By Peter Gleason
There’s more buzz about the Sixers than any other team in town.
Ben Simmons (above) has impressed everyone in the NBA with his dexterity, and Dario Saric has lit up the sky at the Olympics.
Then there is Joel Embiid, who will be a rookie this fall after spending two years on the shelf with foot surgeries.
So, is rookie Simmons the answer? Will he be able to propel the 76ers back to relevance and possibly even the playoffs? It’s tough to tell, but we’re going to look at how close this team can get back to that point.
Not only have the 76ers gotten worse over the past four years, but it peaked in 2015–16 with a brutal 10-72 record. It’s ugly on paper, and it was pretty ugly on the actual court, but this coming season, the potential to actually trend back upwards is there.
When evaluating the talent on the roster, Philly not only has Simmons, but also big men Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Embiid. Tack on the likes of Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Gerald Henderson, Nik Stauskas, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson, and a long list of additional young draft picks, and the potential is there.
Here’s to hoping the 76ers don’t mess this up with some over-the-top trade. Assuming they don’t, we predict that the 76ers are back in the playoffs sooner than later.
As strong as the 76ers’ roster looks on paper, the fact remains that it’s going to take this unit some time to learn how to play together. Whether the team keeps or trades Okafor is irrelevant, because no matter what happens, a player like Simmons — who can just demand the ball in that way — will be a change for Okafor, Embiid, and Noel. Overall, it will take some time, but the good news is that the expectations aren’t playoffs-or-bust in 2016.
Expecting 20-plus more wins this season from the 76ers doesn’t seem unrealistic. Simmons will need to adapt to the talented trio of big men, while the big men must adapt to their new, young star. It will be a process, but one that’s well worth it when all is said and done. We’ll give it a year before this group fully figures out how to play together.
The Sixers are playoff-bound in 2018–19. We’re going to give the 76ers a jump in their record in each of the next two seasons (not surprising, when you’re going from 10 wins last year). While expecting 25 wins next year sounds about right, we see them winding up around 35 the following year, and based on the 2015–16 standings, that places them in a tie for the No. 11 spot in the Eastern Conference.
If the 76ers are then able to continue their improvement in 10-game increments, it would give them 45 wins the following year, and likely place them inside of the playoff threshold for the 2018–19 season. It’s not going to be easy to do, but if we assume that the team improves their guard play, and the talent on the roster stays around with the improvements, then this seems feasible. Don’t sleep on the Sixers turning it around sooner than many people expect.