37-127. That is the record since the Sam Hinkie era began.
Is that a disgraceful record? Of course it is. So many people have criticized the Sixers, saying how this plan has already failed, or that they are making a mockery of the sport. Is it Hinkie’s fault though? Sam Hinkie is making the best out of the hand he was dealt. Just take a look at what he was handed when he took over. The previous general manager had just extended Jrue Holiday‘s contract, traded away a first round pick for Arnett Moultrie, and traded for Andrew Bynum. This team was the very definition of mediocre. What Hinkie has done is exactly what Daryl Morey, whom Hinkie assisted, has done with the Houston Rockets. The only way the Rockets were able to trade for James Harden was too acquire as many assets as possible. With the Sixers owning potentially four first rounders, three young big men, and more than enough cap space, could a Harden type deal be in the works? We will not know the answer to that for awhile, but until then, let’s take a look at the 2015-2016 roster.
A Real Team?
The biggest difference between this season and the previous two is the continuity of the roster. This is a huge step for a team that has acquired 61 players since Sam Hinkie took over. Not all of these 61 suited up, and only one of the 61 decided never to show up (Andrei Kirilenko). This year there will be a lot less Chris Johnson‘s, Brandon Davies‘, and Tim Frazier‘s of the world. Not saying there will not be ten day contracts, but just less of them. For a rebuilding team, ten day contracts can only help. If for nothing else, Sam Hinkie deserves a ton of credit for finding Robert Covington. Last season, he averaged 13 points per game on 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc. With a legitimate paint presence in Jahlil Okafor, I expect his percentage to increase as there is more floor spacing.
The Great Trade Robbery
The single greatest move of the off-season was the acquisition of Nik Stauskas. This trade could go down as the biggest fleecing in NBA history. The Sixers got Stauskas and two pick swaps with the Kings, in return for Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. I mean, are you kidding me. I can just imagine Sam Hinkie on the phone, leaning over to CEO Scott O’Neil saying, “Watch this, I am gonna ask for a second pick swap now,” while he laughs at Vlade Divac. The pick swaps could be meaningless, as the Sixers could still be worse, but with the lottery you never know. It just gives the Sixers more options. Now if Stauskas can live up to his draft selection, the Sixers would have found their shooting guard. At his ceiling, he could become the next Kyle Korver. He shot the lights out at Michigan, and I personally think he suffered by being in Sacramento, one of the worst run franchises in sports. I expect Stauskas to be the biggest beneficiary of the ample amount of space created by Okafor’s presence. Remember when I said that Hinkie may be following the Daryl Morey plan? The Rockets led the league in three pointers made a season ago. What did Hinkie do by adding Stauskas and an offensive anchor in Okafor? Better three point shooting.
What To Watch
The one tangible asset that the Sixers had a year ago is looking to build upon his rookie year. Nerlens Noel was the first rookie since David Robinson to average at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. He was also the only player last season to rank in the top ten in these categories. I expect Noel to remain elite defensively but I would like to see him make some strides offensively. I would like to see better finishing around the rim, and an improved jump shot. Noel and Okafor would both improve if Noel became a threat to shoot a fifteen footer. I am also looking for Stauskas to prove that there is a disease is Sacramento. And of course, who isn’t excited to watch Jahlil Okafor. Top big man prospects do not come around often, so I am looking forward to see what he does in his rookie year, and in years to come. I can see Okafor averaging 16-18 points per contest this season.
The Sixers have been projected to be the worst team in the NBA the past two season and once again this year. I cannot see it happening. Stauskas and Okafor are big improvements from Henry Sims and Chris Johnson, the opening night starters from a year ago. This team still is not ready to make the playoffs, but they will not be the worst. I see them getting all four of their first round picks. The biggest, outside of their own, being the Lakers pick. The Lakers hype train is out of control, and in the Western Conference, they have no shot at the playoffs. They will not be bad enough to keep their pick (top three protected) either. In the 2015-2016 season, I see the Sixers going 25-57.