Baby Steps in Philadelphia

The future seems bright for the 76ers. After years of irrelevance and lack of improvement, they are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Ben Simmons seems to have the potential to be the next big thing. They have a plethora of assets they can trade for good surrounding pieces and have their books relatively clean to bring in big time free agents (but they will have to do some winning before they are considered a destination).

Let’s not fool ourselves. This is Sam Hinkies’ project. This is what he wanted all along. A franchise altering talent through the draft. He could not survive the irrelevance he lead the 76ers to, but can take pride in knowing he left them with the necessary conditions to not experience anything of that sort in the next years. It is now the Colangelos’ time to make a team out of his assets.

So far, free agency has not been bad. They have been able to attract veteran free agents to fill areas of need and to be mentors, such as Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson. We cannot expect relevant free agents to give away years of their prime in a rebuilding project. First they need to get a couple of years of winning, show their potential, and how committed to winning the organization is. After that, they can be become a free agency destination.

Moving on to the actual roster they employ. Brett Brown finally has a decent roster he can work on, and who will be around him for quite some time, as he said: “For the first time, you’re looking at 20 year olds that could be with us for a long time”. He will finally get to see how good of a coach he actually is and if his putrid record was a result of a bad roster or simply lack of coaching ability. Me personally, I believe he is a decent coach and one who will push this team and make them competitive.

Next piece is Ben Simmons. After watching a couple of summer league games, his potential is showing off. While comparisons with LeBron are both premature and unreasonable, the kid is gifted. He has the passing ability to be one of the next great point forwards (or even point guard if you believe Brett Brown) and has shown glimpses of two-way potential. But he is not even on LeBrons’ universe as a scorer (while neither of them are great shooters, LeBron was a freak of nature driving and Simmons cannot even compare to him in such area) or athleticism. Without a reliable jumper, he will face a tough time on half-court offense as defenders will sag off and he still does not seem to be athletic enough to beat them. He will, nonetheless, be a triple double threat when he steps on the floor and a good reason to watch 76ers game.

All signs point to the 76ers wanting to trade either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel. Possibly Okafor could net the biggest package as he still has more potential, he just does not fit alongside Simmons. Noel is interesting because he can protect the rim and run the floor, but could present spacing problems playing alongside Simmons. Both of them are solid players but since their fit is questionable look for them to be moved. The other big man on the roster is Joel Embiid, the former 3rd overall pick who when picked was thought to offer the highest upside of the draft, but with concerns over his health. He is versatile and can protect the rim, making him a relatively good fit alongside Simmons. If he is healthy then the rest of the NBA better watch out because that is a frontcourt boiling with potential. Finally, we have Dario Saric a former lottery pick that has finally decided to make the jump onto the NBA. While he needs to add up a bit of weight, he is a decent shooter and seems ready to contribute right away.

Brace yourselves, 76ers fans. The years of watching putrid basketball seem to be coming to an end. Let’s just hope these players fulfil their potential.

By: Step Back-J


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