Musings on the Sixers' future

Posted: March 14, 2014

I WAS IN the airport the other day when a guy approached me to talk about the 76ers. It was a typical conversation when you cover a team that is losing at the alarming rate that this team is, and one that I always enjoy:

Him: "Man, that must be tough watching them play every night."

Me: "Yeah, but I love my job."

Him: "This might turn out to be one of the worst seasons in the history of the NBA, right?"

Me: "It certainly is looking that way."

Him: "But the good thing is, with the draft picks and the money that they have, they'll probably be a playoff team next year. Somewhere around 40 wins?"

That's where I have to laugh and calmly try to diminish the overhyped hopes of Sixers fans.

I've said and written this before, but judging from the airport talks and the emails and tweets that come my way, it must be said again: The Sixers next year very well may be closer to this season's product than one with playoff hopes in a weak Eastern Conference. Let that sink in for a minute. I'll even be as bold to say that the win total for next year will be closer to 25 games than it will be to a number that puts them in the hunt to a playoff spot.

You can decide if that's a good thing or not, but to me, it's reality. Here's why.

Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel will be here. So will Tony Wroten, probably as a backup to MCW. You will get two draft picks - the Sixers' pick, which will most likely be in the top three, and the one from New Orleans, which will be around the 10 spot. Perhaps Thaddeus Young still will be here, and if he is it means that other teams in the league didn't like his contract enough to take him in a trade, which is the talk I'm hearing from higher-ups around the league.

After that, it's all just speculation. Maybe some more players come in via trades, but Young is really the only valuable commodity. There is money to be spent, but really no team-changing players who will take you to another level. Perhaps some of the guys that they've auditioned this season could warrant a return, but there doesn't appear to be anything of huge interest.

So what do they have? Carter-Williams, Noel, a couple of first-round picks, perhaps Young and then some marginal NBA players.

Does it sound much different from this year? The key is MCW and Noel. The point guard really needs to have gotten an awful lot out of this year, not just getting used to losing. Somehow he needs to have learned a "hell of a lot" (the coach's favorite saying) from a season on nonstop losing that he can carry forward. Noel will struggle next year to learn the ins and outs of the NBA, of what it's like to be a skinny big man who has to be around the basket offensively because of his limited skills away from the hoop, but may shine being an off-the-ball defender who could block a ton of shots.

The rookies? Perhaps it's Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins or someone else. Maybe that next pick is Creighton phenom Doug McDermott. Perhaps they land a mid-level free agent or two. Still, really, where does that get you? Probably to around the 25-win mark. That's just reality.

As for the coach, I still believe he is the right man to oversee this. His boundless energy, his willingness to endlessly work with the young players, his honest approach to what lies ahead are the best things this organization has going for it.

Sam Hinkie and company should take a lesson from Brett Brown and be open and honest with their fans about what lies ahead, and here's some ways they could do it:

* The team will bring in potential picks before the draft for workouts. In the past, those players were made available to the media, as was a Sixers front office person to talk about those players. Hinkie, however, has decided that there will be no talking to the potential draft picks after their workouts, no talking to Sixers' brass about what they saw.

Why not? If the team works out some guys for, say, 20 days, that would be a story in this paper for exactly that amount of time. That would keep the interest of the diehard fans. It would be, basically, advertising for an organization that is at the bottom of the league in standings and interest.

* Let Noel talk to the media. Per a policy agreed upon by the NBA and professional basketball writers, Noel is not obligated to talk until he is practicing full time with the team. The Sixers have held true to that for the whole season. But with interest in this organization sinking to alarming levels, why not have the 19-year-old talk about how excited he is to put on the uniform and predict what he can do in the league? Really, what is the harm? Without Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, there aren't any players in the locker room comfortable talking to the media, so no one who can really relate to the fans. Let Noel talk.

* Make the Wells Fargo Center an open house for fans on draft night. Imagine it, fans flooding in to witness something that is all about the Sixers in the present. Have some former players in the building. Announce your draft picks to those gathered and tell them why you made those picks. Let them know that the blueprint is forming the way you wanted it to.

Follow coach Brown's lead of being open and honest. The fans of this team deserve it.



Indiana Pacers at Sixers

When: Tonight, 7 o’clock

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: This game actually might be a little bit entertaining, even if the home team is riding an 18-game losing streak and the

Pacers are the best team in the East. Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen return after being sent to Indiana at the trade deadline, but the Pacers might have the services of Andrew Bynum, who played his first game with them on Tuesday.

Memphis Grizzlies at Sixers

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: >Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: A tough defensive team never bodes well for the Sixers. Then again, no opponent is a good matchup for this team lately.

Sixers at Indiana Pacers

When: Monday, 7 o’clock

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

TV/Radio: Comcast SportNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: See above.

Sixers vs. Chicago Bulls

When: Wednesday, 7 o’clock

Where: ells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: There are few players in the league who play the game harder than Joakim Noah, and he always seems to play so well againt the Sixers. The Sixers should take note of coach Tom Thibodeau’s defense.


115.2: That’s how many points the opposition has averaged against the Sixers during the 18-game losing streak.

96.3: That’s how many points the Sixers have averaged during the 18-game losing streak.

320-194: That’s the combined record of the Sixers’ next eight opponents. If they should lose those eight games, they would tie the NBA record for consecutive losses at 26.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76



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