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?
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
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.
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: