• Russell Schmidt

NBA Future Power Rankings: 5. Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers are in the midst of a streak of ineptitude unlike any other in sports history. In the past three seasons the Sixers have won just 47 games. To put this into perspective, 10 of the league's 30 teams had more wins last season than the Sixers have had over the past three. Philly is much improved, but they are more than likely to once again finish amongst the worst teams in the league. Nevertheless, Philly has built the foundation for a team that will not only be able to compete in the near future, but excel. Philadelphia’s first victory of the offseason was winning the draft lottery, leading to the selection of Ben Simmons. Simmons is an all-around talent like few others prospects in league history. He can guard nearly every player on the floor, rebound like a power forward, and pass like a point guard. His shot needs some work, but he is only 20 years old and has good mechanics. Simmons reminds me a lot of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they share a similar high ceiling. I don’t expect Simmons to be the next LeBron like some are claiming, but he could have the career Grant Hill would have had if it weren’t for injuries. Philly also had the 24th and 26th picks in the draft where they added two foreign prospects, Timothe Luwawu and Furkan Korkmaz. Korkmaz is likely to stay overseas next season, but Luwawu has impressed in the summer league and could play big minutes his rookie year. In addition to these three first round picks from the 2016 draft class, the 76ers will be adding two more highly touted rookies. First is the 12th pick of the 2014 draft, Dario Saric. Saric has spent the past two years overseas, but he will finally make his long awaited NBA debut. Saric lacks ideal NBA athleticism, but he has a rare skillset for a player of his size. Saric can play either forward position, is strong on the glass, and possess impressive court vision. The biggest wildcard for the 76ers is another rookie, Joel Embiid. Embiid was the 3rd pick of the 2014 draft, and if it weren’t for injury concerns he would have been selected first. These concerns have been proven justifiable, as Embiid as yet to step on the court. We haven’t seen Embiid play since his lone collegiate season 3 years ago, but he did look destined to be a star. I’m not a doctor and have no way of knowing how healthy he is, so I’m not going to sit here and guess how good he will be. Embiid has two more seasons remaining on his rookie contract for Philly to find out what they have in him. By the time his contract expires he could be out of the league or an All-Star. Neither fate would surprise me, something I don’t think I can say about any other player. Also in the frontcourt are two more recent high draft picks, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Noel has been in the league three years, but he has only played two since he missed his entire first year due to injury. Noel provides little to nothing offensively if he stands farther than five feet from the basket, but he is already a beast defensively. In 2014-15 Noel finished in the top-10 of the NBA in both blocks and steals per game, a rare feat for any player. What made it even more impressive was that Noel did this on one of the worst teams in NBA history while coming off a torn ACL and in his age 20-rookie season. Noel needs a lot of polishing on offense, but his defense alone will keep him relevant. Okafor is quite the opposite of Noel; he brings top-notch offense to the floor and little to no defense. Okafor can operate in the post like few others and is still just 20 years old. Not many players can step into the league after just one collegian season and average 17.5 PPG while being surrounded with such a poor supporting cast. At the very least Okafor should develop into an Enes Kanter or Greg Monroe type of player. Despite all of these positive attributes, I believe that Okafor is the best option for the Sixers to trade in order to clear up the logjam in the frontcourt. Okafor doesn’t fit the fast pace offense that the rest of the young pieces are suited for, and he has created a lot of off the court distractions after just one season. In addition to all of these pieces, the 76ers have many other intriguing young players including Nik Stauskas, Jerami Grant, and Robert Covington. The craziest thing about Philly’s roster is that every player I have mentioned is 25 or younger. In free agency the 76ers added a trio of veteran guards in Sergio Rodriguez (1-year $8 Million), Gerald Henderson (2-years $18 Million) and Jerryd Bayless (3-years $27 Million). All three contracts carry minimal financial risk, and all these players should factor into the rotation heavily next season. The Sixers already have a great collection of young talent, and even more players are on the way. The Sixers own all of their future 1st round picks (which should still be a high selection for at least another year), as well as the Lakers top-3 protected 2017 1st round pick (becomes unprotected in 2018), and the Kings unprotected 2019 1st rounder. The Sixers can even swap first round picks in next years draft with the Kings if they are better than expected or if the Kings jump them in the lottery. Philadelphia is still far from a playoff team, but the years of asset collecting and pitiful basketball appear to finally be paying off. The young Sixers should be exciting and a force to reckon with sooner rather than later, a huge improvement on what they have been the past few seasons.

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