Throughout September and October, we’ll be examining all 30 teams in the NBA and previewing the 2013-14 season through the lens of each particular organization. I’ll be going through each team’s roster and expected outcome for the upcoming campaign in reverse order of predicted finish, starting with the worst team in the NBA. At the bottom of each preview there will be a table with each division that will link to already-completed previews.
Last August, the Philadelphia 76ers found themselves in the middle of a blockbuster trade that sent a top-five player in Dwight Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles and delivered the Lakers’ oft-injured but supremely talented center, Andrew Bynum, to the City of Brotherly Love.
Bynum was a top-fifteen player in 2011-12 for the Lakers, but concern about his knees abounded and ultimately led to Orlando (smartly) choosing to receive a number of lesser pieces for Howard than Bynum, the fragile free-agent-to-be. Philadelphia took that leap, however, and ultimately paid the price.
Philadelphia gave away a star player in Andre Iguodala in the trade in addition to a first round pick and two promising young front court prospects in Moe Harkless and Nik Vucevic. Bynum never played a game for the Sixers due to multiple setbacks in his arthritic knees, and he left for Cleveland as a free agent in the off-season.
After a terrible previous twelve months, the Sixers revamped their front office, hiring Sam Hinkie, formerly the assistant general manager and right-hand man to Daryl Morey in the Houston Rockets’ front office. Hinkie set about dismantling the existing roster in Philadelphia, which was realistically just a middling team at best, destined for a consistent finish in the middle of the Eastern Conference — a ticket to nowhere in the NBA.
After a draft night trade that sent off overrated All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans, Hinkie acquired the consensus top talent in the 2013 draft in Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel. Coming off of surgery to repair a torn ACL, Noel had slipped on some draft boards, but for an organization that was in the process of tearing itself down to slowly build itself from the ground up, his acquisition made perfect sense.
For the record, I’m a fan of what Hinkie has done thus far with the pieces he has at his disposal in Philadelphia. He capitalized on an un-deserving All-Star appearance for Holiday to acquire a young rookie with All-Star potential of his own. While Holiday is still a good young player, Hinkie saw the opportunity to maximize the asset and come out of the draft with two potential future stars in Noel and Carter-Williams. Instead of having one position filled with a current star, he filled two with potential future stars at a fraction of the cost.
Alas, the Sixers went from a couple of promising playoff appearances in back-to-back seasons to a disappointing nosedive, to a team that is willingly tanking ahead of a loaded 2014 NBA Draft class. Things sure do change quickly, don’t they?
Best Case Scenario
If Noel comes back strong from knee surgery at some point around the first of the year and fellow rookie Michael Carter-Williams starts off strong, they’ll combine with Thaddeus Young to form a decent trio in the starting lineup. 2010 first round pick Evan Turner regressed in 2012-13, his third year in the league, and could certainly be gone by the trade deadline. If the stars align for the rookie draft class, the Sixers could possibly sniff 25 wins in the very weak Eastern Conference, but it’ll still be a rough go of it.
Worst Case Scenario
Things could get real ugly for Hinkie and first year coach Brett Brown. Depending on Noel’s recovery, the rookie learning curve at point guard for Carter-Williams, and Turner’s continued lack of improvement, we could be looking at 2009-10 Nets and Timberwolves territory, with 12-15 wins definitely being in play.
Most Likely Outcome
With somewhere from 5-7 teams blatantly tanking and another 5-10 that are essentially actively not trying to win (See: 2014 NBA Draft – it’s stacked), it’ll be tough to lose some nights for all of these teams when they play each other. At the same time, about 40% of the NBA should beat the Sixers every single time they’re matched up. My prediction: 14-17 wins and the esteemed crown of worst of the worst in a season filled with teams that are trying to lose.
Philadelphia 76ers (30)