The 2013-14 Sixers look completely different than they did in 2012-13. The roster is nowhere close to what it was last season, Doug Collins has been replaced by Brett Brown as the team's head coach, and Sam Hinkie has taken over the helm as Philadelphia's general manager.
Let's not jump into the new squad quite yet, though, as we should first take a look at how last year's team finished up:
- 34-48 record
- Fourth place finish in Atlantic Division
- Ninth place finish in Eastern Conference
The 2011-12 Sixers took the Boston Celtics to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the NBA Playoffs, so there was a lot of hope going into last season.
Philadelphia didn't really live up to its expectations though.
The franchise was never able to get into a rhythm and ended any hopes of a postseason berth relatively early in the year. There were too many problems to count, but one of the most glaring issues made the calendar feel like it was 10 years long—if you fell asleep for the whole 82-game season, then you were lucky enough to miss the excruciating, botched trade through which the Sixers acquired Andrew Bynum.
It is still painful to think about.
As disappointing as last year was, there were still some positives. One of which was how Thaddeus Young proved that he could find success as an undersized—and extremely unselfish—power forward. Of course the other highlight was that Jrue Holiday, Philly's 22-year-old point guard, made his first All-Star game. It wasn't a great season, but there were still some building blocks to be excited about.
And then Holiday was traded during the 2013 NBA draft.
The most untouchable player on Philadelphia's roster was shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans on draft night for the rights to No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel and a future first-round pick. The Sixers' future was quickly put into question.
That was until we started looking closely at Hinkie's master plan. The 2013-14 Philly squad wasn't supposed to win games; they were supposed to be one of the NBA's worst teams in hopes of getting great draft picks and developing young talent.
It was a strange way for excitement to build in the City of Brotherly Love, but there it was—lose now in order to win in the future.
Here's how the 2013-14 season will go toward accomplishing that goal.
- Michael Carter-Williams, PG (11th overall pick, 2013 draft)
- Nerlens Noel, C (6th overall pick, 2013 draft)
- Sam Hinkie, General Manager
- Brett Brown, Head Coach
Philadelphia's future will largely be dictated off of what its rookies end up doing with their careers.
Carter-Williams is being immediately placed into the starting point guard role. The 6'6" Syracuse University product has all of the physical tools to not only compete in the NBA but to thrive. His height and length are both incredibly unique for a point guard, and they are only matched by his court vision and passing ability.
Overcoming any kind of mental struggles will be the key fro him. His biggest focus will be to take care of the basketball and to continue developing his jumper. Carter-Williams can't try and be Jrue Holiday though. He needs to focus on playing his own game, and everything should take care of itself.
As for the team's other premier rookie, according to FOX Sports' Sam Amico, Brown has indicated that Noel could miss the entire 2013-14 season.
Before we continue, Philadelphia fans should stand up and start clapping. (Really though, if you're at work or in school, then stand up and start clapping. You'll probably get some great looks.)
The Sixers and fans alike should be concerned about Noel's future health. If his best move is resting for an entire season, then he should rest for an entire season. There's no point in rushing him back, especially considering that he would be playing for almost nothing since Philadelphia doesn't have much of a shot at getting to the playoffs this year
We'll have to see how Hinkie's plan of tanking the 2013-14 season away for a brighter future works, and then we'll come back to this sentence in a couple of years and evaluate what has really gone down. The team definitely seems to be headed in the right direction though.
Brett Brown is getting his first shot as an NBA head coach after spending the past six years as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs. It's unclear as to how he'll end up doing, but spending that much time learning from a coach like Greg Popovich can't hurt.
- Jrue Holiday (Traded to New Orleans Pelicans)
- Nick Young (Signed with Los Angeles Lakers)
- Andrew Bynum (Don't worry, he's the Cleveland Cavaliers' problem now.)
This section should be dedicated to only Holiday, as saying that he was the Sixers future is really no understatement. It only took him four years to reach his first All-Star game, and he did it at the age of 22.
That is pretty ridiculous.
Watching him play in a Pelicans uniform will only make Philadelphia's fans think of what he was doing in a Sixers jersey, and it's definitely going to be a little sour.
Losing Nick Young during free agency was probably for the best. He failed to cash in as the sixth man that the Sixers so desperately needed last season. Shooting 41.3 percent from the field just didn't cut it, so his departure shouldn't really be looked down upon.
As for Bynum, here's some advice to the Cavaliers' management, staff and personnel: set up some kind of video surveillance system near every bowling alley in the Cleveland area and watch the monitors closely.
That is all.
Are We Going to See the Same Evan Turner?
Turner averaged 17.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.6 free-throw attempts in 31.5 minutes per game over the course of six preseason contests this year.
The points and rebounding numbers aren't too shocking because we've seen him put up similar numbers before, but his uptick in free-throw attempts is really something that stood out.
Getting to the free-throw line in an NBA game is difficult. It often requires a player to either beat his defender or gain some kind of advantageous position on the court. From there, he generally has to attack the basket and draw contact in some kind of way.
Making it to the free-throw line in a game is one thing; to consistently get there throughout the course of a season is another.
Here's a way to put it all into perspective: Turner averaged 2.5 free-throw attempts per game during the 2012-13 season, and the NBA's leader was James Harden with 10.2.
We've never seen an aggressive Evan Turner, but averaging 7.6 free-throw attempts in six preseason games suggests that we just might be in for a change of ways.
Can Michael Carter-Williams Handle the Starting Point Guard Role in His Rookie Year?
A college season is rarely over 40 games long. Forty games would be brutal to the average human being, but it makes the NBA's 82-game schedule look like Godzilla.
Carter-Williams will be forced to handle the game-to-game responsibilities involved with being a point guard for much longer than he ever has before. Everything from playing in back-to-back games to going on six-game road trips across the country will be new to him.
Like we discussed before, he has the physical tools. The question is: can he mentally handle the extreme grind and responsibility at such a young age?
Some rookie point guards have succeeded as immediate starters, and some have not.
We'll see where Carter-Williams ends up by season's end.
How Bad Will the Sixers Actually Be?
That is the million, billion and trillion dollar question.
It's not too difficult to answer, in theory. The team should try and lose more games than the other NBA teams and get a good draft pick.
Executing this plan is much more difficult though.
For one, none of Philadelphia's players are trying to lose every game. They have their own careers to worry about, and they aren't trying to get embarrassed on a nightly basis. Another area of concern is that it's very possible for there to be worse teams in the league.
The 2014 NBA draft class will have Hinkie and Co. wishing for more losses as the season goes on. An incredibly talented draft class like the upcoming one rarely comes along, and teams who take advantage of these types of classes when they arrive tend to reap the rewards.
Now, it's Philadelphia's turn.
The Sixers have done it once before. The 1996 NBA draft was full of talent, producing players like Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. The Sixers struck gold in that draft when they selected Allen Iverson.
Will they put themselves in a position to do the same in the 2014 draft?
Michael Carter Williams
Rodney Williams, Jr.
The Sixers recently trimmed their roster down from 20 to 16 players, but they still need to get that number down to 15 by the start of the season.
Given Philadelphia's lack of size, Daniel Orton appears to have secured a spot on the squad. This means the battle comes down to Hollis Thompson and Rodney Williams, Jr.
As you can see, three key members of the Sixers will be sidelined with injuries as the season begins. As previously mentioned, Noel could be out for the season, and, according to Keith Pompey of Philly.com, there's a chance that Richardson could be out until at least late January. Arnett Moultrie should return around January as well, as noted by Nick Menta of CSN Philly.
Tony Wroten probably didn't expect to come into Philly and become the sixth man in a heartbeat, but it's exactly what happened. The team will be relying on him to score the majority of the second unit's points.
Point Guard: C+
Carter-Williams said recently that he's trying to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, via Ben Jefferson of Express.co.uk. It's hard not to initially view his goal as crazy, but he certainly has a shot at the accolade. He'll get loads of playing time and the opportunity to shine on a team without much glitz and glam.
He's definitely a long-shot, but don't count him out from taking home the prize before the season has even begun.
As far as Carter-Williams' backups go, Tony Wroten could be one of the Sixers brightest spots. The second-year guard has the ball-handling ability to play the point along with the height and scoring ability to move over to shooting guard on occasion.
Wroten will get the chance to be a good sixth man, which is a job that many Sixers before him have failed at. However, he has the talent to change this trend.
Darius Morris is the most experienced point guard on Philadelphia's roster, which is pretty crazy considering that he's only played in 67 career games. Expect him to be bringing some of what he learned from Kobe and the Lakers with him to Philly.
Shooting Guard: D-
A worse grade could go here, but there's no need to hurt James Anderson's feelings.
It isn't his fault that Philadelphia has nobody to back him up, as the Sixers will be forced to play their point guards and small forwards at the position this year in order to get any kind of rotational consistency.
As far as Anderson goes, he is the definition of unproven.
Over the course of his career, the man has played in 116 NBA games, averaging 11.1 minutes in each of them. If his 3.7 points per game average doesn't concern you, then maybe the fact that he's only started in six games over the course of his career will.
Remember, this is Philadelphia's starting shooting guard.
With all of that said, Anderson has been a sniper from behind the arc in the Sixers' preseason games, and carrying his 48.7 three-point shooting into the regular season would be a quick way for people to eat their words.
Starting with me.
Small Forward: B-
Turner's possible emergence has the Sixers' small forward position looking a bit brighter. He'll be asked to do more than he ever has though.
When it comes to offense, Turner is the guy, as he'll be Philadelphia's No. 1 scoring option. Just typing those words felt crazy, but maybe he's ready for this kind of role.
He'll also continue to be given some of the harder assignments on defense, as many of the NBA's best players compete at small forward. It's up to Turner to limit what they do.
That will certainly be a tough task.
Hollis Thompson and Rodney Williams, Jr. are competing for the last roster spot, and each of them brings something different to the court, so it's going to come down to what Philadelphia is looking for.
If they want an athletic slasher who might be able to develop into some kind of defensive presence, then Williams, Jr. should grab the spot. If they want a shooter with a more advanced offensive game, then Thompson is the man.
Power Forward: B
Thaddeus Young almost single-handedly made this positional grade an "A-," but it's impossible to ignore Philadelphia's lack of depth.
The Sixers probably don't appreciate Young as much they should. He's an incredibly unselfish and quiet player who gets the job done on the court. He's a 6'8", 230-pound wing who succeeds as a power forward. The majority of NBA players at Young's size would fall apart if they were thrown into a game as a power forward.
The problem is that he isn't a superhero. He's human and will need to take some breaks. However, going to the bench will lead to somebody like Gani Lawal entering the game.
No knock on Lawal, but he's not even in the same stadium as Young.
Spencer Hawes is Philadelphia's only legitimate interior defender. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see some of his offensive production fall because of what he'll be asked to do on defense.
Sacrificing a bit of his offense in order to make the team better on defense probably isn't ideal to Hawes, but he's been around long enough to know that you do what you're asked to do.
Lavoy "Pillow" Allen will most likely be the Sixers' first big off the bench. He's athletic enough to fluctuate between both the power forward and center positions, which definitely adds some versatility.
Unfortunately, he's incredibly soft on the court and doesn't seem to have much drive to improve as a basketball player, as evidenced by this quote he gave to Delco Times writer Christopher Vito last season (h/t Jeff McMenamin of Bleacher Report): "What have I learned? I mean, what have I learned? That’s a good question. Uhh, nothing really. I didn’t have to do any rookie duties this year, so that’s good, I guess."
As for Kwame Brown, he's going to do what Kwame Brown does. At least he won't bring anything unexpected to the plate—I mean table.
Remember, Noel is out for the season, so if you were hesitant to stand up and clap the first time, here's a second chance.
Second chances don’t come around often, though, so take advantage of it.
What to Watch For
Breakout Player: Evan Turner
There have been hints throughout this article at a possible breakout season for Turner.
It's time to stop hinting and just say it; Turner's 2013-14 season will validate his No. 2 selection in the 2010 NBA draft.
Better late than never, right?
The difference between his first three years and the upcoming season is his determination and drive. It feels like he wants to be successful so much more now than he did earlier in his career, as there is now a level of urgency in how he plays. I do not mean urgency in the sense that he rushes things, but urgency in the sense that he knows what he needs to do and that now is the time to do it.
The breakout year is coming.
Team MVP: Thaddeus Young
It's unlikely to happen, but it would be great to see Young finally see some recognition for his talent.
He doesn't put up jaw-dropping numbers that leave you in awe, and Coach Brown won't be drawing up plays for him to get the last shot. As a result, Young won't be in many positions to shine.
He will, however, do everything that he is asked to do with the maximum amount of effort. Opinions vary on this subject, but I fully believe that completely giving it your all on a nightly basis is a talent. If it weren't, then there would be a much larger number of players doing it.
When it comes to the Sixers, Young is one of the only ones that does so on a nightly basis.
He's the team's most valuable player because of it.
Most Disappointing Player: Arnett Moultrie
As previously mentioned, Moultrie won't return to the court until at least January of 2014, and the long absence has to be coming at the worst time.
The 2012-13 season was full of opportunities for Doug Collins to play the young and athletic power forward. However, although the opportunities might have been there, you wouldn't have known it based off of how little Moultrie played.
Flashes of success weren't enough to get him any consistent minutes.
Fast-forward to the 2013-14 season, and Moultrie finally had a chance to really show what he can do. Instead, he happened to get hurt and will miss almost half of the season.
He's just not landing on the right side of the coin flip involving luck, and it's definitely disappointing.
Most Likely to Be Traded: Evan Turner
Turner is in an awful position.
He could play the best basketball of his life and get traded, all because he raised his value high enough to where other teams were willing to give Philadelphia a lot in return for him.
Or he could play as bad as he ever has, and the Sixers could trade him out of disappointment and frustration.
Turner's in a bit of a lose-lose situation.
His best bet is to play great and let whatever happens happen. The better he plays, the better his future contract will be, regardless of what team he plays on.
Biggest Rivalry: Boston Celtics
Boston has similar dis-aspirations ("disaster" plus "aspirations") as Philadelphia this season. Either team could go down as the NBA's worst team, which will make their matchups this season incredibly entertaining.
The two teams are scheduled to play four times over the course of the 2013-14 season, and each could end up deciding on who ends the year at the bottom of the league.
Boston and Philadelphia are two great and storied franchises; they're just taking a one-year break from all of the good stuff and giving people a different look.
It should be fun to watch.
Philadelphia will end the season with an all-time worst record of 0-82.
The organization probably has a better chance at getting moved to London than to lose every game, so going 0-82 is clearly an exaggeration. They won't lose every game, but the season's message stays the same: lose as much as possible.
Saying that losing is the best-case scenario seems counteractive and odd, and getting used to Hinkie's plan is actually pretty difficult.
Sixers fans need to remember that Philadelphia would have been floating in mediocrity for years to come if they wouldn't have gotten rid of the team's best player this offseason. Attempting to lose on purpose in order to find success in a future draft is definitely a risk.
It just happens to be a risk worth taking.
Something randomly clicking near the end of the season would be disastrous.
Imagine going through the whole year with nearly no success. Then, with 15 games remaining, the Sixers manage to figure themselves out and go 11-4 to kill any shot at having the NBA's worst record.
Yes, it would be worthy of a couple tears.
Let's hope nothing like this happens, for our sake as much as the team's.
Final Projected Record and Placing
18-64, Second-Worst Record in the NBA
Being scared of Philadelphia overachieving is definitely warranted, because who wants to see a plan that's supposed to be great for the Sixers future go badly?
Having fear is acceptable, but don't forget that Philly isn't a good team. Compare them to almost any other NBA roster, and the Sixers will end up being the worse of the two squads.
Philadelphia can see a brighter future; it's just going to take a dark year or two to get here.