Early Predictions for Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineup Next Season
Here's a look at Philly's starting lineup in its second-to-last game of the 2013-14 season against the Boston Celtics:
What's one thing each of these players had in common? Every one of them started in more games last season than at any other point in their career. In fact, it was the first time a starting opportunity was given to most of them.
The difference between last year and the 2014-15 season is each players' room for improvement.
It was next to impossible to see the ceiling for some of Philadelphia's players because we had simply never seen them get consistent playing time at the NBA level before. This is no longer the case as the majority of the Sixers starting lineup will go into next season with a level of understanding.
A level that gives a much clearer picture of who they are and what they can become.
Let’s take a look at an early prediction of who will be starting for the Sixers come October.
Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams
No surprise here.
Michael Carter-Williams is coming off of winning the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, and all eyes will be on him to see what steps he's taken toward improving his game.
The offseason is generally geared for players to rest and work on specific weaknesses associated with aspects of their play. There's no question that Carter-Williams' two major areas of improvement are shooting and taking better care of the basketball.
Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to practice much of either as he's recovering from shoulder surgery to repair the labrum in his shooting shoulder. Rehabilitation has limited what he's been able to do on the court, but it hasn't had any effect on how he's handled himself off of it.
Philly.com's Bob Cooney was at the Orlando Summer League and heard from Carter-Williams about his recovery and what he thought of the draft. Both answers seemed to be exactly what Sixers fans like hearing:
I'm good and I'm still ahead of progress. I've been shooting the ball and I have full range of motion in my shot back, so I've just kept working out and do what the doctor has told me to do to get back to 100 percent.
I was real excited [about the draft]. I'm happy with what the team did. Sam [Hinkie] and coach [Brett Brown] still have a plan to be put in and I'm real excited.
Any fears of him being hesitant to support the Sixers after an offseason full of trade rumors were also put to rest as he was on the bench, coaching and supporting Philadelphia in nearly every summer league game.
It might feel like it, but the 2014-15 season is far from a make-or-break year for the former Syracuse product. It's strictly a year in which he needs to show people that his rookie season wasn't a fluke.
Anyone who watched him enough should know that it won't be hard for Carter-Williams to do.
Shooting Guard: Tony Wroten
Predicting who would start for the Sixers at shooting guard was the most challenging position.
McDaniels had a very solid summer league and proved how versatile he could end up being at the NBA level. His offensive game is a mix of slash and shoot, while a 6'11" wingspan allows him to guard multiple positions. There's a good chance of him starting in a number of games, but not right out of the gate.
Richardson makes the list simply for being a veteran. He played and started in 33 games during the 2012-13 season, but a knee injury forced him to the sideline. The fact that he missed all of last year only makes matters worse.
Still though, Richardson is a 12-year veteran who knows basketball. He's nowhere near as athletic as he was in his prime, but that's nearly impossible at 33 years old. There's a chance of him starting, assuming he's healthy.
His history has just shown us that it's a bit of a long shot.
This leaves Wroten. His first year in Philly was filled with more highs than lows, and it feels like we always hear about him improving his game in one way or another over the offseason. Wroten's best asset is that he's only getting better. Averaging 13.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 24.5 minutes per game is impressive.
Doing it at 20 generally means there's even more room to go up.
There's certainly a chance of head coach Brett Brown feeling like he's better suited to come off the bench, but the move will likely come after opening night.
The starting shooting guard spot is currently Wroten's to lose.
Small Forward: Hollis Thompson
Hollis Thompson was one of Philadelphia's many surprises during the 2013-14 season. Starting in 41 games was certainly a shocker, but the most amazing part was that he was consistently productive across the board.
Being a starter doesn't always guarantee big minutes. Thompson made the most out of his 22.6 per game by averaging 6.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 steals. Nothing about those numbers was supposed to shock or surprise you, however, they're also not his most impressive statistics. What sticks out are shooting 46 percent from the field, knocking down 40.1 percent of his three-pointers and only turning the ball over 0.8 times per game.
He rarely wowed spectators, yet he managed to get the job done on a nightly basis.
Combine his growing offensive skills with his natural defensive ability, and you've got a player who could start in around 50 games. Definitely remember that the Sixers will give some looks to others like McDaniels and Jerami Grant, though. Seeing how rookies handle being one of the starting five is important for their development along with understanding the team's most efficient workflow.
It's one of the reasons why Thompson was given his chances last year.
Still though, Thompson is the most consistent and—currently—most talented small forward on Philly's roster. While it may say a lot about the Sixers' lack of depth, it also shines on a guy who started his NBA career in the shadows.
Power Forward: Thaddeus Young
It wouldn't be surprising to see Thaddeus Young change his name to "Trade Block."
He's consistently there.
It's more than unfortunate to see, too. He's handled himself with nothing but class during his entire career, and it oftentimes feels like he doesn't get the credit he deserves.
Young is only 26 years old, but he's entering his eighth year in the league. He's coming off averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.1 steals during the 2013-14 season. It's obvious that Young would average over 30 minutes per game for the Sixers next season, but is it in his best interest?
The Sixers are going to be a very good team in five years. There's no other way to say it. The issue comes from the fact that Young will be around 31 years old by that time.
He's currently going into the last year of his contract before a player option, and there's no question that he'll be thinking about what he wants out of the rest of his career. General manager Sam Hinkie will be on the lookout for his answer, and the response could very well lead to how Philadelphia handles Young in the future.
Moving him for something would be better than letting him opt out of his contract at season's end. At the same time, there is a clear place for Young in Philadelphia when it comes to the Sixers and their next couple years.
He's clearly the starting power forward when the 2014-15 season rolls around.
We just don't know if he'll be on the Sixers when that time comes.
Center: Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel looks to be 100 percent healthy, and it appears as though his game is catching up to that number as well.
There's no doubt surrounding the fact that Noel should be Philadelphia's starting center at the start of the 2014-15 season. There are multiple areas in which he's raw and unpolished, but they don't do anything to offset the impact he makes on the court.
Las Vegas and Orlando were both witnesses to exactly what kind of impact that is.
Philly.com's Michael Kaskey-Blomain wrote an article about Noel's play over the course of the summer league. Kaskey-Blomain did a great job of breaking down what makes Noel such a special talent and why he could develop into something great:
It wasn’t just his paint protection that was impressive about Noel in Vegas and Orlando, but also his ability to defend and pressure players all the way out to the perimeter. His foot speed and athleticism allow him to defend players on the perimeter in a manner not typical for someone of his stature. He is also adept at defending the pick-and-roll, an increasingly important skill in today’s spread-the-floor NBA. Several times throughout the Summer Leagues Noel was able to not only defend, but defeat the pick-and-roll, securing a steal and igniting a fast break for his team.
Noel will experience a couple of deer-in-headlights moments during the upcoming season. There were multiple times where he looked gassed and out of shape from a conditioning standpoint while playing in the summer league, so it wouldn't be too surprising to see something similar during the regular season.
We have to remember that he just played in his first regulated competitive basketball games since February of 2013, though. A world of growing pains will come with such a long break from the game.
It's all about how he manages those moments and uses them to grow.
His first step is to be healthy and actually be on the court.
The rest will take care of itself.
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