The Philadelphia 76ers have been the laughing-stock of the NBA for the last three seasons. While the jokes are not over, the laughs have started to become head nod approvals and “watch them over there” finger pointing. The 76ers were 10-72 last season as player development was the focus. Coach Brett Brown was handed a roster that not only was inexperienced but had so many moving parts due to injuries I was surprised they were able to win 10 games.
But the offseason brought new hope and the number one pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. The 76ers selected Ben Simmons and just like that the fans were convinced. “Trust the process, trust the process” was the rally cry heard for all fans but how long were those chants supposed to last? I can’t say that I’m sold yet, the Simmons pick was a given, but after hearing they were trying to make a trade for the Boston Celtics pick (3rd) it showed that the 76ers are serious about winning.
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But rumors are surfacing that they still may want to move Jahlil Okafor. Okafor has yet to reach his potential as he was a rookie last year but to move the young offensive stud will put the team a few steps behind. I get that the frontcourt is crowded with Okafor, Joel Embiid, and Nerlens Noel and one must go but to offer up your best offensive weapon and rely on two players with the same skill set on the low blocks is team suicide. Simmons is a great pick but he must improve on his perimeter game. His driving ability will do wonders for the bigs and guards as he can handle and dish but playing the 3, he must be able to hit a consistent perimeter shot. But with his recent injury, the team must tool to a veteran like Gerald Henderson now to take up the scoring load.
The PG position was set with Ish Smith, but the 76ers let him walk in free agency and manage to sign Jerryd Bayless. This is the one move where I questioned their motives. Bayless is not a 30-35 minute player; this is what the 76ers need. The one position where they couldn’t afford to mess up and they somehow found a way to do it.
The deal is done, and Dario Saric will be playing in 2016. It took a year and more, but the fans will finally get to see the young international shooter in red, white and blue. He will instantly upgrade their perimeter game and provide solid defense, two areas they lacked in last year.
My expectations for the 76ers will be 25 games. I believe this can be done if all the pieces mesh together and they buy into Brown’s philosophy. The PG is still an issue, with Simmons and the three bigs down low, they will need Bayless to play the best ball of his life. If the team is hell-bent on a trade, the best option will be to try to get rid of Embiid. I know teams may be scared off due to his injury history but it makes no sense letting go of Okafor for Taj Gibson or a bunch of Celtics role players.
This is the season where they make their move back to respectability. I just hope they don’t screw it up.