With the recent news of Joel Embiid’s second season ending surgery needed on his foot, some are starting to wonder about Sam Hinkie’s rebuilding plan. Even before the news broke a few days ago about Embiid’s health, people were already discussing what the 76er’s were going to do with the trio of Okafor, Embiid, and Noel, as they all play the same position. In this article, we will take a deeper look at the current roster, and how the future looks for the Philadelphia 76ers.
June 25th, 2015, the Philadelphia 76ers hold the third pick overall in the draft. Leading up to the draft the number one pick, and even the number two were thought to be sure things with Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns. The 76er’s were hoping this would fall true, as Hinkie and other top executives within the organization were in love with Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell. As draft night began, Minnesota selected Karl-Anthony Towns as most people believed would happen. Next up was the Los Angeles Lakers, who were rumored to be leaning towards Russell over Okafor in the last couple of days leading up to the draft, but many still believed Okafor would be their selection. With their selection in, the Laker’s selected D’Angelo Russell. Philadelphia fan’s were heartbroken by this selection. Now the 76er’s were on the clock, as the time ticked, experts thought a trade was bound to happen, but instead the 76er’s took Jahlil Okafor, adding their third top ten center in the past three years. With this selection in, everyone was unsure what to think. Was this a plot to trade for a superstar? Was Embiid’s injury worse than thought? Are the 76er’s going to run an entire line-up of centers? What was Sam Hinkie thinking? All of these questions stormed sports media sites.
Fast forward to July 11th, and news broke of Joel Embiid’s need for a second surgery on his foot. Many people were disappointed, as they just wanted to see this kid come remotely close to the potential that most people pegged him as having. Some say this is Embiid’s own fault, as he skipped appointments and screwed around, this injury was not taken as seriously as it should have been. We do not know all of the details that surround Embiid, but what we do know, it is now time to watch Jahlil Okafor shine, and see how well he performs next to Nerlens Noel.
Going into the offseason, we already had to wonder about the guard situation in Philadelphia, and what was going to happen with it. They do not have the franchise point guard they want, and their shooting guard spot is filled by a player, who greatly under performed last season in Nik Stauskas. There has been a lot of trade talks recently of Marcus Smart for Nerlens Noel. This trade made complete sense for both teams, until the injury news of Joel Embiid. Now with Embiid hurt, their is a less of urgency to flip Noel or Okafor for a lead guard. While I still think it is possible to flip Embiid for a quality player, and maybe Boston would be interested in trading for Embiid, and sending away Marcus Smart, as they just drafted numerous guards in this past draft. Smart would not be enough to acquire Embiid, but Boston has plenty of other young players and draft picks to make the trade a possibility. With a trade unlikely to happen soon, summer league will be the only way to see what players the 76er’s have at their guard positions.
Summer league could not come soon enough for us avid fans, who cannot get enough basketball. As summer league began for the Philadelphia 76ers, after just four games, Jahlil Okafor is averaging 15.3 points per game, and 9.0 rebounds per game. These are pretty good stats for the youngster. We all know that one guy that will be like, “Well it is against weaker competition.” To this guy, we know, but his potential is being shown, and these games are crucial to his development. Okafor will be needed this next season, and leaned upon for the team’s offense, while Noel will have to take care of the interior defense. Pierre Jackson and JaKarr Sampson have looked pretty good in the guard position, but neither look like starters, but could be good bench pieces. We have not gotten to see Stauskas, as he is nursing an ankle injury. Although the 76er’s are not winning their games, the look to have some decent talent to work with next season.
The main thing the 76er’s are focused on this coming season is about seeing what the 76er’s have in Okafor and Noel, as a frontcourt duo. They acquired a young floor spacer to build around, but are still searching for a dominant guard, which the league is starting to become run by. Contract negotiations have heated up recently with the 76er’s 2014 draft pick, Dario Saric, but nothing has been close to completing, and is highly unlikely to see Saric this season. Saric should be over for the 2016-2017 season, and this is also when Embiid will be back as well. Looking at that roster you would have four players, who all have the potential to be starters standing at 6’10 or bigger. Embiid and Okafor are not a good frontcourt duo, as Noel would fit better with either of those two players. Saric luckily prefers to play at the small forward position, so they do not have to worry about him as much. This sets up a curious next season’s offseason for the 76ers. They will have three main problems to deal with, number one, you would have to consider, if you are Philadelphia, whether it would be a better fit to have Embiid or Okafor off the bench, or try to trade one of them to fill a different need. Number two, is Nic Stauskas a viable NBA starter at the shooting guard, or is he a sixth man, or just a bench player? No matter the circumstance, Philadelphia gave up nothing for him, so he is just another building block for them. If Stauskas is not a starter, you have to turn to next’s year draft, which for now, is showcased by the guards, Kris Dunn, Malik Newman, and Furkan Korkmaz. Personally, I loved Dunn, and really hoped he would have declared for this past draft, but returning to school will help make him a higher draft pick next year. Dunn would be capable of leading the team from the point, and providing a good scoring punch as well. Newman would a be a great scorer from the wing for the 76er’s. His scoring ability from the perimeter is desperately needed in Philadelphia. Korkmaz may need a season or two before he can contribute greatly offensively, but he has potential to be one of the better players from next year’s draft class. Of course Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown, and Brandon Ingram will also have a great shot at becoming a 76er as well, if Philadelphia goes by best player available. The third problem will be, can they acquire the star veteran player they need to lead this young team. Everyone knows losing takes its toll on players, and breeds a very poor mindset. Star players do not want to play for losing teams, and it is hard to see if players can develop in this dreaded area. Getting a player like Kevin Durant or LeBron James is very unlikely, but someone like Mike Conley or Bradley Beal could help transform their identity, and provide leadership for their talent rich youngsters.
These three problems will be dealt with, and are not a huge issue until next year. Once everything is said and done the 76er’s have all the young talent and draft picks to make any trade they want happen. I fully expect the 76er’s to use one of their big man in a trade to acquire some guard help, at some point in the future. This may not be till next year’s draft, when they dangle Okafor or Embiid for a top pick, but I think it will eventually happen. As disastrous as the 76er’s are right now, Hinkie may actual know what he’s doing, even if we do not believe it, and we need to lay off of him a bit. Do not expect much from the 76er’s this season, as they will probably be picking in the top four again, but their talent is developing, and as stated before, Philadelphia has all the tools to make a trade next year to fill all of their remaining needs, and become a relevant, winning team again.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17