So I had this great piece written up that I was planning to release as we got a little closer to the season, then Ben Simmons‘ foot had to ruin it for me. The Sixers are yet to release a timetable for his return but from everything that I have seen, he will be able to play around January. Now, I have been too naive in the past with Andrew Bynum, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Joel Embiid again, to actually believe that Ben Simmons will play come January. But I will hold out hope that we can see him play this year. The only thing that could change my low spirits was getting to see JOEL EMBIID PLAY AN ACTUAL (pre-season) BASKETBALL GAME. And boy was it glorious.
It had been 948 days (but who’s counting) since we have seen Joel Embiid play an organized basketball game. So his first shift went exactly as you would have expected. He was very rusty. Then his second run gave everyone a taste of why Sam Hinkie drafted this guy over Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon. He made a sweet post fade, blocked Jaylen Brown at the rim, and hit a shot with his foot on the three point-line. At 7’2″ this man is gonna be taking threes and commanding doubles in the post with defensive versatility. It is almost as if this plan required patience? There is like a phrase Sixers fans have about trusting something? Well with the flashes of potential we saw from Embiid it let us forget about our Ben Simmons trouble for a couple hours. Watch Embiid’s first game highlights here (via Max Rappoport) Now what else happened this off-season?
The past couple of off-seasons under Sam Hinkie you could be confident as a fan that he would not overspend for average players in free agency. It was comforting knowing that even with an increase in salary cap he would not sign any mediocre players to contracts that the franchise would regret. That was the biggest mystery for me going into this past Summer, how would Bryan Colangelo handle free agency? It is easy to sit there at number one and pick Ben Simmons, but free agency is where he would earn brownie points with the fans. To me, he played free agency about as well as any of us could have imagined. He got the right style of point guard to play with Ben Simmons in Jerryd Bayless to sign a three year deal in which his salary decreases each season. Bayless has shot 40 percent from three point territory in two of the last three seasons which is what you need to do as a point guard in this offense. Let Ben Simmons create and hit open shots. This same logic went into the Sergio Rodriguez signing. During the olympics this guy outplayed Ricky Rubio for Spain’s national team. What did he do best? He knocked down open shots. One of the other moves that the Sixers made was signing Gerald Henderson. He is not the greatest shooter but as shown the ability to hit open shots. His biggest impact in my mind will be his ability to play perimeter defense which this team has lacked the past three seasons.
Super Dario Time
Will the gifts of Sam Hinkie ever stop giving? Behind the drafting of Ben Simmons, this was my favorite moment of the Summer. Myself along with over one thousand other Sixers fans watched on Crossing Broad’s Facebook page as Dario Saric made his way through the Philadelphia airport. I think the fact that one thousand of us watched a man walk through an air port and tracked his flight shows how excited we were to see Saric play in a Sixers uniform. Or we just have way too much time on our hands. Either way, it is hard to not get excited for the other first round draft pick Sam Hinkie made in 2014. The play from the olympics that most people will remember from Saric is when he blocked Pau Gasol to save the game for Croatia. Watching him in the olympics it is easy to see the potential he has with Philadelphia. He is another play maker that can knockdown open shots. You see a theme here? Each year playing in Europe, his three point shooting has improved. In 2013-2014, the year he was drafted, Saric shot an uninspiring 31 percent from three. This past season, he shot 41 percent from three. As long as he continues to shoot at a high percentage from three, there is no reason you can’t play him and Simmons together at the same time. Then last night, he continued to show that improved shooting stroke hitting two threes in the first half. It looks like the time Saric spent playing professionally overseas will really help him have a smooth transition into the NBA.
If Ben Simmons was going to play all season, I would have said that the Sixers would top out at 27 wins and would not be the worst team in the NBA. Now, I am not so sure. I think the team is definitely improved but not having their best playmaker out there every night is going to hurt. I am going to say that the Sixers will win 21 games and finish in either 14th or 15th in the East with the Nets.