Philadelphia 76ers: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

Expectations are high for Philadelphia this season with two No. 1 picks joining "The Process." But are the young Sixers ready for a playoff push?


Offseason Recap

Arrivals: Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick, Furkan Korkmaz, Amir Johnson, Kris Humphries, James McAdoo

Departures: Gerald Henderson, Shawn Long, Alex Poythress, Sergio Rodriguez, Tiago Splitter

The Sixers had a relatively subdued summer, although the moves they did make, which centered around their backcourt, were meaningful. It started before the draft, where they pulled off a big trade with the Boston Celtics to get the No. 1 overall pick, which they used to take point guard Markelle Fultz.

Aside from being the consensus top pick in this draft, Fultz was a valuable pick for the Sixers because, on paper, he fits well with what they want to do offensively. He’s a capable enough shooter to play more off the ball while incoming rookie Ben Simmons performs playmaking and ball-handling duties.

Meanwhile, they splurged on veteran shooting guard J.J. Redick, who will provide some much-needed experience and leadership for this young Sixers team, not to mention the knockdown shooting they lacked last season.

They rounded out the roster by bringing over former first-round pick Furkan Korkmaz, and signing another veteran in Amir Johnson to provide some insurance in the frontcourt.

Projected Depth Chart

C – Joel Embiid / Jahlil Okafor / Richaun Holmes 

PF – Ben Simmons / Dario Saric / Amir Johnson

SF – Robert Covington / Justin Anderson / Furkan Korkmaz

SG – J.J. Redick / Nik Stauskas / Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

PG – Markelle Fultz / T.J. McConnell / Jerryd Bayless

Strengths

The Sixers were a completely different team on both ends of the floor when Joel Embiid was on the floor last season. He was an incredibly efficient offensive force even as a rookie. He averaged an astounding 28.7 points per 36 minutes and shot close to 37 percent on three-pointers.

However, he made an even more valuable impact defensively. The Sixers defended at a rate better than the San Antonio Spurs or the Golden State Warriors per defensive efficiency whenever he was on the floor last season, and were a bottom-third unit when he was off the floor.

The Sixers have the potential to be a better defensive unit this season with the long and rangy Ben Simmons partnering Embiid in the frontcourt along with Robert Covington. And while Fultz is a bit of a liability, he at least has the length to get steals and blocks, while Redick is a capable team defender.

The Sixers’ frontcourt depth is one of the team’s big strengths. The Embiid and Simmons combination is one of the more uniquely talented frontcourt duos in the game and figure to be a matchup nightmare for most opponents. Dario Saric and Richaun Holmes, who were steady contributors last season, should be strong backups, and they still have Jahlil Okafor and Amir Johnson in reserve.

The Sixers were very good at blocking shots and forcing turnovers last season thanks to their length on defensive activity. And now that they have Fultz and Simmons, they will be capable of turning those turnovers into transition opportunities. 

Weaknesses

Despite Embiid’s excellence for part of the season, the Sixers were still dead-last in offensive efficiency last season. They simply lacked enough consistent playmakers when Embiid was not playing to keep the offense afloat.

The arrival of their two No. 1 picks, Simmons and Fultz, should help. Simmons will presumably run the offense for the starting lineup, while Fultz could be staggered to handle more bench-heavy units. Although, relying on two rookies is hardly a surefire formula for improving the offense.

A big reason for the offense’s struggles last season was the team’s carelessness with the ball. They finished dead-last in the league in terms of turnover rate. But again, they could continue to have problems taking care of the ball with two rookies running their offense.

The team also struggled in terms of rebounding, particularly on the defensive end. Having a canny rebounder in Simmons will help, and his ability to turn defensive rebounds into transition opportunities will be a good weapon for the Sixers. However, having Embiid for more than 31 games would be an even better solution for their defensive rebounding woes.

Unfortunately, the Sixers just aren’t sure how long their star player can last, and the possibility of Embiid going down at any moment remains by far their biggest weakness.

Player to Watch – Ben Simmons

After an extra year of waiting, everyone will finally get to see what Ben Simmons is capable of. The LSU product came into the league with apparent flaws in his jumper, but his ability to handle, pass, and create plays with the ball in his hands was so good he still went No. 1 in the 2016 draft.

Simmons should present unique matchup problems for most teams thanks to his impressive athleticism and skill set as a point forward. Not many teams have the power forwards quick enough to keep up with him along the perimeter, and at 6’10”, he should be able to overpower smaller wings.

Simmons has already given a quick taste of what to expect from him in his belated rookie year in preseason:

Simmons’ shooting will be something to watch for the entire year, but the Sixers have at least surrounded him with a team that should put him in the best position to succeed. He’ll have the ball a good chunk of the time in their starting lineups, and the shooting of Embiid, Covington, Redick, and Fultz should give him the space he needs to operate.

Lonzo Ball may be the sexy pick to win Rookie of the Year, but Ben Simmons will push him hard for the award.

2017/18 Schedule

1 Oct 18, 2017 @ Washington Wizards

2 Oct 20, 2017 vs. Boston Celtics

3 Oct 21, 2017 @ Toronto Raptors

4 Oct 23, 2017 @ Detroit Pistons

5 Oct 25, 2017 vs. Houston Rockets

6 Oct 28, 2017 @ Dallas Mavericks

7 Oct 30, 2017 @ Houston Rockets

8 Nov 1, 2017 vs. Atlanta Hawks

9 Nov 3, 2017 vs. Indiana Pacers

10 Nov 7, 2017 @ Utah Jazz

11 Nov 9, 2017 @ Sacramento Kings

12 Nov 11, 2017 @ Golden State Warriors

13 Nov 13, 2017 @ Los Angeles Clippers

14 Nov 15, 2017 @ Los Angeles Lakers

15 Nov 18, 2017 vs. Golden State Warriors

16 Nov 20, 2017 vs. Utah Jazz

17 Nov 22, 2017 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

18 Nov 25, 2017 vs. Orlando Magic

19 Nov 27, 2017 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

20 Nov 29, 2017 vs. Washington Wizards

21 Nov 30, 2017 @ Boston Celtics

22 Dec 2, 2017 vs. Detroit Pistons

23 Dec 4, 2017 vs. Phoenix Suns

24 Dec 7, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

25 Dec 9, 2017 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

26 Dec 10, 2017 @ New Orleans Pelicans

27 Dec 12, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

28 Dec 15, 2017 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

29 Dec 18, 2017 @ Chicago Bulls

30 Dec 19, 2017 vs. Sacramento Kings

31 Dec 21, 2017 vs. Toronto Raptors

32 Dec 23, 2017 @ Toronto Raptors

33 Dec 25, 2017 @ New York Knicks

34 Dec 28, 2017 @ Portland Trail Blazers

35 Dec 30, 2017 @ Denver Nuggets

36 Dec 31, 2017 @ Phoenix Suns

37 Jan 3, 2018 vs. San Antonio Spurs

38 Jan 5, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons

39 Jan 11, 2018 vs. Boston Celtics

40 Jan 15, 2018 vs. Toronto Raptors

41 Jan 18, 2018 @ Boston Celtics

42 Jan 20, 2018 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

43 Jan 22, 2018 @ Memphis Grizzlies

44 Jan 24, 2018 vs. Chicago Bulls

45 Jan 26, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs

46 Jan 28, 2018 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

47 Jan 29, 2018 @ Milwaukee Bucks

48 Jan 31, 2018 @ Brooklyn Nets

49 Feb 2, 2018 vs. Miami Heat

50 Feb 3, 2018 @ Indiana Pacers

51 Feb 6, 2018 vs. Washington Wizards

52 Feb 9, 2018 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

53 Feb 10, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

54 Feb 12, 2018 vs. New York Knicks

55 Feb 14, 2018 vs. Miami Heat

56 Feb 22, 2018 @ Chicago Bulls

57 Feb 24, 2018 vs. Orlando Magic

58 Feb 25, 2018 @ Washington Wizards

59 Feb 27, 2018 @ Miami Heat

60 Mar 1, 2018 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

61 Mar 2, 2018 vs. Charlotte Hornets

62 Mar 4, 2018 @ Milwaukee Bucks

63 Mar 6, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets

64 Mar 8, 2018 @ Miami Heat

65 Mar 11, 2018 @ Brooklyn Nets

66 Mar 13, 2018 vs. Indiana Pacers

67 Mar 15, 2018 @ New York Knicks

68 Mar 16, 2018 vs. Brooklyn Nets

69 Mar 19, 2018 vs. Charlotte Hornets

70 Mar 21, 2018 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

71 Mar 22, 2018 @ Orlando Magic

72 Mar 24, 2018 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

73 Mar 26, 2018 vs. Denver Nuggets

74 Mar 28, 2018 vs. New York Knicks

75 Mar 30, 2018 @ Atlanta Hawks

76 Apr 1, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets

77 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Brooklyn Nets

78 Apr 4, 2018 @ Detroit Pistons

79 Apr 6, 2018 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

80 Apr 8, 2018 vs. Dallas Mavericks

81 Apr 10, 2018 @ Atlanta Hawks

82 Apr 11, 2018 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Prediction

Given the state of the other Eastern Conference teams, the Sixers should be right in contention for one of the final playoff spots this season. But even with the arrival of Simmons, Fultz, and Redick, their fate is still largely tied to Embiid's health.

If Embiid is healthy for even 50-60 games, their chances of making it would be that much better. However, if Embiid once again doesn't last half the year, which is a distinct possibility, they could struggle to break into one of the top eight spots.

What likely happens is Embiid plays somewhere between 35-45 games as the Sixers finish 35-47, not quite good enough for the young Sixers to make it back to the postseason.

Do you think the Sixers are capable of making the playoffs this season? Let us know in the comments below!

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