76ers’ Future Looking Bright
It is no secret by now that the Philadelphia 76ers have been tanking to acquire better draft picks. Many people have been highly critical of the 76ers front office for the hitting the restart button on their roster, but you can’t acquire superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant in free agency unless there is already a successful system in place. Over the last three NBA Drafts since the tank began, the team has selected no lower than the 3rd overall pick. Due to injuries, however, the team has hardly seen any of their newly acquired talent in live NBA games until this year.
Without the services of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor and Ben Simmons for an extended period of time, the team has been forced to use a variety of D-League worthy players on their main roster. What was first thought to be a curse with these players turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After a few years of learning the game professionally, guys like TJ McConnell and Robert Covington have found their role on the 76ers and have proven the people wrong who said they weren’t NBA caliber players. With the growth of these players along with the returning high draft picks of recent years, it is difficult to deny the 76er’s bright future.
The team acquired forward Dario Saric from the Orlando Magic on draft night in 2014, but had to wait two more seasons because of a contract agreement with his team in Turkey before he would take the floor and help lead the team to their most wins since the 2012-2013 season. Saric is almost a lock to win this year’s Rookie of the Year award with 12.9 PPG to go along with 6.4 RPG. What is most shocking about the current state of the 76ers is that Saric is the third best rookie on the team.
With the 3rd pick of the 2014 draft, the 76ers selected Joel Embiid from Kansas. Analysts and even most basketball fans were ready to label Embiid as a bust after missing his first two seasons with a foot injury sustained at Kansas. Once he was finally cleared by the team doctors this past summer, he was out to prove all of his doubters wrong. He single-handedly revitalized the 76ers fan base leading to many “Trust the Process” chants during his free throws. 76ers games became must see television again once Embiid was on the court and it showed through constant sold out games at the Wells Fargo Center. Embiid was just a few votes short of making his first All-Star game and was a runaway favorite for the Rookie of the Year until his latest injury.
Embiid tore his meniscus in early February and saw his rookie season come to an end after 31 games. In his 31 games with the team, he put up an astonishing 20.2 PPG and 7.8 RPG. Even after being declared out for the rest of the season, he was still the talk of the conversation when it came to the Rookie of the Year award. Through his personality and style of play on the court, he has quickly become a fan favorite and has the potential to be one of the best big men in the game as long as he can stay healthy.
The one man left out of most conversations when it comes to Sixers’ basketball as of late is Ben Simmons. Simmons is the latest victim to the 76ers injury bug that seems to plague all of their 1st round talent. Simmons has missed his entire rookie season after breaking a bone in his foot during the 2016 Summer League. Simmons ability to make dynamic passes and drive to the basket with such ease makes him a threat to every team once healthy. Head Coach Brett Brown stated that Simmons would be the team’s starting point guard when healthy which is scary to think about. His size at 6’10 allows him to play any position on the floor. He can drive to the basket and dish it out to someone for an open shot or post up against the opposing team’s center.
Although much of the 76er’s success is riding on the health of their young stars, they have the potential to be a playoff team much sooner rather than later. The Eastern Conference has been a joke for the last decade. LeBron James has owned the entire conference making it to the NBA Finals six straight years. The 76ers are on pace this year for 30 wins and are very likely to win more than that with just under ten games to go. The bottom of the Eastern Conference has always been a cluster of team’s hovering around .500 hoping to grab that 8th seed.
Without any doubt, the 76ers could make a run at that last spot next year with their big three now in place with Saric, Embiid, and Simmons. With another high draft pick coming to them this June, expect the 76ers to finally climb out of the basement and make their “process” a reality.