Today’s generation of professional sports offers a unique perspective not given to us in previous decades: social media. No longer are the days where press conferences and snip-its of journalism are the only avenues to take in order to get into the ever-so-sought after mindset of, say, an NBA player. Instead, if you simply glide your thumb up to refresh your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook applications, you now are on the fast track towards a trip into the psyche of some of professional sports most prestigious participants.
Sixers fans were gifted with an excellent opportunity to peer down this aforementioned ‘fast track’ as Sixers point guard Tony Wroten sent out a bold, spirited tweet that plastered out his thoughts on the upcoming 2015-16 season.
— Tone Wroten (@TWroten_LOE) August 26, 2015
Through two years of struggle and hardship, each and every Sixers player has always said the right things to the media. Phrases like “trust the process” and “just keep getting better” were used repetitively by players, which was shocking considering the rest of the NBA and countless media outlets proclaimed the Sixers organization to be intentionally stripping their roster of talent, or “Tanking”. This had to frustrate the players who, amidst whatever “plan” GM Sam Hinkie had in mind, still gave every ounce of effort they could on an obviously struggling roster.
If we were waiting for this frustration to boil over, for one player to say “this is enough”, we may have finally found him. Tony Wroten thinks the Sixers are ready to turn the corner.
Every player in professional sports, or in simply any sort of natural competition, wants to win. There’s no doubt there has been chatter in this Sixers locker room over the past two calendar seasons regarding how deflating winning only approximately 20 percent of your contests can be. This chatter, however, has always stayed in house/behind the scenes; this makes Tony Wroten’s public display of dismay so much more shocking.
Despite pumping adrenaline due to coming off of an injury that sidelined him for most of last season and playing for a team (and even leading a career) that has adopted the “underdog” phrase, we must wonder: does Tony Wroten actually have reason to believe the Sixers are ready to turn the corner? Or could this simply just be early season hype?
In my opinion, the Sixers franchise has nowhere to go but upward. How fast this Sixers franchise gets to the “promised land” is the real question to give second thought too. So while I share the thoughts of many in thinking the Sixers will improve next season, I also hold the same belief as Wroten in that next season will be more than just incremental success: 2015-16 will be a “turn the corner” type season for the Sixers.
That’s right: the Sixers will finally turn the corner in the 2015-16 season and therefore exit the gutter of the eastern conference.
But … how?
With a season spanning 82 games, there will be nights where certain players, no matter how excellent their physical condition/talent, will simply not be “feeling it”. Despite popular belief, there will be those nights where Jahlil Okafor might not be getting his fair share of calls from the refs, or maybe some nights the Sixers backcourt will have trouble taking care of the ball. In whatever case, these type of games always make fans of any team cringe as a winnable game may turn into a dog-fight before their very eyes. Sometimes, winning these dogfights comes down to stellar outside shooting. For instance, a player who can catch fire from beyond the arc has the ability to keep his team in a game that they very well may not deserve to win. The Sixers have quite the crop of solid outside shooters that can bolster the Sixers offensive numbers while also keeping them close on the scoreboard. Nik Stauskas, who one could argue is a pro in large part because of three point shooting, for sure is locked into this category. Add in a full season from Robert Covington, a three point threat off the bench in Hollis Thompson, and a young guard like Pierre Jackson willing to score in quick bunches, and it’s plain to see the Sixers are stocked with several three point specialists: certainly more than last season. Games that the Sixers lost, say 100-96, last season may turn to W’s this season with the three-point threats now present on the roster.
Of course, these shooters need some airspace to get open, and what better to do this then with two 7 footers to clog the paint. Yes, the Sixers finally have TWO seven footers working the middle and none of them are named Joel. Okafor and Nerlens Noel will both take the court in a Sixers uniform next season, creating an interesting dynamic that for sure can aid Philly in taking the next step into becoming a contender in the future. Okafor is a gifted offensive talent, knowing very well how to shift and maneuver his body to finish tight lay-ups and draw fouls. Noel, on the other hand, is more known for his defensive prowess around the rim, like blocking shots and rebounding for instance.
Combining these two players who possess seemingly opposite skillsets will certainly be fun to watch, as both will learn to play off of each other and mask up the weaknesses of each other naturally.
A group of three point marksman settled with a pair of complementary players on the Sixers front line are just what the doctor ordered. I firmly believe next season will not see the Sixers near the bottom of the league in points per game like in previous years past. Teams will be faced with a difficult task: shall they create immense pressure at the three point line and leave both Okafor and Noel (both solid passers in the post) relatively unattended to under the basket? Or shall they double down on the two towers, while risking that one of the Sixers aforementioned hot hands get several open cracks at three pointers?
Although the Sixers aren’t stocked with all-stars, the minor dilemma will be enough to keep the Sixers as competitive as ever while also incrementally raising the confidence of a relatively young roster.
Tony Wroten may be on to something.