Preseason Preview #5: Philadelphia 76ers

Season Goal: Become Legit Contenders

Despite a season that defied many expectations for the young team, Philadelphia ended their season in a very disappointing fashion. After beating the Heat in 6 games, the 76ers lost in 5 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In that series, the flaws of the young 76ers team were exposed– badly. The series was overall an embarrassment as Simmons scored just one point in Game 2. This year, Philadelphia needs to prove that they can play at an elite level when the pressure is at its highest.

Storylines:

Fultz’s Future

After possibly the most confusing rookie season, it looks like Markelle Fultz will be playing for the 76ers this year. The mystery injury that kept him sidelined seems to be gone and Fultz has looked good in preseason games. Obviously, right now the biggest question around Fultz is his shooting. Even though he had a great shot in college, Fultz has had to completely recreate his shot. The 76ers badly need his shooting as their two best players are below average 3-point shooters already. If Fultz wants to play heavy minutes with Embiid and Simmons he will need to figure out how to become a great shooter. Learning how to shoot again, in addition to strengthening his ball handling and slashing ability, Fultz could become an elite NBA player. At the end of the day, a lot of the 76er’s future will rely on Fultz reaching the potential everybody saw in his college days.

Trust the Process

Joel Embiid, the player responsible for “Trust the Process”, maybe the greatest product of the process. After tanking for years under Sam Hinkie, the 76ers gained high draft picks that turned into Embiid, Simmons, Saric, Smith, and Fultz. Embiid, Simmons, and Saric have all already proven to be great NBA players. In fact, Embiid may even be an MVP candidate next season. His issues with injuries have limited his playing time and ability to train in the offseason. But, this year he played a personal-record 63 games and will be able to train this offseason instead of being forced to rehab from injury. Given how good he already is, he could win MVP with a few small improvements to his game.

Last season, his healthiest season to date, Embiid averaged 23-11-3 and 1.8 blocks per game. His combination of offensive versatility and defensive skill makes him an elite player. Despite his subpar 31% 3-point shooting, he has shown signs of being a good shooter. This, combined with his elite post-up ability, will possibly make him the best center in the NBA. Additionally, this season will only be Embiid’s 3rd year in the league. If he is able to become a great shooter and improve his stamina it’s very possible this is the year he makes the jump into the MVP conversation.

Depth Chart:

PG: Ben Simmons, TJ McConnell, Jerryd Bayless
SG: JJ Reddick, Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, Furkan Korkmaz
SF: Robert Covington, Wilson Chandler, Jonah Bolden
PF: Dario Saric, Mike Muscala
C: Joel Embiid, Amir Johnson, Emeka Okafor

Salary Cap Situation:

~106M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Jerryd Bayless, TJ McConnell, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Amir Johnson, Emeka Okafor

Bad Contracts: None

Leave a Reply