It is that time of year again: the NBA season has finally arrived, and preseason is underway. The new look 76ers seem to be the team on the rise. After years of rebuilding, the 76ers are looking to make this “Process” work. Fans have been patiently waiting for their Sixers to be a playoff team again, and they may very likely see their team in the playoffs this season for the first time since 2012. Fans are more than ready to see “The Process” finally pay off. There have been glimpses of the Sam Hinkie (former Sixers GM) tanking strategy working through the draft, with getting players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and now Bryan Colangelo trading up for Markelle Fultz. This will be the first year that the 76ers can make their old GM Sam Hinkie look good. Overall, there are a lot of questions surrounding the 76ers, but their fans haven’t been this excited in while.
Lots of expectations for the 76ers this year, but with the expectations comes multiple questions surrounding the team. How much will Joel Embiid play and can he stay healthy? Can Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz co-exist? Will Jahlil Okafor be traded before the deadline? Was JJ Redick’s contract worth it? All questions, if not more, surround the Sixers at the start of training camp.
Will the Sixers star players stay healthy?
As many Sixers fans know, “The Process” is based on and centered around Joel Embiid, who adopted the nickname Joel “The Process” Embiid. Last season Joel Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assist, 2.4 blocks, even though he only averaged 25.4 minutes per game. We can’t forget that Joel Embiid only played 31 games last season. This season, fans hope that number increases, and it might as Joel Embiid was just cleared to begin play 5v5 half court in practice. The Process said on Media Day, “I’ll be honest- I don’t think I’ll play 82 games. But hopefully, I’ll do that.”
Joel Embiid is a huge asset for the 76ers and gives them a real threat down low, not just on offense, but on defense as well. He is one of the best in the league at altering opponent’s shots in the pain. Joel Embiid can very likely be an all star this season, and will continue to be the player that the Sixers build around. Sixers’ point forward Ben Simmons has thankfully recovered fully from a foot injury that kept him on the sidelines for all of last season. On media day he was asked if there was any health related restrictions, and he simply replied “No.” Also, Simmons was asked about his improvement on media day. He responded, “Compared to last year, I’m a much better player. It’s not even close.” All in all, the 76ers have been very cautious about Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and their health, and are hoping their precaution pays off big.
Can Simmons and Fultz coexist?
The 76ers also have a very bright future behind both former number one picks from the past two NBA drafts in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. While Ben Simmons is being compared to Lebron James and Markelle Fultz is being compared to James Harden, both Simmons and Fults have their first NBA season in front of them.
Both players are extremely talented ball handlers play makers, and defenders, but it seems like Fultz can shoot the three ball better than Simmons. Although, there was a video that surfaced from Ben Simmons’ Instagram of him making consecutive catch and shoot three pointers, showing that he improved his jump shot drastically. Ben Simmons during training camp has shown he has improved his jumpshot. Fultz has experience playing off the ball as 29 out of his 52 made threes were assisted on at his only season at Washington University. Fultz is a talented scorer in many areas, but is more of a threat to score with the ball primarily in his hands.
Coach Brett Brown’s comments in the spring made it seem like Ben Simmons would have first dibs playing the point guard moving Fultz off the ball, but both players will need to make the adjustment playing off the ball at times. Ben Simmons is the better passer, but Fultz seems to be the better scorer. In all likeliness, both players will share point guard responsibilities making them more of a threat for the 76ers, and I believe Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz will feed off each other as well as complement one another.
Will Jahlil Okafor be traded?
The 76ers have not been a team afraid of moving players around in the past, and there has been recent speculation that the 76ers will trade former third overall pick, Jahlil Okafor from Duke University, in a draft where the Sixers could have taken Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia. In two seasons in the NBA, Okafor has averaged 14.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. I believe Okafor is still a very solid asset to have on a team, but not for the Sixers. Okafor is a great back to the basket offensive player who can score very well on low block in the post, but other than that Okafor does not bring very much to the table.
I think Okafor would have been great for the style of the NBA 10 to 15 years ago, but not in today’s three point spreading offense. Karl Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Joel Embiid are the future of athletic NBA big men who can score from all areas of the floor, who can shoot from the three point arc, and who can defend and grab rebounds. I still think Okafor can still be used vitally, just in a different offense. I do think the 76ers will try to move Jahlil Okafor before the NBA trade deadline for another veteran or more draft picks.
Will JJ Redick live up to his big contract?
Without a doubt JJ Redick’s one year 23 million dollar contract was worth it. The 76ers have added a veteran who can be a leader for lots of young guys in the locker room and on the court, and let’s not forget the knock down three point shooter that JJ Redick is. This is exactly what the 76ers needed, a veteran who can leader and a three point assassin all in one player, JJ Redick. The Sixers ranked 23rd in three point percentage last season at 34.0%, and bringing Reddick in will increase their three pointers made as well as their three point field goal percentage.
Brett Brown will need to learn how to get the veteran many touches with a group of players who need the ball in their hands. Redick will be a starter at the two guard position, and will be used often, as he was one of the Los Angeles Clippers main offensive weapons the last two seasons. The former Clipper has a usage of rate last year was 22 percent, and has made a combined 601 three pointers the last three seasons. I believe JJ Redick will have no problem finding ways to get open and hit the three this season for the 76ers.
Overall, this is the year where Philadelphia 76ers fans will fully see “The Process” pay off. After years of rebuilding the Sixers are finally ready to compete for a full NBA season. With lots of young talent ready to emerge onto the scene, and a seasoned coach in Brett Brown, now in his fifth NBA season, the Sixers and their faithful fans are ready to make a name for themselves. With the young talented players that that the 76ers have, I believe the Sixers will have a record of 43-39, and will be the fifth seed in a diminishing Eastern Conference.