After two seasons of having our patience tested, we’d like to think there’s some growth in store for our 2015-16 Philadelphia 76ers.
Of course, the chances of that were immediately hindered when the Sixers announced Joel Embiid, who had been marketed as the franchise’s cornerstone in its “This Starts Now” campaign, would have another surgery on his right foot and miss all of next season. Considering Jahil Oakfor’s production in his rookie season is tough to predict, you can’t have much confidence in the team following through with their slogan.
For fans to be frustrated at this juncture is understandable. The Milwaukee Bucks had the league’s worst record in the 2013-14 season, but they’re already built to compete for one of the top four playoff spots this upcoming season, thanks to having drafted Jabari Parker last year, acquiring Michael Carter-Williams at the trade deadline, and signing former Detroit Piston Greg Monroe this offseason. The Sixers are years away from approaching that expectation.
Then again, the Sacramento Kings have been attempting to rebuild their team since they traded Chris Webber to the Sixers over a decade ago. Part of it is decision-making, but another part is luck.
Still, it’s reasonable to expect some progress in the third season of the rebuild. You can only blame bad luck so much before you start pointing the finger elsewhere. After all the draft picks and salary cap space that have been collected, management can’t wait forever in order to prove the value of these assets. It doesn’t need to be now, but it’ll need to come in the next year or two.
But it is time to take the next step, even if it’s a small one. It’s unacceptable to continue winning fewer than 20 games in hopes of attaining one of the top draft picks. They now have their guy in Okafor, and they have a nice piece in Nerlens Noel, who would’ve been the top draft pick in 2013 had he not torn his ACL. You also can’t completely rule out Embiid from ever contributing. In essence, they have enough top draft picks on their roster to stop hiding in the NBA’s basement. It’s okay to come out now.
I’m not saying they should start signing players left and right in order to instantly improve their team. Besides, the best free agents are long gone. But we do need to see improvement from their core players. Adding Okafor to a team with 18 wins last season (albeit with Carter-Williams for most of that time) should by itself help the win total. Further development from Noel and others such as Robert Covington need to also happen in order to keep faith in the Sixers’ long-term plan. If these players show promise, 25 wins isn’t asking too much. Then next summer they should be able to add at least one long-term contributor out of their several first-round draft picks.
Yes, this rebuild isn’t as fast as we’d like it to be. But let’s wait until the spring of 2016 before placing blame.