Tanks for nothing

Posted: August 01, 2014

ON THE HEELS of a season that included just 19 wins and an NBA record-tying 26 consecutive losses there has been, believe it or not, more optimism than pessimism surrounding the 76ers, at least as far as fandom is concerned.

Most are buying into general manager Sam Hinkie's plan that the future is well off into the distance and there is no immediacy in making this upcoming season any different than that of last year.

In fact, Sixers fans, while you are waiting for the overhaul, you might want to keep your eyes covered for this coming season because it will most likely be worse than last year. And now there might not be as big a reward for the Sixers if this season turns out to be the worst, or one of the worst in the league.

The league is looking into changing how the draft works, so that the bottom feeders of the league aren't assured a top pick. A source told the Daily News that the NBA "has a strong incentive to get this done this year" on changing how the draft works. The source also said that the move is directly related to what the Sixers did last season and what they are forecasted to do this season, with top pick Joel Embiid most likely sidelined for the season after foot surgery and 10th pick Dario Saric contractually bound for two more seasons of play in Turkey.

An ESPN.com report said the Sixers have objected to the possible overhauling of the lottery for 2015, as they possibly could be hurt the most by the proposed changes.

That will probably all be sorted out in October, when the NBA's Board of Governors meets. In the meantime, it will be another year of some bad basketball, a lot of players hitting the floor that maybe shouldn't even be in the NBA and a whole lot of losses for the Sixers.

Let's look at the positives first; not the ones that are probably coming after this season (like Embiid) or a couple of years down the road (like Saric), but the immediate positives that could be on the floor this season.

The summer leagues in which the Sixers participated in Orlando and Las Vegas provided a very small glimpse of Nerlens Noel, coming off an 18-month rehabilitation of ACL surgery. There certainly is reason for excitement from him, mostly at the defensive end. Hollis Thompson, who will be entering his second season, showed much more maturity than at any time last year and very well could be the team's starting two-guard when the season begins. The second round draft picks - K.J. McDaniels, Jordan McRae and Jerami Grant - all showed they have some very good qualities that could make them nice pieces on this team this season.

But on the other side, it just doesn't appear that the Sixers have enough to even reach last year's win total.

Michael Carter-Williams, James Anderson, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes were the starting in coach Brett Brown's first campaign. That group won its first three games and five of its first nine. They were also able to put together a four-game winning streak during the holidays, with all those wins coming on the road.

Many wanted Turner and Hawes moved in order to get the future assets Hinkie so desires. Fair enough. When they were dealt at the trade deadline, they were two of the most productive players on the team, with Hawes averaging 13 points and 8.5 rebounds and Turner going for 17.4 points, six boards and 3.7 assists. The team had won only 37.5 percent of their games up to that point (15-40), so making the argument of players putting up numbers on a bad team is relevant.

But those numbers weren't replaced by anyone for the remainder of last season and the team finished out by winning just 17 percent of their remaining games (4-23). And they won't be replaced by anyone this season, either. While the rookies and Noel will bring something different to the roster, they certainly won't be able to duplicate the consistency that was in the lineup for most of last season.

As of today, the starting lineup for the team's opener could be: MCW, Thompson, Young, Henry Sims and Noel. That would leave a bench of the rooks and Tony Wroten and other fill-ins backing a group that may, or may not, include Young when the season starts.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of scoring punch among this group and the team averaged just 99.5 points a year ago, 19th in the league out of 30. The Sixers' offensive rating of 99.4 (points per 100 possessions) was last in the league even though they led the league in pace at 99.2 (number of possessions per 48 minutes).

The defense should improve, particularly with Noel, but there is serious concern about his ability to be able to put up with the physicality of the NBA on a daily basis. The offense seems as if it will suffer more than a year ago. And don't forget Carter-Williams is coming off major shoulder surgery.

Fans are mostly on board with the future of this team being pretty bright. In the meantime, watch cautiously.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

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