Enemy: Philadelphia 76ers
3SOB Forecast*: 24-58
What’s the story with the Sixers?
Remember the story this time last year? The Sixers were fresh off their “2011 Grizzlies”-esque coming out party. With a budding roster and a good deal of luck, they found themselves one win away from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, and were positioned to make a statement as one of the up-and-coming teams in the Eastern Conference.
To illustrate just how quickly time flies, Derrick Rose suffered his ACL injury in the first game of the 2012 playoffs against this very Philly team, which at the time was on the up-and-up. In fact, I was at Game 3 of that series, when Philadelphia established a 2-1 lead over the suddenly not so “rosy” Bulls.
A tough gamble on Andrew Bynum’s balky knees and a Jrue Holiday trade later, we’re talking about the possible front-runner for 25% of the ping pong ball combinations in the next draft lottery.
Holiday’s continued development last season was probably just slightly short of astonishing, as the loss of Andre Iguodala shifted a greater than anticipated deal of the Sixers’ burden onto the young point guard’s shoulders. It didn’t seem to help matters that the guy that Iggy was traded for saw more time at the bowling alley than on a basketball court in 2012-13.
With few reliable assets left on the roster come draft night, management decided to cash in on that boy Jrue’s development, and turn him into a group of assets including the fallen “consensus” number one pick, Nerlens Noel, and a coveted 2014 first-rounder. They then followed up by selecting longtime friend and AAU teammate of Noel’s, Michael Carter-Williams, with the 11th overall pick. “I knew him before the flat top,” claims Carter-Williams, the 6’6 guard out of Syracuse, who will be thrown to the fire from day one. Hard-nosed rebounder Arslan Kazemi out of Oregon was also added to the party at the tail end of the second-round.
For Philadelphia, Carter-Williams can eat up as much time as he wants as he adapts to the learning curve at one of the more difficult positions in the NBA. In fact, Noel, who is rehabbing an ACL injury can take all the time that he needs before rushing back to the court. Speaking of taking their time, that’s exactly what the 76ers did in their coaching search, as it was not until a week ago that they officially introduced Spurs assistant Brett Brown as the new head honcho.
Seems like that terrible ‘t’ word (the “tanking” word, for those keeping score) is creeping into the discussion, as the focus for the Sixers is certainly not on this season, because a ticket in the sweepstakes to snag shiny Canadian prospect Andrew Wiggins is too good to pass up. And to be completely honest, the organization has not been making much noise to the contrary. Knowing exactly what he is getting himself into — that the talent level of this team will not be making him look good on the sidelines any time soon — Brown demanded a four-year guarantee on his contract.
Who are they cooking with?
We’re now left to question what actually remains in the City of Brotherly Love. By my count, we’ve got the Liberty Bell, Interstate 95, and those bangin’ cheesesteaks. In basketball terms, while the collective will likely be a mess, this should be the year for the forward core of Evan “the Villain” Turner and the Memphis-raised Thaddeus Young to really show us what they are made of.
Turner is a skilled player and a smooth ball handler, but has failed to turn many heads after going second overall in the 2010 draft, notably selected before Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, and Greg Monroe, to name a few. To be fair to Turner, his numbers have actually been on the rise to a degree, but not nearly to the degree that Philadelphia needs them to for him to make an impact. Though his 3pt percentage jumped by more than 10% last season, his overall field goal percentage could not absorb the shock of his usage rate leaping above 20, as he shot a career low .419 from the field.
As nasty as the numbers game can be to Turner, it is as kind as it can be to Young. Young, a model citizen for efficiency, has posted PERs in consistent excess of 18 for each of the past three seasons. His shot selection, protection of the ball, and rebounding prowess are all reflected in the ratings, while his defensive efficacy guarding the pick and roll only bolsters the accolade further. The only real drawback to Young’s game is the fact that due to his size he is best suited to play the “stretch four” role, but is incapable of performing the “stretch” part on the offensive end, as there has been a direct correlation between his efficiency surge and Doug Collins having him cease to shoot the three ball.
Turner and Young are joined by Spencer Hawes on the frontline, who has been a steady contributor throughout his stay in Philly. Jason Richardson is really the only other veteran that would classify as reliable on the roster, but he only played 33 games last season and may miss the entirety of 2013-14 due to a procedure that he had done on his knee in February. This may result in a complete 180 degree turn for newly acquired Tony Wroten, who may be thrust into the starting rotation after logging famously sporadic playing time in Memphis under Lionel Hollins.
The remaining portion of the roster is a mixed bag in the truest sense, with the leading source of intrigue aside from the true rookies being Royce White, who may not even suit up at all, if his tenure with the Houston Rockets is to leave any indication for the future.
How do the good guys stack up?
Who are these guys anyway? It was just two seasons ago the 76ers were a team on the rise with a veteran coach. Now they are rebuilding without a coach. The disastrous Andrew Bynum trade is going to haunt this team for a while. The 76ers have Kwame Brown (yes that Kwame Brown), Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen as their only legitimate bigs until Nerlens Noel returns from his knee injury. Not an overpowering group to say the least. Tweener forward Thaddeus Young will be called on to do more scoring this season with Jrue Holliday out and causes matchup issue with anyone the Grizzlies put on him. Jason Richardson is still alive but hasn’t played like it for years and Evan Turner has been shopped as much as WalMart with no takers. The 76ers are rebuilding without a plan in my eyes and that is never good. Grizzlies are too experienced, too powerful and too big for the Sixers to contain right now.
Eric Goldwein (of Hoop76):
The Sixers match up poorly with the Grizzlies because the Grizzlies are a real NBA team equipped with real NBA players. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has about two and a half players worthy of playing time, and they could be dealt by the time the season begins. This is potentially a 20-win team
But the NBA regular season is where amazing-er, variance, happens. That’s why I’m calling for a split in the season series.
The first game, March 15 in Philadelphia, is on the second night of a back-to-back for both squads. But it’s ESPECIALLY back-to-back for Memphis, which will have played in Toronto against former Grizzly Rudy Gay the night before. Emotionally draining? Probably not, but for the sake of the narrative, sure. Jet lag? It’s only a 90-minute flight, though it is, technically, international travel.
The April 11 matchup in Memphis is up for grabs too, kinda, only because late-season games tend to correlate with “injuries.” It’s unlikely that Memphis would have more DNPS than the tanking Sixers, but who knows, maybe Philly will have clinched the top lottery spot by then. Crazier things have happened.
Steve Sabato (of The New Philadelphian):
The Sixers are an old abandoned couch filled with kerosene, dynamite, and lounge pants (the ones they warn you not to wear at night because they’re so flammable you will be engulfed in hellfire before you have a chance to escape your hypothetically burning house), hidden at the bottom of Cinnabar Volcano. It’s hard for me, as a Sixers fan, to feel anything but unbridled terror when I look at how they match up with the rest of the NBA. The Memphis Grizzlies are a team that gives me more anxiety than others, given the fact that they’re one of the best teams in the league. There isn’t a single position on the floor where the Grizzlies aren’t better than the Sixers. Even if the Sixers caught the Grizzlies on a night where Memphis wanted to rest their starters, they might still lose to them–with their best lineup on the floor. Yes, genuine player-by-player analysis is usually best in this situation, but I’ll level with the readers here. The Sixers are so bad it would actually be a bigger waste of their time in this situation to compare these teams than to just give them an amusing mental image and tell them the Grizzlies have these two wins stashed.
When and Where do they square off?
March 15th: 6:30PM at the Wells Fargo Center
April 11th: 7:00PM at the FedEx Forum
For more 76ers content, check out our TrueHoop comrades at Hoop76.
*3SOB forecast projections are derived from an average of the contributing staff’s predicted win totals.