Jahlil Okafor has been everything that the 76ers could have hoped for, leading all rookies in scoring and minutes per game: points: 17.4, rebounds: 7.5, assists: 1.2, blocks: 1.1, field goal percentage: 47.8%, player efficiency rating: 16.80, minutes: 30.8
By Art Beitchman
Ever since the 76ers traded for point guard Ish Smith last December 24th, he’s given the team a much needed shot in the arm, running the point, getting Nerlens Noel more involved, and scoring points for a team that was a turnover machine and struggled mightily to score points.
Even in last night’s heartbreaking overtime loss to the Bulls, Smith had 24 points and 8 assists.
As anyone who is paying attention can see, the Sixers are starting to resemble an NBA team more, and they compete in most games.
And the good news is the 76ers are in prime position to add a new crop of talented players from college, plus Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, top picks from 2014 NBA draft, will be in uniform next season.
The arrival of experienced NBA executive Jerry Colangelo has given the 76ers a new-found steadiness — more veteran players have been brought in to stabilize a very young team. Mike D’Antoni has also given the team more offensive options as an assistant coach for Brett Brown.
And just the other day Colangelo expressed his bullishness:
“Sam [Hinkie] has done a really great job of accumulating assets. If you look at the trades, if you look the draft picks that have been accumulated, it’s all there in place. And now it’s a matter of when do you pull the trigger on using all those assets or any of those assets. As I look at the board, if you will, I see some things that could happen sooner rather than later.”
The infusion of talent in June’s NBA draft should elevate the team’s talent level even further.
The top prize would be LSU freshman phenom Ben Simmons. He is 6-10, 239 pounds with a 7 foot wingspan that has draftniks drooling over what kind of impact he can have. He can run the point, drawing comparisons with a young Magic Johnson, or playing point forward. Either way, Simmons looks unreal in his freshman season at LSU, averaging 20.3 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game!
With other possible lottery picks, the 76ers can also land Kris Dunn of Providence, who some say has the game of a Dwayne Wade in his early days at Marquette. Duke University’s Brandon Ingram is projected to be the No. 2 pick.
The NCAA’s leading scorer at 26.6 a game, shooting guard from Oklahoma Buddy Hield, who also has 52% success rate from the field.
Adding just two of these guys to the existing improved team including Embiid and Saric makes the 76ers a team on a big upswing for next season.