As many people view “The Process” as being completed with the drafting of Markelle Fultz on Thursday, the fans in Philadelphia are ecstatic, ready for the city of brotherly love to finally be a basketball city once again. The 76ers currently have 14,000 season ticket holders, and anticipate every home game to be sold out, something not seen in Philly since the Iverson-era. The hype is finally here, but expectations for this squad are all over the place for this upcoming year. We hear “championship” the same number of times that we hear that “Joel Embiid is the next Greg Oden”. What can we anticipate for the 2017-2018 season?
Let’s start with the positives. The first thing that can finally be said is that the core, the young nucleus, is finally in place. Joel Embiid is a 7 foot 2 post monster who can take it to the rim and has a nice touch from outside. Ben Simmons will be a 6 foot 10 primary ball handler whose passing ability has been compared to a young Magic Johnson. Dario Saric, the Croatian sensation and potential 2016-2017 rookie of the year did not disappoint this season with his flashy passes and decent mid range game. Markelle Fultz, the DMV product who averaged 23 points per game as a freshman at Washington has received James Harden comparisons. This group of four could be extremely dangerous, and is arguably the quartet with the highest potential in the NBA.
Also, despite moving up two spots in the draft to get Fultz, the 76ers still possess a ton of assets, including cap room for this free agency period. Bryan Colangelo seemed rather hesitant on potentially signing a star and using a max deal on a player and that’s fine. They need to see how these guys gel, especially due to the fact that Simmons and Fultz haven’t played an NBA game yet. Still though, the 76ers could make a medium splash (JJ Redick and the 76ers have mutual interest) and not break the bank. Also, if these four are in the starting lineup, this bench, which has been atrocious for so long, might now actually be average to above average. Nik Stauskas, TJ Mcconnell, Jahlil Okafor, Richaun Holmes, Furkan Korkmaz (1st round pick from 2016 potentially coming over), Jerryd Bayless, Timothy Luwawau Cabarrot make up the bench, and anticipate a veteran or two to fill it out.
Let’s move onto the hesitations. Did you know that the 76ers haven’t been able to stay healthy? It’s been sad to see player after player go down starting with Andrew Bynum in the blockbuster trade and most recently with Ben Simmons. The 76ers must stay healthy if they want to see the process through. The other thing that must be mentioned is the moving parts. There are teams all of the time that have a bunch of moving parts, and takes the a while to adjust (if they do adjust). An example of that is the Lakers are Kobe started moving towards the end of his career, and the Lakers managed to add Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and it totally blew up in their faces. It’s going to take some patience, but if we have been patient enough for this long…
Expectations wise, what is this team going to do next year? The Eastern conference was a little bit better this past year, with the #8 seed getting in at 41-41. A 13 win improvement would be needed to reach that number, and that seems doable. The 76ers ceiling for this upcoming year is a #5-#6 seed in the Eastern conference and stealing a series in the playoffs, while their basement is an improving team that just misses the playoffs. Still, the 76ers are ready for the next step of the process, to be a contending team in this league sooner rather than later.