Meet the 2014 Bad News Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the worst professional sports teams we've seen in quite some time. The Sixers haven't won a game since January 29, and they just tied the NBA record for most consecutive losses with 26 in a row. There's a strong chance that Philadelphia finishes the season on a 36-game losing streak. Think about that for a moment.
As Sean Highkin of USA Today breaks down, the Sixers have taken center stage for all the wrong reasons:
The Sixers have become a lightning rod for the tanking debate, the most blatant example of a purposely bad team since the 1996-97 Boston Celtics attempted to land Tim Duncan in the draft. There is no neutral opinion on the 2013-14 76ers. They’re either a shining example of a smart rebuild or the worst thing ever to happen to basketball, with no in-between.
A team this bad requires some introduction, don't you think? We know about rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who is having a nice season, somehow, despite his surroundings. We also know about poor Thaddeus Young, a really talented hustle player whose best efforts go to waste on a nightly basis.
But as for the rest of the roster? It's like you turn into Butch Cassidy whenever you watch the Sixers—you just say, "Who are those guys?" for two straight hours.
Well, I'm here to help. Without further ado, here are the rest of the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers.
SG James Anderson
I like James Anderson, but it's probably not a great thing when he's third on your team in total minutes played. Anderson has played in more games than any Sixer this season (the poor soul), and he's played twice as many minutes this year than in his previous three seasons combined.
Anderson was a first-round pick out of Oklahoma State back in 2010 by the San Antonio Spurs, which is a bit surprising since he didn't pan out like most of San Antonio's picks seem to.
After the Spurs waived him, Anderson bounced around a lot. He landed with the Atlanta Hawks, but he didn't make the final roster. He played in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Spurs picked him back up, but they then waived him yet again.
Finally, the Houston Rockets, general manager Sam Hinkie's former team, signed him for half a season... then waived him this past offseason.
Hinkie claimed Anderson off waivers to reunite with him in Philly, and it's worked out fairly well. Anderson is a good athlete with decent size on the wing who can shoot fairly well, and while no one is going to write home about his 11.2 PER, fans should still get used to seeing his face.
The 25-year-old swingman has one year left on his contract right around the league minimum, so he'll be brought back as a warm body who can occasionally get hot—especially against his old teams. Anderson has hit the Rockets for 36 and 30 in his two games against them this season and probably earned some brownie points with Hinkie in the process.
PG/SG Tony Wroten
Tony Wroten might be the best one-handed basketball player in the league today.
Now I know what you're doing. You are looking at that picture of Wroten and noticing that he very clearly has two hands. You are also thinking, hey, if there was a one-handed player in the NBA, I would know about it.
You see, though, Wroten's right hand is only there for show. Here's what an anonymous NBA player told Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times when Wroten was entering the league after one year at the University of Washington:
"I'd love to play against him," he said. "I'd sit on that left hand, 'cause he ain't got no right. And he can't shoot. When he gets to the league everybody's going to know that."
Both of those things still stand true. Wroten only goes left, only finishes left and he can't shoot. But with that in mind, he's a pretty impressive player. Wroten is averaging 19.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per 36 minutes, meaning he would lead Philadelphia in scoring if he got enough time.
Of course, Wroten spent much of the season stuck behind Carter-Williams and Evan Turner, who needed to play for trade purposes, and the lefty guard has had nagging injuries all year.
Still, with plenty of time left on his rookie deal, Wroten should stick around for a while. If he can develop a right hand and range on his jumper (he's shooting 23.2 percent this year from deep), then maybe the Sixers will have a capable sixth man for the future. After all, Wroten is still just 20 years old.
If we're sticking with the Bad News Bears analogy, Wroten is the Kelly Leak of this crew. There's lots of raw talent here, but he needs some molding.
SF Hollis Thompson
When an undrafted rookie can come in and start 32 games right away, there's a decent chance you're not a very good basketball team.
Hollis Thompson, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Georgetown, hasn't had to face the typical story of a rookie beating the odds, supplanting a few veterans and clawing his way for a few minutes.
Granted, Thompson has been a nice hustle player, but really he's been handed this opportunity on a silver platter. That's primarily because he's in the first year of his rookie deal and hypothetically could be a contributor down the line, where as some of the other players on Philadelphia's roster are just occupying a spot for a year.
Whether Thompson becomes an actual player or not is hard to say. He's pretty average in just about every facet of the game, and his per-36-minutes averages of 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds attest to that, as does his PER of 9.3.
But you know what? Consistently average play for a consistently terrible team isn't the worst thing, right? Thompson is one of the few players on the roster who isn't capable of making your eyes bleed after watching him the whole game, so there's some value in that at least.
He'll either become a pretty good shooter and find a role or fade away going forward, but for now, being the lesser of the evils head coach Brett Brown can give playing time to is good enough.
C Henry Sims
Philadelphia 76ers fans might not be having a great time watching their team right now, but at least Georgetown's alumni have reason to tune in. Alongside fellow Hoya Hollis Thompson, Henry Sims has been a bright spot this year since being acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Spencer Hawes trade.
Like most of the big men who come out of Georgetown, Sims is a very capable passer out of either post and generally a smart offensive player. Sims is averaging 2.8 assists per 36 minutes, which is a pretty good number, considering the offense isn't exactly running through him.
Sims has added some badly needed rebounding as well, as he's averaging 9.6 boards per 36 minutes to go along with 14.1 points. Those are some pretty impressive numbers for the second-year big man, and it's probably worth noting that Sims has the highest PER (16.9) of anyone on Philadelphia's roster.
With a good combination of size and skill, Sims certainly seems capable of sticking in the league as a rotation big man. The 76ers have him on contract through next year for less than a million per, which is another nice move by Hinkie. He's not a well-known name, but Sims belongs in the league.
C Jarvis Varnado
Did you know there's a former NBA champion hidden in this ragtag bunch?
Jarvis Varnado actually won a championship ring with the Miami Heat last season, even though he only played 40 regular-season minutes. Still, count the rings!
I'd like to think that Varnado uses that as the ultimate trump card in any argument and wears his ring everywhere he goes. After all, wouldn't you?
Aside from last year, Varnado certainly has a rich basketball history at just 26 years old. The three-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year at Mississippi State has played just about everywhere—Italy, Israel, the D-League, Boston, Miami, Chicago and now Philadelphia.
Varnado's biggest skill is his shot-blocking, but he's pretty limited outside of that. He's a true journeyman in every sense of the word, and it would be a surprise if this was the last you heard of him in the league. Big men who can defend the rim tend to hang around much longer than you'd expect.
SF Elliot Williams
Elliot Williams (not to be confused with the British author; thanks Wikipedia) has already done his fair share of bouncing around as well, which seems to be a common theme with this roster.
Unfortunately, Williams' pro career has been derailed by injuries. After suffering a season-ending knee injury his rookie year, Williams was only able to play 149 minutes his sophomore campaign before losing a whole year to an Achilles injury.
That would be devastating for any player, but Williams is trying his best to round back into form with the Sixers. The rest of Williams' contract is nonguaranteed, but Williams should have a decent shot to make the team next year, so long as he regains some of his explosiveness and makes strides in the right direction. Given his unfortunate injury history, it's hard not to root for him to make it.
PF Brandon Davies
You probably remember Brandon Davies for his play at BYU during "Jimmermania" and the suspension that may have cost that team a title. Davies was suspended for breaking BYU's honor code for having premarital sex with his girlfriend, which sparked a nationwide controversy.
Unfortunately, Davies was never really able to escape the shadow of all that. Despite putting together three more very productive years at BYU, Davies went undrafted this year.
After starting the season with the Los Angeles Clippers, Davies found his way to Philly after being released. He's struggled mightily to play against bigger competition this far, as evidenced by his 5.8 PER in 452 minutes of play.
It's hard to say if Davies will stick, as his best skill (rebounding) is pretty easily replaceable. Given how Jimmer Fredette's career has also played out, BYU hasn't had the best track record of producing pro talent lately.
PF Byron Mullens
The 76ers employ another former Clippers big man who fizzled out quickly in Byron Mullens. You probably remember Mullens most from his time with the Charlotte Bobcats, where he at least showed some promise of being a capable stretch 4.
The problem with players like Mullens who can't defend, rebound or do anything but occasionally hit a shot is that once their jumper abandons them, they're completely useless on the floor.
That's the primary reason the Clippers gave the 76ers a second-round pick just to get Mullens off their hands, as they also made the mistake of giving him a player option for next season, which he'll surely accept in order to stay in the league.
Mullens has found his shot in Philadelphia in very limited time, so perhaps it's not time to close the book on his career quite yet. Head coach Brett Brown can use him in special situations, but it would be a shock if another NBA team gave Mullens the kind of minutes the Bobcats once did.
Big West Boys
There's nothing like having multiple players on your roster from a powerhouse college conference like the Big West, right?
Casper Ware (Long Beach State) and James Nunnally (Santa Barbara) both went undrafted out of college, but after many battles against one another, they're now on 10-day contracts together to finish out the year with the 76ers.
I always thought Ware, in particular, had a future in the league when I covered him in college. He's a dynamite scorer, almost like a bigger, yet less athletic, Nate Robinson. Some guys just have a knack for finding their own shots, and Ware has it. He's also a very strong on-ball defender who can really pester opponents into turnovers, which is what the Sixers thrive on under Brown.
As for Nunnally, he's always been a very solid player without one skill that really separates him from the pack. Those "jack of all trades" types can often have a tough time finding a way in the league, but Nunnally is definitely a good glue guy with a positive attitude who will earn the time he gets on the floor. If his shot ever starts falling consistently, he might be able to stick.
Rest of the Roster
The rest of the roster features some more recognizable names.
Center Nerlens Noel, the sixth pick of the 2013 draft, is still recovering from his ACL tear and will make his debut next season.
Shooting guard Jason Richardson has been out this entire season with a knee injury as well, but with a player option worth $6.6 million for next year, you can bet he'll be back. You'll hear his name a lot in trade talks as an expiring deal.
Point guard Eric Maynor has played only sparingly since being acquired from the Washington Wizards. He's in the same boat as Richardson, with a player option next year for $2.1 million he's likely to pick up.
Power forward Arnett Moultrie was sent down to the D-League recently, but his option for next year was already picked up. Incidentally, he was acquired from the Miami Heat in 2012 on draft day for a future first-round pick, which is a big reason why Philadelphia is tanking this year and next.
That owed pick to Miami (now owned by the Boston Celtics) will turn into two second-round choices instead of a first if the 76ers don't make the playoffs next year.
All in all, the 76ers have had 22 different players suit up for them this season. When you've played more players (22) than you have wins (15) on the year, that's when you know you're the basketball equivalent of the Bad News Bears.