Last year I wrote a piece for GrandstandU.com that highlighted five reasons why things were looking up for the Philadelphia 76ers. Now I realize sports is a domain where we’ll most often be wrong. The constant badgering from my father about that piece has led me to that excuse many a time, though I’m not sure how wrong I am. Sure, the immediate future doesn’t look bright for Philly, currently at 0-16 and flirting with the worst start in NBA history, but whether foolish or not, I’m going to stand by the 76ers future. So here goes nothing. Five Reasons Why the 76ers Won’t Be Bad for Long: Part 2.
The 76ers are the youngest team in the league with an average age of less than 24 years. For the time being that’s certainly a disadvantage, but these neophytes have shown flashes of a bright future. Tony Wroten, while turnover prone, is averaging around 18 points and six assists. Michael Carter-Williams just posted a triple double against the Mavericks. Even Nerlens Noel, who’s coming off the ACL injury and has a limited skill set for the time being, has had some big-time blocks to go along with eight points and nearly seven rebounds a night. I truly believe there is a core taking shape in Philadelphia, even if it is at this miserable, Gary-the-Snail-type pace. They have a solid young backcourt and a front court that—although it still needs a ton of work—will be getting more help soon.
The 76ers haven’t had great luck with getting their top draft picks on the floor right away. Last year it was Noel, and this year it’s Joel Embiid. But when this former Jayhawk steps on the floor, Philly will see another piece of the puzzle fall into place. While both of their offensive games are still raw, the ceiling is high for these two lottery picks, and the two could become a great front court with their combined length, athleticism, shot blocking ability and size. With some experience, refining offensive moves and putting on more muscle, Noel and Embiid could be a scary big man duo. This is clearly a team in the process of rebuilding from the ground up, which means these things take time. These two won’t put on 15 pounds each and develop a dream shake overnight, but there’s no reason they can’t. And when they do…watch out.
The Eastern and Western conferences are night and day when it comes to climbing up the ladder. To put the matter simply, the East is full of bad teams that aren’t getting better anytime soon. Teams like the Pistons, Knicks and Celtics that could easily be jumped over with some mild improvement. Mediocrity isn’t hard to achieve and on this side of the league, where mediocrity could mean slipping into the post season as a seven or eight seed. As disgusting as that might seem, we’ve seen teams under .500 playing playoff basketball. The 76ers should just focus on winning a game or two for now, but the point remains the same.
Anybody who’s been on a losing team knows how hard it is to keep your head up and playing hard no matter what the circumstances. Maybe it’s the pressure of the impending, dubious record they are close to setting, but Head Coach Brett Brown and the 76ers are still giving their all. You could see the passion a few nights back when they actually held a fourth quarter lead for the first time this season, if only for a short time, against the Nets. Guys were diving to the floor for loose balls, pumping their fists after big plays and jumping up and down on the bench. There was a certain energy on the court, and despite all the 76ers have been through, even belief. The game after, Philadelphia went toe-to-toe with the Mavs, losing by just seven— which is pretty good considering the last meeting when the 76ers lost 123-70. It may not show in the win column, but this team has some heart.
The fact of the matter is while every reason I have listed is very possible, they are filled with a lot of “what ifs.” The 76ers’ success hinges on potential, health, development and maturity, all things that can take ages to cultivate and some that never do. When I watch this team play and I see that untapped potential, I feel like it could soon be leaps and bounds better than what it is now. But I’ve been wrong before, and there’s a good chance I’ll be wrong again. It’s both the nature of sports and life itself, but in both I’ve been taught to go with my gut. I’m not saying the 76ers will be raising banners anytime soon, but they won’t be sitting in the basement of the East for much longer either.
Follow David on Twitter @Dshug24 and listen to him on “The Friday Morning Blitz” Fridays from 10-11 am