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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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Brad Taningco

Brad Taningco has been a RealSport NBA contributor since Decemeber 2016. But apart from basketball, he's also a fan of soccer, American football, baseball, and ice hockey.

  • Frywalker

    Ben Simmons is the Sixers starting PG not PF. Go look at what the coach says about it, and check out what position he starts at on the box scores of pre-season.

  • Brad Taningco

    Hey Frywalker. I don’t really think it’s that important what Simmons is defined as in terms of traditional positions (C, PF, PG, etc.). I acknowledged that he’ll basically take on point guard duties and be the team’s primary ball-handler and playmaker on offense while their prototypical PG Fultz plays more off the ball.
    However, he’s not going to guard opposing point guards on defense; with his size, he’ll likely guard power forwards, especially when he plays with Embiid, Covington, Redick, and Fultz, which is what I project as the Sixers’ best lineup.
    Call Simmons whatever you like – point guard, point forward, power forward. But in this era where position roles are getting more and more blurred and varied, I don’t think it’s much of an issue to get worked up over.

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

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