Sixers Big 3: Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Not a gut-instinct thing. More a practical, rational, numbers-crunching deal.
As the 76ers get set to open their 2017-18 season in a couple hours to as much or more fanfare than they’ve experienced in Philly and beyond since, sheesh, Iverson and his band of pass to him-first, defense-second overachievers were scratching and clawing into the 2001 NBA Finals, you gotta come up with a number.
Forty-two. Come a Joel Embiid injury or a Ben Simmons breakout into superstardom.
It seems to me a realistic win total for a team suddenly packed with talent … and loaded with question marks.
Let’s face it. We really, truly don’t know what to expect here. We can hope, dream, even pontificate on the pros and cons, but it’s a total guess at this point … until we see whether Generational Player 1’s body holds up or not and whether Generational Player 2’s game, particularly in the outside shooting department, evolves or not.
Markelle Fultz, this year’s No. 1 pick courtesy of another edition of Tank City? Honestly, once you get past Big Joe and Ben everyone else is pretty much a role player.
J.J. Redick, the over-priced off-season pick-up, is your pre-determined sharpshooter so desperately needed on a squad filled with wheeler-dealers who have little or no touch from more than two feet away from the basket.
Robert Covington is your over-looked “glue” guy who actually turned himself into one helluva all-around, mid-level player with some serious defensive chops against 3s, 4s and even 2s.
Dario Saric is Simmons Light, and we’re not talking skin color here, either. They have similar games, one from the left side, of course, and more skilled. But, still, very similar. Both 6-10, with pretty good handles, and not just the willingness to pass, but the ability to do so as well. Saric just happens to be more comfy hoisting it up himself, which may work well coming off the bench in conjunction with the scoring-driven Fultz, giving the second group a nice 1-2 offensive punch.
Trusting the process has taken fans and head coach Brett Brown through four mind-numbing seasons of 19, 18, 10 and 28 victories, respectively.
But it has yielded two overall No. 1s in Simmons, Fultz and an otherworldly human in Embiid, who somehow manages to cram both incredible athleticism and unbelievable awkwardness into a now well-muscled 7-foot-2 frame. Saric, too. Not to mention avenues for the likes of a gym rat such as T.J. McConnell to show that he has real value in the NBA.
Jahlil Okafor? Umm, nothing to mention there … unless he brings in something, anything in a trade. It only stands to reason that the team will improve, perhaps dramatically so, with so many pieces now in place. Able to play, together, once and for all.
So, 42 seems safe. Sound. Almost sensible.
Could it be more? Sure. Less? No doubt.
But given the progression of things here, natural or not, the team, the organization does appear pointed in an upward direction. Even the recent signing of Embiid to a max deal despite just 31 games of experience in the three years since he was drafted is evidence the guy signing the checks has faith now.
So, why not us?
Forty-two then it is … and a spot in the playoffs.
It seems to me a realistic win total for a team suddenly packed with talent ... and loaded with question marks. Let's face it. We really, truly don't know what to expect here. We can hope, dream, even pontificate on the pros and cons, but it's a total guess at this point ... until we see whether Generational Player 1's body holds up or not and whether Generational Player 2's game, particularly in the outside shooting department, evolves or not.