30 preseason predictions: Philadelphia 76ers

Jamie McDonald

It's full-on rebuild mode for Brett Brown's 76ers, but with the aggressive Sam Hinkie, a spectacular future might not be far away.

The psyche of the average Philadelphia 76ers fan has been toyed with over the last several years, as their favorite team's day-to-day operations have been adventurous, to say the least.

It began in 2010 with the hiring of Doug Collins as coach, which actually seemed promising through his first two years on the bench — despite his aversion to playing young guys — before it all went very, very bad. Collins doesn't have a good track record when it comes to organizational longevity, to be sure, but the risk the team took in acquiring Andrew Bynum from the Lakers didn't really pay off. Or at all. And that's not exactly his fault.

Philly made an investment in Bynum it hoped would elevate the franchise beyond mediocrity, but the move cost the team dearly. Andre Iguodala wound up in Denver, while promising rookie made his way to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard four-team tidal wave of a trade. When the dust settled, the 76ers were left with nothing as Bynum would make more headlines for his hair trolling than his play. Ya know, because he never actually did play.

Now, here we are, at the bottom of the barrel. Bynum never even wore the red, white and blue uniform, Collins has since left, and a draft-night surprise trade of first-time All-Star Jrue Holiday was essentially the last straw.

Then again, I guess it depends on your definition of "bottom of the barrel." Sure, the wheels fell off when the Bynum situation broke down, but sometimes the slash-and-burn strategy works best in the worst of times.

In the midst of the NBA's analytical movement, an old-school coach was on his way out, but a progressive mind was on his way into the Philly front office. Sam Hinkie, Daryl Morey's former second in command down in Houston, is considered one of the leaders of the league's statistical persuasion, and he was busy early.

If there's one thing Hinkie demonstrated immediately, it's that he's not looking to waffle. As new strategic mindsets take hold with the more intelligent teams, the idea that you have to be very bad before you can be great is becoming more popular (along with the tanking argument, inevitably). Hinkie made it clear he knows what it takes to expedite the process.

The team shockingly traded Holiday on draft night to New Orleans for the rights to Nerlens Noel and and Pelicans' 2014 first-round pick. Considering the fact Noel is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered during his freshman season at Kentucky, Philly went from bad to just freaking terrible. And that's exactly what Hinkie wanted. Hell, new head coach Brett Brown — one Gregg Popovich's former assistants — was hired less than two months ago.

So here the Sixers are, with Noel and Michael Carter-Williams in tow and two potential lottery picks in what could be the best draft in a decade. The present might be ugly, but a foundation for the future is certainly in place.

Philadelphia 76ers

Prediction: Carter-Williams will win Rookie of the Year, but Philly will have the league's worst record.

There are a few interesting candidates for this award after a very mediocre draft, but MCW will have every chance to get the bulk of available court time at his position. Brett Brown's system will presumably be very point-guard friendly, and on a team that lacks a creative wing or post scorer, MCW will have the opportunity to do it all. If he shows improved range, which I believe he will, it'll be a major plus.

This from the incomparable Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers:

This is a beautiful prediction, Matthew. I don't think MCWROY will happen, because that's far too big an acronym, but also because rarely does the voting committee give such a terrible team any accolades.

The Sixers will be horrendous. MCW will have all the chances in the world to develop this year. But there are two other reasons that MCW won't be ROY: 1) Evan Turner; 2) Everyone else. Evan will likely steal too much of the offense and ball-handling duties (until he is traded), while everyone else on the team is just too bad at shooting to lift MCW's assist numbers.

It's not unreasonable to think he'll get 11/7/4, but his percentages likely won't be good enough to make that look pretty. Once the Sixers surround him with some talent to open up the lanes a bit, he'll turn into a splendid point guard. But not just yet. Anyway, that worst record thing just seems perfect.

My prediction: Evan Turner will be an all-star and then get traded immediately after.

Levin brings up a good point. Turner is going to use this season as an opportunity to be "the main bro" for the Sixers, so it's going to be difficult for MCW right away. But then there's that trade talk...

Given Turner's expiring-contract situation, and the fact Philly will want to maintain as much cap room as possible going forward, trading him makes sense. Remember, it will be very expensive to keep all these potential top-end draft picks in three or four years, so there's no real reason to keep Turner around. It's not like the Sixers are in financial trouble. In fact, they're still several million dollars away from the salary-cap floor.

And while we're at it, you can probably throw Thaddeus Young into that mix as well, though his contract doesn't expire until the time Noel and Carter-Williams will be looking for an extension. So he might be a good glue-guy to keep around.

Unless Young is just way too good (he won't be, because this team is just horrible). Anything for Andrew Wiggins.

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