2016-17 Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview: In Simmons We Trust

Nov 16, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) slam dunks against the Kennesaw State Owls during the first half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Dunkyard begins its preview of the upcoming NBA season, beginning with last season’s biggest stinkers, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 16-66
  • Offensive rating: 98.8 (30th – i.e. highly offensive to anybody watching).
  • Defensive rating: 109.2 (26th)
  • Pace: 97.9 (6th)
  • True shooting: 51.9% (29th)
  • Turnover rate: 14.8% (29th)
  • Offensive rebounding: 20.6% (26th)
  • Defensive rebounding: 74.0% (27th)
  • Highest PER*: 17.1 (Jahlil Okafor)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).

philly

Recap

The 76ers were simply awful last season and pretty much at or close to league-worst in every major statistical category. In light of this, it was surprising that they were able to win 16 games. Indeed, until Colangelo came along and starting cooking with Ish, Philly looked like it was going to struggle to match its own worst ever mark of 9-72 – which it set in 1972-73.

Given that Philly’s offense was easily the worst in the league (98.8 vs the second worst Lakers at 101.6), Brett Brown’s decision to play at the league’s 6th fastest pace while giving Okafor 30 minutes a night made little sense. While the fast pace did inflate the players’ individual per game numbers, it also made the losses look bigger and the team appear (even) worse at face value. This season, Brown would do well to slow things down a little and give his young players a chance to read the play and improve on the their 29th ranked turnover rate.

A couple of positives came at the defensive end where the 76ers ranked 3rd in blocked shots (thanks largely to Nerlens Noel Jerami Grant, who led the team) and 10th in steals. However, they still ranked 26th overall on defense – proving yet again that blocks and steals don’t make a great defense by themselves.

Reasons to be optimistic

The Process was not without benefit. After three years of ‘lose-now’ decisions and methodical asset accumulation, Philly has a serious amount of talent coming on board this season in Simmons, Embiid and Saric. New GM Colangelo is also certain to swing a couple of ‘win now’ trades with some of the other significant assets left over.

Significant improvement in the coming years is guaranteed. If either or both of Simmons and Embiid turn into something special, then who knows?

Reasons not to be

Philly will continue to struggle due largely to a lop-sided roster, together with their overall inexperience, lack of chemistry and stability. Specifically, the roster has far too many big men who don’t fit together (Okafor, Noel, Embiid, Simmons and Saric) and no guards of significance.

Three point shooting also remains as a festering wound. While the 76ers ranked 8th and 9th respectively on three point attempts and makes per game last season, their conversion rate ranked 24th (33.9%). There is nothing so far which suggests that this will change this coming season.

Oh yeah, Ben Simmons also broke his foot and will be out for up to three months.

Major Ins

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson.

Major Outs

Ish Smith.

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Embiid
  • Simmons
  • Saric
  • Henderson
  • Bayless

Dave’s lowdown

This team reminds me of the jigsaw puzzles I used to have as a kid. I was in such a rush to see the finished image that I would eventually just jam the pieces in anywhere I could force them.

With Noel and Okafor having been the subject of trade rumours for a while now,  I don’t see the Sixers finishing this season without having traded one of them. If Embiid plays this season, and plays well, my feeling is they’ll trade Noel for some puzzle pieces that actually fit.

Forecast record: 25-57

While the last few seasons have been atrocious, there was a lot of merit in The Process – which culminated in GM Sam Hinkie’s firing resignation, which was then fittingly followed by the number one draft pick in the 2016 draft.

The future looks very bright with Simmons as a potential franchise player in the making, together with Embiid and Saric. It certainly can’t get any worse, that’s for sure.

While a lack of talented guards, shooting and overall depth should see the 76ers fall well short of the playoff conversation, there will be significant improvement. And when it all finally comes together in the coming years, Philly will have a lot to thank Hinkie for.