Who's New?: C Jahlil Okafor (draft), G Kendall Marshall (free agent), G Nik Stauskas (trade), F Carl Landry (trade), F Richaun Holmes (draft)
Who's Gone?: F Henry Sims (free agent), G Ish Smith (free agent), G Jason Richardson (free agent), F Thomas Robinson (free agent), F Glenn Robinson III (free agent)
Off-season Grade: C-. I imagine they wanted D'Angelo Russell in the draft to replace Michael Carter-Williams whom they'd already given up on. Instead, here, enjoy another big man.
2015-16 Slogan: "We're as good at drafting as we are at basketball."
What Else Is New?: The 76ers, entering Year Three of the Sam Hinkie experiment, played 25 dudes last year and none of them was Joel Embiid, their only big man prospect who has the tools to be elite both offensively and defensively. Embiid missed a chunk of his only year at Kansas with a stress fracture in his back, then his entire rookie season with a fractured right foot. There were disturbing reports that he was on the Andrew Bynum rehab plan. Then it came out that the first procedure was completely ineffective and he had to have another bone graft, which will cause him to miss this season too, and now his whole career is in jeopardy. Forget being the next Hakeem Olajuwon, there's legitimate concern Embiid is the next Greg Oden. What a sad situation for both him and Sixers fans.
The silver lining, if you want to call it that, is that even knowing everything we know now, Embiid might still be the most sensible pick at No. 3, unless you're a lot higher on Elfrid Payton or Marcus Smart than I am. The 2014 draft class is not looking like an all-timer. Let's revisit this in a couple years.
Your Likely Starters:
C Jahlil Okafor
PF Nerlens Noel
SF Robert Covington
SG JaKarr Sampson
PG Tony Wroten
Note: I am absolutely guessing as to who will start at the 1-3 spots here. I have no earthly idea who Covington or Sampson are, and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the NBA. This is the equivalent of Bill Simmons --who doesn't pay attention to the National League in baseball-- having to discuss the Phillies. If we're going just by people I've heard of, then Kendall Marshall would run point, Wroten would be at the two and Hollis Thompson would be at small forward.
Covington I feel negligent about not knowing. He shot poorly overall, but fairly well from three and had good numbers otherwise. Most importantly, he had a net rating of zero, according to basketball-reference.com, in nearly 2,000 minutes, which is borderline miraculous for this team. I'll pay more attention to him this year. Sampson I don't feel guilty about. He seems dreadful. Wroten's a combo guard who can fill up the box score even though he can't shoot from deep at all. I'd like to see what he could do playing exclusively at the two spot, and perhaps with Marshall and Isaiah Canaan on the roster he'll get that chance.
For what it's worth, I think Noel and Okafor will fit better together than either one would with Embiid. The roles are more clearly defined now: Okafor is the scorer --though his post-up moves seemed a bit mechanical to me in preseason-- and Noel is the rebounder/shot blocker. They have the potential to give the Sixers one of the better big man combos in the East, and certainly the terrible Atlantic Division. Hopefully the coaching staff will get Okafor a ton of touches every night, because what else is this season good for?
Your Likely Bench:
G Kendall Marshall
G Isaiah Canaan
F Hollis Thompson
F Carl Landry
G Nik Stauskas
F Jerami Grant
G Jordan McRae
F Richaun Holmes
And beyond them, a cast of thousands. I feel like the construction worker in Major League, opening up the sports section and looking up the roster of the Indians.
Can't offer you anything on the last three names, but I've liked Marshall what little I've seen of him the past couple years. He's not explosive, but he can shoot and is a legit point. If he ever gets healthy, Brett Brown will fall for him quickly and start him. Canaan has two specific skills: He's really, really fast, and he can shoot threes a bit. Neither of these things seems to translate into much overall effectiveness, but it's gotten him in the league. Thompson shot exactly 40.1 percent from downtown in each of his first two seasons but gives you nothing else. Landry's career is winding down. He's got an okay mid-range jumper and can grab the occasional board, but he's a glaring minus defensively. Finally there's Nik "Sauce Castillo" Stauskas, who was so atrocious as a rookie that the Kings gave up on him, the eighth pick of the previous draft, after one year. Unless he shows marked improvement, he'll be in Europe by 2016.
Your Coach: Brett Brown
Poor Brett. What have you gotten yourself into? One more year on Pop's bench and you'd have gotten another ring and been a hot enough commodity to maybe get Sam Presti to fire Scooter Brooks a year early and now you'd be coaching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook instead of a bunch of randoms. Brown's relentless optimism and dedication to player development is inspiring and noble, but he needs some of Sam Hinkie's picks to actually show something soon or he's gonna be a sacrificial lamb for no good reason.
Bottom Line: Somehow this team won more games than the Knicks last year, and it wouldn't be ludicrous to see them win 28-30 games if their best players stay healthy and Okafor lives up to the billing. Hinkie desperately needs one of his picks to pan out. He's already whiffed with Carter-Williams, Embiid is M.I.A. and Noel doesn't seem like someone who'll turn into anything beyond a useful cog. He'll be good, but far from a star. You've got two bigs on the squad now, plus Embiid, who doesn't really fit with them, plus Dario Saric overseas who's like a stretch four who'd fit well with Embiid more than the other two. Either Hinkie will unleash a whole new basketball paradigm, where two five-man units play 24 minutes, or he's gonna have to make some trades. I just want to know if any of these perimeter dudes are gonna stick or if they're just filling jerseys until somebody better comes along.
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