Enemy: Philadelphia 76ers
3SOB Prediction: 19-63
What’s the Story in the City of Brotherly Love?
Are the 76ers becoming the newest team to resemble a Triple A baseball franchise or are they smart just biding their time with an excellent collection of young talent that just needs a touch of maturity?
Likely it will look more like the former to start the season and Head Coach Brett Brown, is hoping they come together late. If they don’t he could be on the hot seat after a 19-63 record last year. The 76ers wanted to lose last year but how many times can they remain praying on lottery balls before someone’s head is chopped? The team doesn’t need more youthful talent after all.
Then again maybe the Philly front office is going to give Brown some extra time after drafting Dario Saric with the 12th pick in this year’s draft. He had already signed with a team in Europe and won’t be coming over for at least two years. That should give Brown some confidence the team is going to give him the opportunity to develop this team over time.
When he does arrive he could be joining last season’s ROY Michael Carter Williams, last year’s #6 pick Nerlons Noel, this season’s 3rd pick Joel Embiid and 2nd round picks K J McDaniels and Jerami Grant not to mention Former Grizzlies PG Tony Wroten and former Tigers SG Elliot Williams as they all start to hit the prime of their careers. Not to mention that today’s stronger Eastern Conference teams (Miami, Cleveland, Brooklyn and Chicago) all should be getting rather long in the tooth by then.
The good news is no one is expecting the 76ers to compete this season even in the weak Eastern Conference. Flirting with a .400 record would be an amazing accomplishment for this team which will likely enter the season with only one player on the roster over 26 years of age.
The problem will be keeping all this youth happy while they develop.
What are they cooking with?
This may be the starting lineup on opening day but it most likely won’t be by the trade deadline. It is doubtful this lineup will even make it to camp. Thaddeus Young is rumored to be moving to Minnesota to replace Kevin Love. This could open the 76ers to start their two new big men: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid together in a Twin Towers type of lineup.
The other question marks involve Shooting Guard and Small Forward. Former Tiger Elliott Williams finally gets an opportunity to start but rookie Jordan McRae (Tennessee) looked very strong in summer league and will be getting an opportunity to start. Former Grizz Tony Wroten may get a look as Shooting Guard as well.
A lot of youth is leading the 76ers but the health is a concern. Noel missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Embiid broke a stress fracture in his foot which likely cost him being the #1 overall pick in the draft. He also had a broken bone in his back at Kansas. Embiid is the best big man prospect since Greg Oden but, like Oden, injuries cast a large shadow on his future right now.
Assuming that Noel and Embiid both are able to remain healthy, the 76ers should be greatly improved defensively from last season when the 76ers were dead last in points allowed. The problem will be scoring the ball. Noel isn’t considered a reliable scorer down low. Embiid shot 62% at Kansas but was only the 5th option to shoot the ball. Michael Carter Williams (40.5 FG%, 26.4 3pt%) is joined by former Grizz Tony Wroten (42.7 FG%, 21.3 3pt%) and former Tiger Elliott Williams (41.5 FG%, 29.6 3pt%) to make up possibly the worst backcourt shooting group in the league.
I doesn’t help that the 76ers could be planning on trading away last season’s leading scorer and Memphis native Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes signed with the Clippers. That would mean the team that won a grand total of 19 games last season could lose the two players (Young and Hawes) who led the team in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks last season and replaced them with two players who haven’t played a single NBA game yet.
How do the good guys stack up?
The Vibe Behind Enemy Lines
To gauge how our friends in Philly are feeling about the upcoming matchups between their Sixers and our Grizz, we’ve enlisted the assistance of Editor of Hoop 76 Eric Goldwein, who was gracious enough to lend a hand for the second year in a row.
Eric Goldwein: The Grizzlies at their best are basically the best NBA regular season team. I don’t need to tell you guys about the Marc Gasol splits. The Sixers at their best? Well, we don’t know, and we won’t find out until a few years from now. But that doesn’t mean they’re headed for another 19-63 season. Here’s the thing about the Sixers: they don’t have a single terrible player. Sure, they have a bunch of D-Leaguers, they have a point guard (Michael Carter-Williams) that can’t shoot, they have a twig at power forward/center (Nerlens Noel), and they have Tony Wroten (yeah, he’s a slightly refined version of the guy Memphis gave away). There’s also a good chance that their best two-way player, Thaddeus Young, is in Minnesota next week.
But look through the Sixers roster, and you’ll see a bunch of athletes that do one of two things: shoot threes (with questionable efficiency) and play defense (or at least try to). They’re not stars. Not even close. Yet there’s no black holes either. There’s no hot heads. There’s no Evan Turners or Rudy Gays here. If they’re going to lose – and a lot of nights they will – it won’t be because of any inherent flaw in their system. It’ll be because most of their players were born in the 1990s (and they’re $20 million below the salary cap).
With all that said, the Grizzlies should sweep the Sixers. That is, assuming Gasol and Zach Randolph are healthy. That frontcourt tandem dominated Philly last season (Memphis won both games by 20+) and while a healthy Noel could lessen the damage, their size is too much for the Sixers bigs. Game 1 (Dec. 13) has upset potential; it’s in Philly, and both teams are on the tail end of a back-to-back. In Game 2, the Grizz will have two days rest for Game 2 (Jan. 24), and they’ll be hosting a Sixers squad that played the night before. That’s about as close to a regular season lock as you can get. I’ll still tune in; 37-year-old Vince Carter schooling 21-year-old K.J. McDaniels, Randolph muscling Noel, Mike Conley lighting up Michael Carter-Williams .. there are worse ways to spend your Saturday nights.
The Vibe at 3 Shades of Blue
Zach Thomas: The 76ers ended the season with 7 draft picks in the 2014 draft. By the end of the night they had acquired 8 players. However, by the time they were done, no one knew what the heck they actually were planning on doing. The promising talent they received from the draft were Jerami Grant, Joel Embiid, Pierre Jackson and maybe KJ McDaniels. That’s sort of a downer when you factor in Embiid’s health. In July, they won the Orlando Summer League championship over the Grizzlies because they played their entire opening day starting roster. Ok, maybe not. But even with a healthy Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, MCW, Pierre Jackson and Thad Young (if he stays there), that is all they have. They aren’t deep. They’re VERY inexperienced. And while a few of those guys have promising careers ahead of them, they are at best a 25 win team this upcoming season, even in a still weakened East.
When the Grizzlies face them this season there are only a few concerns. 1) They should be aware of Noel’s presence in the middle. He has great blocking capability around the rim. 2) The slashing ability of reigning Rookie of the Year MCW. 3) Thad Young. If you can stop 1 of those three, you should end up winning. Limit 2 of those 3 and it’s a blowout.
The Grizzlies catch Philadelphia at their place on the second night of a back to back in December. However, the night before the Grizzlies play at home against Charlotte so I don’t believe rest will be an issue in the outcome. The 76ers will push the pace. They had the #1 fastest pace in the league in 2013-2014 at 101.6. The Grizzlies, who had the slowest at 92.25 should beware and don’t get caught in a track meet. Play Grizzlies basketball. Control the tempo. Pound it inside. Do those things and we should get out of there with a W, convincingly.
The second time we see Philly will be in the middle of a 5 game home stand in January. With 2 nights off before facing them, I don’t expect there to be a problem there either. Again, control the ball, limit turnovers and the Grizzlies should handle business. I project a season sweep of the 76ers.
When Do They Square Off?
12/13/14 – Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA – 6:30 PM CST
1/24/15 — FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN – 7:00 PM CST
What Do Y’all Think?
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