especially given his slight frame. The injury will most likely mean that we won’t see Noel in action till the New Year.
Carter-Williams’ talent on the other hand is not so easy to stand behind. While his playmaking abilities and 6’5 frame make him a unique type of point guard, his poor shooting stroke, lack of athleticism and propensity to turn over the basketball make him a risky NBA prospect at best.
Nevertheless, Carter-Williams will be thrown in at the deep end given the astounding lack of depth present in the 76ers roster. The young point guard is the only natural ball handler on the Philadelphia roster and he will most likely share these duties with fourth year pro Evan Turner.
Given the amount of responsibility handed to Carter-Williams this early in his career expect turnovers galore this season in Philadelphia as he finds his feet. To be sure there will be some moments of brilliance along the way but Carter-Williams has steep learning curve to climb and things are definitely not going to be smooth for the Sixers this year on the offensive side of the ball.
And Carter-Williams shouldn’t be expecting much help from his teammates. Philadelphia’s current roster really is a worrying sight for Sixers fans. At first glance it is the inexperience that stands out most, with all but two players on the roster under the age of 26 and to make things clear those two players are Kwame Brown, who’s unlikely to see any significant minutes, and Jason Richardson, who may not play at all this year due to the knee surgery he underwent earlier this year.
This makes one wonder who is going to take charge of this youthful Sixers squad on the court. Evan Turner hasn’t shown the development that Philadelphia would have liked over the past three years and it seems unlikely that he will emerge as the Sixers on-floor leader. Instead Philadelphia should look to emerging forward Thaddeus Young.
Young should have a career year this season now that he’ll be the Sixers go to scorer and if he can increase his efficiency by taking better and easier shots over the next few years he could turn into an upper echelon NBA small forward.
Aside from Young, however, the Sixers are lacking in NBA level talent. The rest of the line-up consists of young players with potential that has yet to be fulfilled.
Though things are looking pretty grim for Philadelphia this season, there hope lies in the long term and one only needs to take a look at their wage bill to see this. The Sixers are only paying $34 million in salary at the moment, leaving them a good $24 million under the salary cap. While the Sixers will probably add some extra pieces to their barren roster before the season starts, they’ll probably enlist more young role players that have the potential to pan out as long term options.
What is really striking is that while Philadelphia seem to have cap space this season, they’re going to have a whole lot more next season. Thaddeus Young’s $9 million a year is the only contract that is guaranteed for the Sixers in 2014/15.
Five of the players on their roster this year have team options while Jason Richardson alone has a player option, meaning the most that Philadelphia will have to pay next year in salary is $15 million. This leaves the Philly front office with a serious amount of manoeuvrability next year and would allow them to surround whichever prospects they pick up in next year’s draft with established talent if they so choose.
While they’re going to be pretty terrible this year, Philadelphia could be back in the play-offs as early as next year. Hold in there Sixers fans, the future is bright.
Predicted 2013/14 Record: 14-68
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