It's not all doom and gloom for the 76ers: Much of the action over the next six months will be painful to watch, but there is the sense that the ship is, in fact, in the process of being righted. That light at the end of the tunnel doesn't appear to be a train, but we won't know for certain until at least two years from now. With so many questions surrounding the Sixers, it's difficult to offer a definitive statement about the future. Some of the answers (MCW's jump shot, Noel's ability to play the 4) may very well come this season, while others (Embiid's health, Saric's ability to adapt to the NBA) figure to be at least a year or two away. Given the likelihood of yet another top-5 pick being added to the mix next summer, the player who will ultimately lead the Sixers out of the doldrums and into contention may not even be on the roster yet.
2013-14 IN REVIEW
5th in Atlantic Division - 14th in Eastern Conference
The Philadelphia 76ers made a big splash on draft night in 2013, trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first round draft pick. Noel would unfortunately be forced to sit out the entire season as he recovered from the torn ACL he was diagnosed with in his freshman year at Kentucky, but he is an intriguing specimen that could turn into a big time player down the road.
The Sixers would have to wait a year before they got a chance to see what Noel is made of, but on the bright side, they also had the 11th pick in the draft and they filled their point guard position with 6'7" Michael Carter-Williams. His presence was felt immediately wih a sensational NBA debut of 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds against Miami, and he was impressive as any newcomer in the league. Not only would MCW go on to become the third player since Oscar Robertson in 1960-61 to lead all rookies in scoring (16.7 PPG), rebounding (6.2 RPG) and assists (6.3 APG), he finished top 10 in the league in steals and ran away with the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
However, first-year head coach Brett Brown would be in for a long year with a young team that had no chance to compete from the start. In February and March, the 76ers ended up tying the 2010-11 Cavaliers for the longest losing streak in NBA history, as Philly dropped 26 games in a row.
Some good things happened for the squad in the midst of the brutal number in the win and loss column. Thaddeus Young had his best year as a pro thus far, putting up 17.9 points, six rebounds and 2.1 steals per game as the leader of the team. Second-year combo guard Tony Wroten was also one of the most improved players in the league, with 13 points, 3.2 rebounds and three assists per contest after barely playing at all in his rookie campaign with Memphis.
Receiving an opportunity to start on the wing for 62 of the 80 games he played in, fourth-year shooting guard James Anderson played solid basketball and contributed over 10 points and three rebounds per game.
Even Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner were having their best individual seasons before the 76ers traded each of them in separate mid-season deals. Turner was moved to Indiana in the Pacers' controversial decision to bring him in for Danny Granger, who the Sixers waived immediately. On the same day, Hawes was traded to Cleveland for Henry Sims, Earl Clark and two 2014 second round draft picks.
Henry Sims did an admirable job as Philly's starting center for the rest of the season. In 26 games with the Sixers, the former Georgetown Hoya put up 11.8 points and seven rebounds per game as his feel for the game and high activity level earned him extended minutes.
Brett Brown got some good things out of his young group, but that didn't change how difficult of a season it was. Philadelphia finished the year as the NBA's second-worst team at 19-63, which is the franchise's worst record since the 1995-96 season when they went 18-64.
The youth movement is in full effect in Philadelphia and if last season was any indication, it is going to take some time before this thing starts to turn around.
SUMMER OF 2014
Key Additions - Joel Embiid, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved, K.J. McDaniels
Key Losses - Thaddeus Young, James Anderson, Byron Mullens
The 76ers entered the 2014 NBA Draft lottery with the second-best odds, and made out pretty well by ending up with the third overall pick in the draft. After Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were selected in the top two as expected, Philly went with Kansas center Joel Embiid at number three. Unfortunately, there's a good chance he misses the entire 2014-15 season as he recovers from his broken foot, but he is well worth the wait.
Embiid possesses outstanding potential on both ends of the floor, with a raw yet complete skill set, if that makes any sense. The seven-footer's defensive potential is especially promising, with excellent lateral mobility and an ultra-disruptive 7'5" wingspan. On top of that, he has a high motor, strong work ethic and has shown great flashes of being able to score both in the post and from mid-range.
The thought of Embiid and Noel together on the defensive end of the floor is out of control. Good luck attacking the rim on Philly when those two get together.
With the Pelicans pick that they acquired in the 2013 Jrue Holiday deal, the Sixers went with some international flavor by taking Dario Saric. The 6'10" Croatian big is raw yet skilled with a nice touch, he can shoot the ball out to three-point range, he is an active rebounder and he has a high basketball IQ. He won't make his way over to the NBA this season, but he could turn around to be a terrific long-term project that has the potential to complement Noel and Embiid perfectly.
In the second round of the draft, Philadelphia picked up a potential steal in Clemson's K.J. McDaniels. A strong 6'6" swingman, McDaniels improved in each of his three seasons at Clemson and put up over 17 points and seven rebounds per game in his junior year in 2013-14. As head coach Brett Brown tries to figure out his rotation, which will probably to change many times throughout the season, McDaniels is likely to get a lot of minutes in his rookie year.
After seven years with the 76ers, Thaddeus Young was dealt in the three-team Kevin Love trade that sent Young to Minnesota in return for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved and a 2015 first round pick from Cleveland. Young played his best basketball in 2013-14, posting career highs 17.9 points, 2.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game to go along with six rebounds, but was ready for a change of scenery. This deal adds an asset with the first round pick saves Philadelphia some money, as both Mbah a Moute and Shved's contracts expire at season's end while Thaddeus Young will be due up to $18.9 million over the next two years if he picks up his player option for 2015-16.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - Henry Sims / *Joel Embiid*
PF - Nerlens Noel / Arnett Moultrie / Brandon Davies
SF - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute / K.J. McDaniels / Chris Johnson
SG - Hollis Thompson / Alexey Shved / Elliot Williams / **Jason Richardson**
PG - ***Michael Carter-Williams*** / Tony Wroten / Casper Ware
* Joel Embiid underwent surgery on a broken navicular bone in his foot at the end of his freshman season at Kansas, and many have noted that it is unlikely that he will play this season.
** Jason Richardson - Is he still alive?
*** Michael-Carter Williams is in the process of recovering from shoulder surgery in the offseason, and no clear timetable has been set for his return. Tony Wroten will start in his place until he comes back.
X-FACTOR - Nerlens Noel
This season probably isn't going to go much differently than what went down a year ago, and the 2014-15 regular season will be used as a developmental period for their young core. The most intriguing piece is Nerlens Noel, who missed the entire 2013-14 season as he recovered from a torn ACL.
Noel has a chance to become a game changer, especially on the defensive end of the floor. If he can show signs of working towards reaching his sky high potential, it could change the outlook of the season to a certain degree. Don't be surprised if Noel is one of the first names mentioned in this season's Rookie of the Year race.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2014-15
It's no secret that the Sixers could very well end up the worst team in the NBA this season. Philly fans know what to expect, it's going to be another tough year filled with a lot of growing pains. However, a young core of Carter-Williams, Noel, Embiid and their 2015 lottery pick is very promising and exciting to look forward to.
5th - Atlantic Division
15th - Eastern Conference
Keep your eyes peeled for the Phoenix Suns preview, coming later today.