GDHQNBA15_2pg-Philadelphia 76ers

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EASTERN CONFERENCE ATLANTIC DIVISION Philadelphia The word “tank” is a dirty one in the NBA vocabulary. Throughout the League’s history, many teams have tried to lose, the better to improve their draft lots. Everybody knew they were doing it, but because they approached it in a low-key style, it was all right, for the most part. Last year, the Sixers engaged in perhaps the most egregious bit of tanking in NBA—or professional sports—history. Not only did GM Sam Hinkie make no effort to hide the fact that his team was assembling a roster that had no chance of being successful, he also advertised the fact. The result was a 19-win campaign that landed the team the third overall pick (Milwaukee lost more games, and Cleveland’s lottery luck continued) and set the team up for another season of low expectations. Even though promising center Joel Embiid (he could’ve possibly been the No. 1 pick had he not been injured) has joined the roster, he probably won’t play this year. The rest of the roster is comprised largely of players who would be deep reserves on other teams or belong in the D-League. Defense The Sixers may be able to play a little more of a halfcourt game this season because of Nerlens Noel, who has the athleticism and jumping ability to block shots and keep some rivals from attacking the rim. But he’s not ready yet to be a true force, thanks to his inexperience and relatively lean frame. Still, he’ll help some, and that’s important for a team that was 26th in the League in defensive rating and allowed an NBA-worst 109.9 ppg last year. Even if Noel becomes a reliable shotblocker, the Sixers still have to press and trap, the better to help their anemic offense. As teams that have done that throughout history have found, it’s not often a good idea, because the better teams—and most mediocre NBA squads, too— are able to handle pressure fairly easily (this isn’t college, after all), and the Sixers aren’t exactly running a collection of all-defensive team performers out there. Still, there should be some players who help out. The addition of veteran Luc Mbah a Moute will help, if only because he understands how to play on that side of the court. He isn’t nearly as mobile as he once was, but Mbah a Moute knows what he’s doing. The Sixers are hoping 6-6 rookie swingman K.J. McDaniels can help defensively, too. He has long arms and showed during his time at Clemson that he could make a difference defensively. McDaniels will bring showy rejections, but at a cost: Outside of some slashing finishes around the basket, McDaniels will be a liability on the offensive end. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Carter- Williams did average 1.9 steals per game last year as the starting point guard, but he isn’t quick enough to stay in front of the better point men in the League. He has good size at 6-6, 185, so he won’t get backed down too often, but he isn’t the strongest person for his height and can be vulnerable against guards who can turn the corner when they have the ball. It would be good if Embiid were able to play, because the seven-footer could team with Noel on a formidable interior duo. But the stress fractures he suffered last season and during the run-up to the NBA Draft will likely sideline him all year. Even if he could play, it’s unlikely the Sixers would use Embiid, since his presence might lead to more wins and perhaps a lesser spot in the 2015 Draft. Offense The Sixers want to play fast, because they are at a distinct disadvantage in the halfcourt, where they lack playmakers capable of getting their own shot—or setting up anybody else, for that matter. Philadelphia will extend its defense in an attempt to force some turnovers and get easy baskets. If the tempo can heat up, the team has a chance to be competitive for stretches and perhaps steal one late. There are precious few NBA-caliber offensive threats on the team. Carter-Williams was the top rookie last year after averaging 16.7 ppg Michael Carter-Williams Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images


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