As the start of the NBA season gets closer, here are three things every Sixers fan should keep an eye on during the preseason.
76ers fans are about to witness something they haven’t seen in some time – a meaningful basketball season. As the team begins its preseason preparations, there are actually some very good reasons why fans should finally pay attention – three of them in fact.
1. To see if the team can lose the culture of losing
Under the guidance of the still unemployed “genius” Sam Hinkie, the Sixers had a combined record of 47-199 over the past three seasons. In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, GM Bryan Colangelo correctly pointed out that this “process” caused a culture of losing to permeate the team:
“There was a losing culture. There was a losing mindset. It had been ingrained, partly due to the undertaking of rebuilding that they had been going through… It becomes part of the fabric of the team. I think more than anything, the mindset needed to shift; the mindset needed to change. And that’s why we’ve been talking about winning — doing everything we can to promote winning, to promote a culture of excellence.”
Normally NBA preseason victories are about as meaningful as Brad and Angelina’s wedding vows. However, that will not the case this year. If the Sixers ever hope to reverse the damage done by Tank 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, this preseason would be a good place to start.
2. To see if the team could actually field three legitimate “Rookie of the Year” Candidates
Last season, the Sixers won only ten games (just one better than the all-time NBA worst of nine wins), so the bar is set pretty low for the upcoming season. We know this year will be a better year in terms of their record, but how much better? That depends to a large extent on the play three young players coming on board.
Simmons is the only number one overall draft pick the Sixers have had since they chose Allen Iverson twenty years ago. And while he may not have the Hall of Fame career that Iverson did, there is every indication that Simmons is a future star in the making. His greatest strength is his passing ability – and so one thing to watch this preseason is whether other players on the team can hit open shots after getting the ball from him. Simmons’ scoring ability should be under the microscope as well.
Unlike most NBA rookies, Saric comes into the league as a fairly well-seasoned veteran, thanks to a wealth of experience playing in Europe and as a member of the talented Croatian Olympic Team. Saric is a “plug and play” type player who is just as comfortable banging in the paint as he is hoisting up shots from three-point land. And like Simmons, he too is an excellent passer. Can he have a major impact on the team this year? This preseason may give us some indication of that.
Of the three candidates the Sixers could have for Rookie of the Year, Joel Embiid is the least likely to contend for that trophy. The reason for this will be his restricted playing time due to health concerns which will lead to smaller numbers on the stat sheet for him. Coach Brett Brown has made it pretty clear that Embiid will not be playing every night, and when he does play, it will probably be for 20 minutes or less. Nevertheless, it should be fascinating to see if Embiid can live up to the incredible potential that many believe he has. Will he become one of the dominant big men in the league, or will his propensity for getting injured limit him to being just another Yao Ming-like bust? We should begin to get some glimpses of that this preseason.
3. To see if Brett Brown can put the pieces together
Perhaps the one person who has suffered even more than Sixers fans over the past three dreadful seasons is head coach Brett Brown. A real class act, Brown has been repeatedly handed a pile of rancid chicken-bleep and has valiantly attempted to produce chicken salad. Now, for the first time, he has more than just one or two legitimate NBA players on his roster. But can he somehow bring order to the ridiculous mishmash of talent that he has been given? Honestly, there are currently so many big men on this roster that they had to shoot the team photo in portrait mode rather than landscape. So another thing to watch for this preseason is how Brown attempts to put the ill-fitting pieces of this puzzle together.
More Sixers: Why Jahlil Okafor Should Be The Starting Center
But regardless of what happens, basketball is back!
Despite ripping off the fanbase night after night at the aptly named Wells Fargo Center, there is finally some good news for the Sixers faithful – NBA basketball is back in Philadelphia! This preseason should give us at least a glimpse of what that basketball could look like in the near future.
Check back with us often here at the Philly Sports Cave and follow us on Twitter @PHLSportsCave to keep up with how the team is progressing throughout this upcoming season.