HERE’S WHY PHILLY FANS ARE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE SIXERS!

By Martha Sullivan

It’s easy to make fun of the Sixers, who haven’t won an NBA title in 32 years, and whom Ed Snider, supposedly a sports business genius, ran into the ground for 15 years before Josh Harris bought them off the scrap heap.

The 2015-16 season opens in 11 days, and here is how ESPN magazine rates the franchise:

Overall: 98th out of 122 teams ranked
Title track: 82
Ownership: 108
Coaching: 56
Players: 73
Fan relations: 98
Affordability: 63
Stadium experience: 100
Bang for the buck: 106
Change from last year: -5

How dire are Philly’s straits? The Sixers narrowly skirted historical ignominy in 2014-15, losing 17 straight to begin the season, falling just one loss short of the 2009-10 Nets’ start of shame.

Still, general manager Sam Hinkie remains stalwart in his lose-to-win approach to basketball, taking 10 steps back in order to (hopefully) take one giant leap forward someday soon.

Color the City of Brotherly Love skeptical: The fans’ faith in ownership — and its ability to produce a championship — both took hits in our rankings this year, falling 19 and 15 spots, respectively.

What’s good

The Sixers are losing, but it’s by design! No, really, fans in Philly seem relatively confident that the team’s uncanny knack for stockpiling losses is not due to incompetence from the guy on the sideline, nor the young nucleus taking the court every night.

Head coach Brett Brown and his staff make a habit of compiling exhaustive analytics — from tracking player percentages in shootarounds to monitoring hydration and sleep levels with a “fatigue-tracking GPS device.” Coaching, in turn, received a modest bump, rising seven spots to a respectable No. 56.

What’s bad

So, so much. On the court, the Sixers were the league’s worst shooting team, barely hitting over 40 percent, and under 70 from the line. And 2014 No. 3 pick Joel Embiid looks to be on track to miss his first two seasons in a Philly uniform, waylaid by a host of back and foot injuries. All that is to say, not shockingly, much of the life has been sucked out of the Wells Fargo Center, which has finished near the bottom of the league in attendance the past two seasons. And despite a relatively respectable showing in affordability (No. 63), the Sixers’ fan cost per season increased by 6.2 percent — more than three times the NBA average. So the team’s bang for the buck? Holding strong in the sub-100s for the second straight year.

What’s new

Optimism? In Philly? About the basketball team? Don’t look now, but Philadelphians are (cautiously) encouraged by the team’s collection of young talent. Nerlens Noel’s turn as rookie of the year hopeful in 2014-15 and the addition of Duke big man Jahlil Okafor in the 2015 draft helped boost the Sixers’ players ranking by 25 spots from last year.

 

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