- One year ago, optimism brimmed in Philadelphia. – (SportsNetwork.com) - Generally, sequels aren't made after bad movies.
The NBA isn't the same.
The Philadelphia 76ers are going to be worse than last season. Call it "Tanking, Part II."
That's a bold, but accurate statement considering the Sixers all but publicly told the world they were going to be rebuilding the old fashion way - tanking.
It's an ugly word, but the Sixers made no significant effort to win basketball games last season. Their roster was a revolving door of D-League refugees, but at least they had three bona fide professionals in Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes.
All three are gone.
And in fact, they didn't get anything of consequence back in return.
Sadly, for Sixers fan, the same can be said for the draft.
Turner was traded at the deadline for second-round picks. Hawes went to the Cleveland Cavaliers for almost nothing and Young was traded in the offseason for a first-round pick and two spare parts.
General Manager Sam Hinkie's plan since assuming the reins in 2013 was to build through the draft. In his first attempt, Hinkie netted the reigning Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, and swung a trade for Nerlens Noel, who probably would've gone No. 1 if not for a knee injury that cost him the entire season.
Then, after a 19-win season, the Sixers took Joel Embiid from Kansas with the third pick, then Dario Saric from Croatia in a draft-night trade, which actually brought them back the first-rounder they traded the Orlando Magic in the Andrew Bynum debacle...er trade.
Those are two stud prospects, but the problem is, neither will likely play a minute for the 76ers during the 2014-15 season.
Embiid has knee and foot issues and missed the NCAA Tournament for Kansas. Saric is locked into a contract overseas and won't be with Philadelphia for at least two years.
But at least some of the second-round picks made in June will play this season. Right, Sixers fans? That's something.
Hinkie is clearly slow-cooking on the rebuilding front. The goal is not to win games. The goal is to be great. The Sixers could've improved by selecting players who might actually play for the team this season, but his eyes are on a title down the road.
"That doesn't happen overnight. We've been really open about that," Hinkie said. "We're going to be growing with them."
The "tanking" job the Sixers went through last season was difficult, but the fanbase realized there was a carrot at the end of the maze. They could live with the fact that Noel would be in uniform eventually, but to put the people through it another year might tax the citizens of Philadelphia.
"I've been borderline shocked in the last few months," Hinkie said of the fanbase. "One, just how smart our fans are and how much they understand the price you have to pay to go where you want to go."
So the retooling will take longer than expected.
For this season, any reasonable optimism should be focused on Carter-Williams. He is coming off a Rookie of the Year season and has seemingly bought into the idea of how long this will take in Philadelphia.
Noel is the other big piece for Sixers' fans to latch on to for this campaign. He is going to be an elite shot-blocker as a rookie and will have plenty of chances with this porous defense.
Once again, this season is all about growth and development, mainly for MCW and Noel. Head coach Brett Brown will try to weed out a diamond in the rough with some of these second-rounders, but once again, futility and misery will be the overriding theme.
"Tanking, Part II."
2013-14 Results: 19-63, 5th in Atlantic Division; Missed playoffs
ADDITIONS: C Nerlens Noel, C Joel Embiid, F Luc Mbah a Moute, G Alexey Shved, F Jerami Grant, F KJ McDaniels, G Pierre Jackson
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Michael Carter-Williams SG- Tony Wroten SF- Hollis Thompson PF- Luc Mbah a Moute C- Nerlens Noel
KEY RESERVES: G/F Jason Richardson, F/C Arnett Moultrie, G Alexey Shved, C Henry Sims, G Casper Ware, G Pierre Jackson, F Jerami Grant, F KJ McDaniels
FRONTCOURT: If you remember the Noel at the University of Kentucky, he was a shot-blocking force. He averaged 4.4 per game and while that number is high by NBA standards, Noel could be among the league leaders.
Offensively, there's little to Noel's game. Brown worked with him last year and rebuilt his shooting form. For Noel this season, Noel should focus on grunt baskets around the rim, or easy buckets from offensive rebounds. Noel will need to rebound at a high clip because the Sixers are small and not overly bulky.
Noel is a huge piece of the future for the 76ers. It'll be easy for him to get discouraged during the campaign considering how poor the talent is around him. Couple that with the fact that he hasn't played in almost two years and Noel is probably going to have a tough time maintaining any sense of optimism.
Mbah a Moute is a role player and above-average defender.
Thompson is somehow a starter in the NBA. He showed glimpses as a rookie last season.
BACKCOURT: Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He shot 40 percent from the field. He became the third player since 1950-51 to lead all rookies in scoring, rebounding and assists, joining Oscar Robertson and Alvan Adams.
That's remarkable production, but it comes with a caveat. Since the Sixers were so bad and lacked basic talent, Carter-Williams had almost total autonomy to do what he wanted. Within the structure of an offense, Carter-Williams might not be as great, but for now, he is the best player on the team by a mile.
With his size, Carter-Williams can wreak havoc defensively. His long arms get in the way, and again, with his 6-foot-6 frame, he's a great rebounder for a guard.
Carter-Williams' shooting badly needs to improve, but he's an impressive guy considering what he went through with this team last season. However, shoulder surgery could sideline MCW early in the season.
Wroten is polarizing. His motor goes 100 miles per hour, which is good and bad. He plays out of control at times, but he can also impact games defensively with his athleticism. Wroten is not a good shooter, but he is a good penetrator.
BENCH: It's almost not worth writing about this group considering how much it will change through the season.
Richardson missed all of last season with a knee injury. He wasn't great the season before that, but at least he's a veteran and could once again shoot well in this league.
Sims played decently in his brief time with the Sixers after coming over from the Cavaliers in the Hawes trade. He's the type the Sixers like - a young guy still trying to prove his worth in the NBA.
Grant and McDaniels should easily make the team and contribute. Both are solid on the defensive end and super athletic. One of these could take the starting small forward spot in time.
Shved can shoot it a little and that's sorely lacking on this team.
COACHING: It's hard not to admire Brown.
This team is so bad, but Brown keeps at it. Sure, he's getting paid, but the toll last season wore on him must have been a shock, since Brown worked under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs.
Brown never wavered in his optimism last season. Better put, he never wavered in his realism. His job is to teach these kids for when the time is right, they will be backbones for the organization.
Brown has this season and two more on his contract. Problem for him is, he'll have the year with Noel, Embiid, Saric and Carter-Williams, plus whoever the team drafts in nine months.
OUTLOOK: The outlook is not good, not for the 2014-15 season.
This group should lose more games than last season's, although the all-time futility mark of 9-73 shouldn't be jeopardy. Carter-Williams and Noel are legitimate building blocks for the organization.
After that, this team is dreck. Some of the second-rounders looked like steals in the Summer League, but counting on them for big minutes is laughable. Richardson is at the end of the line, and most of the roster never had a line to be at the end of.
Brown is a good coach and someone who has definitely bought into the concept. This has to be brutal for him.
It'll be brutal for the fans.
The Sixers should finish with the worst record in the NBA.
"Tanking, Part II."