Eastern Conference – No. 15 Philadelphia 76ers


The Philadelphia 76ers are headed towards having another long season. (Photo credit to media.bizj.us)
The Philadelphia 76ers are headed towards having another long season. (Photo credit to media.bizj.us)

The Philadelphia 76ers have been stuck in neutral for three years. Normally, “tanking” provides a team with some relief. However, Philadelphia might have set itself back even further in 2014 with it selected big man Joel Embiid with the No. 3 pick. He might never play in the NBA because of his foot that is unwilling to heal.

Two things are for certain, none of this is head coach Brett Brown’s fault and general manager Sam Hinkie needs to be relieved of his duties.I have never seen a more disinterested franchise when it comes to free agency than Philadelphia. One simply can’t build a team through the draft without adding a few free agent pieces.

The Sixers have been in the shadows the past three free agent periods. If the season were to start today, they would have $25 million in cap room. It amazes me why they continue to do nothing except stockpile empty picks. During the 2014-15 season, they traded Michael Carter-Williams, a guy who I think is a pretty decent player, despite his poor field goal percentage, and wound up with nothing in return, except for draft picks.

In the 2015 draft, the Sixers selected Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. It’s not a terrible pick because they can pair him with Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt. Embiid will miss his second full season, and that makes me wonder if he is going to be the next Greg Oden? He has yet to play one minute in any kind of NBA action, and the diagnosis on his foot doesn’t look very promising.

The Sixers’ roster is very confusing right now. From what I can tell, they have just two point guards on the roster (Isaiah Canaan and Tony Wroten), and neither is very good. It will be interesting to see how involved newly acquired shooting guard Nik Stauskas will be in Brown’s offense. Stauskas really struggled in his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings as he shot just 36.5 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from three-point range. He played in 73 games and made only one start during his first season in the league.

Stauskas will have tough competition, though, so minutes might not be easy to come by.

Hollis Thompson was a bright spot for Philadelphia last season. He averaged nearly nine points per game and shot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc. JaKarr Sampson is another guy who Brown likes. Sampson is more of a defender than a shooter and scorer, but he could end up being a “3 and D” type of player.

Of course, though, all eyes will be on Okafor. The big man has a very smooth offensive game that should help the Sixers 29th-ranked offense (92 points per game). However, a lot will be on his shoulders this season, so consistency to carry the load night in and night out might start to wear on the kid later in the season. His situation isn’t ideal, and I’m sure he’d rather be in Los Angeles or New York, but he will have to play the cards he is dealt and, like being dealt a 16 facing a King in Blackjack, he will have to make his own hand.

It’ll be interesting to see where the Sixers go from here. The future doesn’t look very promising because their approach is extremely confusing and hasn’t worked.

I like the tandem of Okafor and Noel, but there is nothing else that opponents need to fret about. The way Noel played last season, I could see him becoming a rich-man’s Joakim Noah. Heck, I’ll even say that he is a better defender than Noah already, and one of the better defenders in the entire league. I would love to see his offensive game, including his free throw shooting, improve. He averaged 9.9 points per game, but shot 46.2 percent from the field. That percentage needs to be higher.

I wish Hinkie and the Sixers’ brass would realize that their “plan” is not working. The Embiid situation is something that no basketball fan wished had happened, but things happen, and people and teams need to adjust their approach. The Sixers have been consistent in thinking that acquiring tens of draft picks will someday pay off.

This franchise has failed to win 20 games each of the past two seasons, and I don’t see them hitting that mark this season. I think they will be lucky to win between 15 and 19 games this upcoming season.

The roster is a mess, and so is their system. The front office will have a tough time selling tickets this season and there will be a lot of cold, empty nights in the Wells Fargo Arena.

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