Previewing every team in the league as we approach the 2014-15 season, the first team up is:
Philadelphia 76ers: Prediction: 15th in the Eastern Conference
2014 Record: 19-63
Coach: Brett Brown
Significant Additions: C Nerlens Noel (draft, sort of), C Joel Embiid (ditto), F Jeremi Grant (draft), F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (trade), G Alexey Shved (trade), G Keith Bogans (trade)
Significant Subtractions: F Thaddeus Young (trade), F Byron Mullens (waived), G James Anderson (waived)
Projected Starters: C Nerlens Noel, F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F Hollis Thompson, G Tony Wroten, G Michael Carter-Williams (2/10): Noel, whom they acquired in a draft day trade a year ago for Jrue Holiday, is expected to make his long-awaited debut after rehabbing an ACL tear last season. His early impact should be in his own end and on the boards, but he's raw offensively. The whole starting five should be pretty good defensively, with Mbah a Moute one of the league's better wing defenders and Carter-Williams having the size and athleticism to bother anyone he matches up with, as long as he's into it. They might be undersized at the four, but that's less of an issue in the East. The problem of course is offense. Where are the points going to come from with this sorry lot? MCW can't shoot and he turns it over a ton. Wroten broke out last season, but it'll be harder for him now that teams don't have to worry about Thaddeus Young.
Projected Reserves (1/10): I have no idea who will make the team besides Alexey Shved and second-round pick Jeremi Grant. Embiid is expected to miss the whole season rehabbing from back and foot injuries. The two highest-paid guys on their roster are has-been guards Jason Richardson and Keith Bogans, but they might be asked to cash their checks at home. They are going to play A LOT of randoms and hope some D-league guys open some eyes.
Coach/Front Office (4/10): Brown must've really wanted to head his own operation to settle for this gig. The Sixers are years away from contention and taking a lot of criticism both from the fans and within the league for their cynical approach to rebuilding. For the record, I loved their picks of Embiid and Croatian forward Dario Saric, who's going to spend the next two seasons in Turkey. Embiid will be their "rookie" next season and Saric in 2016, and they'll get two more lottery guys to add to that mix as well. The product on the floor currently is an eyesore though, and you have to wonder if Carter-Williams and Noel will be disillusioned by all the losing and the mixed-messages from the front office that seems to have chosen the route of being bad on purpose.
Team Rating: 21 (2.5x starters rating + 1.5x bench rating + coach rating) x 2 = 21 out of 100.
Did You Know: The Sixers are reportedly the only team balking at the league's proposed changes to the draft lottery system that would make it far more difficult for teams that finish with the worst overall records to come away with the top pick. General Sam Hinkie's whole rebuilding plan has been based on being as awful as possible for a number of years and now it's going to be harder for him to accumulate the assets he's looking for.
I made some calls and was able to procure a top-10 list of Hinkie's counter-proposals to the league and fellow team presidents. He has some intriguing ideas, I must admit.
1. Odds weighted by team's proximity to Liberty Bell
2. Dollars under salary cap = number of ping pong balls
3. Rank draft order by most players employed in previous season
4. Draft by alphabetical order of team nickname (NOTE: numerals first)
5. Funniest player Twitter account wins draft
6. Draft order determined by how close your city rhymes with "Billadelphia"
7. Most "Our basketball team is Shved-y" t-shirts sold
8. Ineligible for top pick if your team can beat the University of Kentucky
9. Which team had the most fans show up with paper bags over their heads?
10. "Give us a break already. We'd need two LeBrons just to crack 40 wins."