The 76ers are the most interesting case study the NBA has had in a long, long time. This multiyear tanking process is looking like a resounding failure at the minute, but one really bad season and finally a number one pick could change everything. The problem with that plan, however, is that the 76ers have a good coach in Brett Brown and play hard on both ends of the floor every night and this usually leads to more wins than expected.
Philly last season traded Michael Carter-Williams for a Lakers pick that is top three protected this season and if my model is correct in that the Lakers will have the fourth worst record, this trade will be reflected upon as a huge win for the 76ers. But if MCW has a good season for the Bucks, the Lakers are unexpectedly good and end up in playoff contention and this pick ends up around 8th-12th in a weak draft then this trade will be looked upon as a failure. But Hinkie didn’t stop there this offseason, he acquired Nik Stauskas from the Sacramento Kings, last seasons 8th pick who it seems will be able to space the floor for the 76ers and will be given a chance to play this season (unlike in SacTown). He also drafted Jahlil Okafor; a throwback to a different era of basketball. Okafor was the best player in college hoops last year bar none, averaging 17.3 points per game on 66% shooting and showing footwork and touch in the post that hadn’t been seen at that level in living memory. This could well translate to the NBA, but if the preseason was any indication, Jahlil may be in for a slight adjustment period as he gets used to the bigger bodied NBA defenders.
The true key to the 76ers being decent this season is Nerlens Noel at Power Forward, already one of the best rim protectors and all round defenders in the league, his offensive game looks to have improved remarkably. He average 18.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 4.2 steals, and 1.4 blocks per 36 in the preseason and he looked as though he could actually dribble a basketball in these matches whilst also showcasing a nice touch on his mid range jumper. But Nerlens needs to show that he can ball in the regular season, night after night and for 82 games – not just in the preseason.
With Dario Saric and (hopefully) Joel Embiid back next season, along with possibly two top seven picks, this will be the last season the 76ers can go all out tank mode for a top three pick. This season will be purely devoted to improving Noel, Okafor and the rest of these young players before beginning to rejoin the ranks of real NBA franchises in 2016-17 (hopefully). Don’t be surprised if Nerlens Noel is in the DPOY race and if Jahlil is in the Rookie of the Year race, after all, there’s not too much around them helping them in Philly.
Projected Record: 24-58
My Predicted Wins: 18-23
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