After securing the first pick in the draft and eventually taking LSU star Ben Simmons, the feel around the Sixer fanbase is vindication. For a good portion of this year, the team was blasted endlessley by pundits and casual observers for their uncompetitive spirit, and the effect it had on the league. As the groans grew louder, the Hinkie supporters doubled down on their “Trust the Process” mentality. When Hinkie stepped down in April, the detractors took it as their vindication, the Sixers finally realized their masterplan was doing more harm to the franchise than good.
Fast forward to June, and the Sixers came away with the best prospect in the draft, two intriguing international prospects in Timothe Luwawu and Furkan Korkmaz, and it appears that Joel Embiid will be making his debut this season. Basketball in Philadelphia finally seems to be on it’s way back.. or is it?
We’re all famililar with the process that the Sixers trademarked, do your best to be the worst as possible, then pray for a number one pick. Eventually, you’ll have a team stacked with lottery talent, and they’ll all be under contract for the forseeable future. The fundamental issue with this plan was it left the team with no assets to attract any serious trade offers, and free agents won’t buy into a program that aims to lose. Another problem that the Sixers are now dealing with is the randomness on just who will be the best prospects avaliable when they pick. Right now their teams is filled with bigs who won’t all mesh together, and because other teams see the logjam, they’re refusing to give the Sixers anything that resembles a fair deal. So as it stands, the Sixers have a frontcourt made up of Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric, and now Ben Simmons. Coach Brett Brown could decide to just flat out start Ben Simmons at the point guard position because it clears the logjam, and hides his inabillity to shoot the ball. However, even with his elite court vision, Simmons has a shaky handle and didn’t look comfortable when pressed by guards. So even if he wanted to run the offense through Simmons, it would have to be in a stretch four capacity where an actual point guard would still need to be on the court.
How much better will this team will actually be?
Despite my belif that Ben Simmons will eventually become a superstar player, I am concerned with his over-reliance on overpowering college guys, and his reluctance to shoot. Because he’s such a highly aware player, he’ll need to be pushed to shoot the basketball even thuogh it may not feel like the right basketball play for him. All this will be gonig on while he tries to build chemsitry with his new teammates that also have developmental questions themselves. Will the frustration of not being able to physically dominant opponents on a consistent basis lead to an unengaged Simmons?
The Joel Embiid question.
Another issue is the amount of chips the Sixers are putting on Joel Embiid. When he was drafted in 2014, the scouting report was that he had all the tools to be great, but still needed a couple of years to develop. Now in 2016, he’ll be two years behind in his development, and still a raw prospect. Being that far removed from his last competitive game could have significant effect on how he’ll project. When he last played it was against college bigs who he was just more bigger and athletic than. Now he’ll be playing in a bigger, faster league where he’ll need to not just adjust to the game, but also get comfortable with himself. Sixers know they need to unload one of their bigs, and are in the market for guards. But with Embiid’s status still unknown, and teams shying away from Okafor’s skill-set, they’ll most likley need to give up Nerlens Noel — their best defensive big. However, even his value is diminished because he’ll be due for a contract next year. The bigger issue is even if they deal Noel, it now puts pressure on Embiid to be the force in the middle. A big burden to put on a player coming from his circumstances.
Overall, I do think it’s fair to say that the future in Philadelphia looks brighter than it did 3 months ago. But roster asthetics are a thing, and a real problem for this team. Now entering year 4 in the rebuild, it will be important to establish a balanced roster, and begin the process of helping these guys learn how to play together. With every wasted year, assets are losing value, and due dates for extensions are closing in. Sixers will need to establish an identity quick before their one step forward is followed by two steps back.