The Philadelphia 76ers enter the 2013-2014 season a completely different team than the lottery team we saw last year. Gone are the days of a young all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday, a fan favorite coach in Doug Collins, and the short lived days of the oft-injured Andrew Bynum. A new era of Sixers’ basketball is set to begin this year, and with the way the current roster is constructed it could be off to a rough start.
After the dismissal of head coach Doug Collins shortly after the end of the season, new General Manager Sam Hinkie shifted his thoughts towards making the Sixers a better team in the future. The transition into this new era began on draft night when Hinkie pulled the trigger on a shocking trade that would send Jrue Holiday to New Orleans in exchange for the draft rights to the sixth overall pick Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first round pick. The team would then select point guard Michael Carter-Williams with their own 2013 draft pick.
The combination of these moves would set the tone for the future of the franchise as Hinkie made it clear that the team was now in full rebuilding mode. Still without a head coach, Hinkie now had to face the difficult task of selling the rebuilding process to candidates.
It would take management several months to find the right coach for this young team, and at the end of the interviewing process, longtime Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown was chosen as the right man for the job. The hope was that he would bring some of the Spurs’ winning tradition and player development techniques to a franchise in desperate need of these things.
As the Sixers prepare to face the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday, the current roster stands at fourteen players. Of these fourteen guys, four are injured and unlikely to play anytime soon, three are healthy veteran starters, and the rest of the roster is filled with young players who have yet to find their niche in the NBA. This leaves the team with only ten healthy players in the rotation that has yet to be decided.
Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, James Anderson, and rookie Michael Carter-Williams are expected to be in the starting lineup early on in the season. The rest of the rotation is yet to be seen as the Sixers’ bench is among the weakest in the NBA. Due to the injuries of Arnett Moultrie, Kwame Brown, and Nerlens Noel, who will most likely miss the entire season, the team has almost no depth at the four or five position. Players such as Tony Wroten and Darius Morris are expected to come off the bench to supply offense at the guard positions for the Sixers.
Brett Brown’s offensive scheme should be somewhat familiar to Sixers’ fans as he plans to be a run and gun team on offense. With the speed of Carter-Williams and Wroten, and ball handling abilities of Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, the offensive scheme fits the current roster. If the team can push the ball up the court for 48 minutes, the offense could tire down the opposing defense and keep them in the game.
Defensively, this Sixers’ team could be one of the worst defensive units in the NBA. This preseason we saw first hand the defensive shortcomings of the depleted front line rotation and the susceptibility of the perimeter defense to allow opponents to shoot three pointers with almost no defender in the proximity of the shooters. Defensive rebounding could also be a problem for this team. Spencer Hawes and Thad Young will be responsible for collecting rebounds against the opposing four and five positions, but neither has been particularly good at rebounding throughout their respective NBA careers. Young will also have to guard players who have several inches and muscle on him, which could cause more match up problems for the Sixers.
The inexperience and lack of depth of this Sixers’ roster and a poor defensive unit will all be contributing factors for team this season. Due to these factors, the outcome looks extremely bleak for this team. The Sixers’ will struggle to win games this year and are viewed by many as the team most likely to finish with the worst record in the NBA. With the current roster, the Sixers will win somewhere between 10-15 games this season and be in a good position to receive the first overall pick in the upcoming draft.
The strange part of this season outlook is that although on the surface a team losing 60-70 games is a bad thing, in this case, it is the best possible outcome for the Sixers. In order for this franchise to become relevant again, the team needs to lose as many games as possible. If the team can finish with the worst record and receive the first overall pick, along with the likely lottery pick acquired from New Orleans, then the Sixers will be able to choose two of the top prospects in the loaded 2014 NBA draft class and be set up nicely in the future. A combination of Michael Carter-Williams, a healthy Nerlens Noel, consensus first overall pick Andrew Wiggins, and another top prospect would give the team a promising young nucleus moving forward.
Brett Brown’s focus should not be winning basketball games, but it should be developing these young players. It will be his responsibility to help these young guys develop each aspect of their game to help this team next year. For example, Michael Carter-Williams will have a chance to play heavy minutes for this team under Brown. He will surely endure the growing pains of being a rookie this year as he tries to adapt to the play style of the NBA. Brown will need to take him under his wing and help the young point guard limit turnovers and establish a jump shot that he has yet to develop.
If Brown can help each of these young players with different aspects of their game like he did with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli in San Antonio, then this upcoming season will be a success for the Sixers. Finishing with one of the worst records in the NBA will help this team in the long run by giving team management a chance to rebuild through the draft like the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes, it will be an extremely difficult season to watch and will be hard to swallow all the loses, but stay positive Sixers’ fans. All the loses will make for a brighter future.