Sixers Offseason Report: Playoff Bound

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2016/17 Record: 28-54 (14th in the Eastern Conference)

2017/18 Salaries: $88,546,121 (Under The Cap Floor Team) – full PHI cap situation – here.

Incoming Draft Picks: LAL ’18 1st (1 or 6-30), BOS/CLE ’18 2nd (More favourable), HOU ’18 2nd, LAC/NYK ’18 2nd (More favourable), MIL/SAC ’19 2nd (More favourable), NYK ’19 2nd, NYK/BKN ’20 2nd (More favourable), DAL ’20 2nd, NYK ’21 2nd.

Outgoing Draft Picks: Nil.

philly depth chart 17

The Process is just about complete.

After years of suffering, this should be the year that the Philadelphia 76ers finally start to resemble an actual professional basketball team. The Sixers have their new core – Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons (or the terribly coined nickname, FEDS) – and look destined to be one of the major players in the Eastern Conference in the years to come.

The Sixers biggest and boldest move this offseason was trading up to secure Markelle Fultz. The price they paid to Boston was substantial, but the opportunity to secure a scoring combo Guard with his size, athleticism, shooting range and overall ability was too good to refuse. Fultz was the clear standout in College basketball this season and is a perfect fit in the back-court given he is equally adept off the ball as on.

With all the makings of a modern NBA Guard,  his three-point range will be vitally important in a lineup featuring the prodigious talents of Ben Simmons, 2016’s #1 overall pick. Brown will need to be creative with how he splits this rotation, as it’s important that Fultz gets to control the team at times and go through his own growing pains running the show. His Summer League was cut short due to an ankle sprain, but Fultz showed enough to know he’s ready for the NBA from Day One, and will be one of the leading contenders for Rookie of the Year.

The other leading contender is his new teammate, Ben Simmons, who missed his rookie season due to a Jones fracture in his foot. A damn shame for all basketball fans, as Simmons was looking terrific in last year’s Summer League prior to the injury. He brings such a unique skill-set to the court for a man his size, with a passing package that resembles a young LeBron James or Magic Johnson. High praise indeed, and perhaps he never quite reaches that ceiling, but he’s a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

His achilles heel, like many young players, is the total lack of range in his jumper. According to The Ringer, Simmons hit just 13 of 40 (32.5%) jumpers as a Freshman at LSU, and was 5 of 23 (21.7%) in his lone Summer League play. A relatively small sample size given Simmons’ aversion to actually shooting jumpers, but it is one of the few flaws in Simmons’ game.

Part of the issue could be Simmons’ ambidexterity. While this would typically be a huge bonus and is particularly when finishing around the rim or attacking the hoop off the dribble, it could explain some of Simmons’ issues with his stroke. Simmons has said himself that he thinks he was supposed to be a right-hander, yet still shoots with his left. Given the missed pro season through that injury, it will be interesting to see how well his jumper has developed over the past 18 months – and how willing he is to let it fly.

When discussing injuries it’s hard not to also mention Joel Embiid, as injuries and Joel Embiid are just about synonymous with each other at this point. After two seasons ruled out through knee issues, Embiid made his long-awaited NBA debut in 16/17, and what a debut it was. Embiid was everything as advertised, as much of a unicorn as any in the League, and posted one of the most dominant Per-36 numbers in recent memory. To put it into perspective, the list of player’s that averaged at least 20.0ppg and 2.4bpg as a Rookie contains Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Ralph Sampson and Alonzo Mourning. In other words, six Hall of Famers. His talent is not in question.

The issue – and it is a big one – remains his availability. Embiid played in only 31 games, partly due to the Sixers cautiously holding him out of back-to-back games, but he also suffered a torn meniscus in March that required season-ending surgery and is still not all the way back from. Philly believes he’ll be ready to start the season, but given that’s only two weeks away and he hasn’t been fully cleared for contact, that seems optimistic. Embiid is one of the most entertaining players to watch in the League, so let’s hope he gets a clean bill of health. If not, and with him due for a contract extension next season, the 76ers will have to think long and hard about what kind of contract is fair for both sides, or whether Restricted Free Agency would better set the price point.

If Embiid can’t stay healthy and misses significant time, it’s a good thing Philly has a very capable backup in Richaun Holmes. The 23-year-old from Bowling Green was the #37 overall pick in 2015, and is shaping as a real steal for Philadelphia.

Holmes’ numbers as a starter last season:


RICHAUN HOLMES AS A STARTER (17 GAMES)

14.0ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.5apg, 0.8bpg, 0.9spg, 1.4tpg in 28.6mpg on 54.4%fg (5.8fgm – 10.7fga), 31.0% 3fg (0.8 3fgm – 2.5 3fga) and 79.4%ft (1.6ftm – 2.0fta).


At 6’10” and 245lbs, Holmes has the size to play either PF or C, and has the skill-set that teams are looking for in the modern day NBA big. Particularly intriguing is his burgeoning three-point range, making almost a three per game as a Starter and hitting 27 treys in his 57 games on a 35.1% clip through season 16/17. Holmes was occasionally a victim of the 76ers intent on increasing Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor’s trade value, hence the low games played total, but has absolutely earned the backup Center job on this team. He’s the perfect Embiid insurance policy for this roster, perfectly capable of filling in if Joel can’t play.

Perception of the Sixers organisation has also started to shift as The Process nears its completion. There is no chance that veteran players would’ve seriously considered Philadelphia over the past few years, yet they signed JJ Redick (who looks to be a perfect fit alongside Simmons and Embiid) and brought in Amir Johnson this offseason, both players who played for successful Clippers and Celtics teams last year. The Sixers have lacked experience in their locker room, which compounded by a lack of on-court success, caused issues with some player’s on their roster. It appears that the Colangelo’s are realising the importance of veteran mentorship and have set out to acquire guys who can provide a steadying influence over their young brigade.

From a Front Office perspective, the Sixers have strategically not offered big money to players over multiple years in order to keep their balance sheet clear. Even the aforementioned Redick and Johnson deals are for one year only and perhaps are taken in advance of a smaller, multi-year deals next offseason – ensuring maximum flexibility. Having your franchise core players locked up on Rookie Scale contracts for multiple years is the real bonus, as the combination of that plus Bird Rights could well provide the Sixers with the ultimate platform to assault Free Agency over the coming seasons. If Fultz, Embiid, Simmons and Saric continue to develop and live up to their huge potential, you can guarantee that star players around the NBA will be taking notice of what’s happening in Philly and wondering how they can jump on-board.

For the first time in what feels like forever, there is a real sense of optimism and hope about what’s happening in Philadelphia. This long, arduous, incredible journey is nearing its completion. The Sixers are playoff bound, and the real adventure is just about to get started.

Projected Starting Five:

 

Projected Depth Chart:76ers depth chart 17

Overall Offseason Grade: A

2017/18 Prediction: 42-40

The Sixers should make the leap this season and continue their upwards trajectory from last seasons 28 win season. A marked improvement on the 10 they won in 15/16. The East has become weaker and on paper this Philadelphia team has the talent to cause a lot of problems. The additions of Redick and Johnson bring much-needed range, leadership and toughness that will help get this young team through the grind of an 82 game season. Redick shapes as a huge addition given his status as one of the NBA’s best shooters and movers off-the-ball. The big question will, of course, be health. Embiid and Simmons are yet to prove they are reliable over an 82 game season, but expect to see the Sixers sneaking into a 7th or 8th seed, and enjoying their first playoff appearance since 2012.

justin anderson

Player to Watch: Justin Anderson

Acquired in the mid-season Nerlens Noel trade, Anderson got a larger opportunity to showcase himself in Philadelphia with a minute increase from 13.9 in DAL to 21.6 in PHI. At 23 years old, Anderson is young, athletic and offers an intriguing skill-set as a back-up wing. While inconsistent last season, he showed enough to prove he has a future in this League, including a 26 point outing in the Sixers final game of the season. With current starting SF Robert Covington coming out of contract at the end of the 17/18 season and looking for a significant raise, and Anderson locked in cheaply until 19/20, the 76ers might want to see what they have in Anderson prior to showing RoCo the money.

Four Key Questions:

1. Will the 76ers accept cents on the dollar for Jahlil Okafor?
The Sixers have been openly shopping Jahlil Okafor for what seems like his entire 76ers tenure. The fall from grace for a highly rated talent has been brutal and his adjustment to the NBA has been rough, particularly in an era where Big Men post-scorers are not en-vogue. Particularly if you’re not an adept defensive player. At this point, Okafor would do well to embody a late-career Al Jefferson in the art of post play in limited minutes. The offensive talent that made Okafor such a highly touted prospect is there, perhaps with a change of scenery and regular playing time some of it may actually be realised. It appears the end of Okafor’s disappointing Sixers story is nigh.

2. Is Saric content with a Sixth Man role?
Dario Saric was a revelation in his Rookie season, particularly after the All-Star break, upping his numbers to 17.3ppg, 7.3rpg, 3.4apg, 0.6spg, 0.9bpg in 30.4mpg for the 25 games to end the season. With Simmons set to commence the delayed start to his career, it’s likely that Saric moves to a bench role to facilitate Simmons moving to his better suited PF role. Saric will be the focus of the second unit offense, but given his strong Rookie year, the question remains whether Dario will ultimately be satisfied in a bench role. As long as Simmons is there, it looks like #SaricforSixthMan will remain the likely scenario.

3. Will Brett Brown finally get his due?
Perhaps no coach in history has had to endure a start to their career like poor old Brett Brown. Four seasons into his Head Coaching career in Philadelphia, Brown’s record sits at 75 wins and 253 losses, a paltry .229 record. The bulk of the blame lies on Philly’s much criticised (and now often lauded) rebuilding strategy, but expectations are now beginning to change for this Philly team. The Sixers will be expecting a push towards the post-season to ignite a downtrodden fan-base who have sat through some truly abysmal seasons. For Brown’s sake, hopefully the Sixers can start to improve his resume to match his reputation. Which remains strong with front offices and player’s alike.

4. Can Jerryd Bayless resurrect his career?
A forgotten man in Philadelphia, Jerryd Bayless played all of three games last season due to a wrist injury that cost him the season. Bayless quietly put together a solid season in his final year in Milwaukee (10.4ppg, 2.7rpg, 3.1apg, 1.9 3pg in 28.9mpg) and will be looking to establish himself ahead of TJ McConnell as the preferred backup PG. He could conceivably also play some SG in certain lineups given his 6’3″ 200lb frame, particularly if he can replicate the 43.7 3P% from that final season with the Bucks. Bayless should get opportunities to produce this season, but if he falters, this could be his final chance in the NBA before an overseas stint.


Info courtesy of:
Basketball Reference
Basketball Insiders
Real GM
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