Although the Sixers finished with a lackluster record last season, there was still plenty to be encouraged about. Saric finally came stateside, Covington established himself as one of the premier perimeter defenders, and Embiid captivated the entire city of Philadelphia with his stellar performance. Heading into this season there are even more reasons to be excited- as well as a few reasons to be skeptical- about the Philly based franchise. I’ll break them all down as I project the ceiling and the floor for the 2017-18 Sixers:
Let’s start with the worst case scenario. Although I believe they have the tools to be a successful franchise this year, the reality is that the Sixers have major injury concerns heading into this season. Embiid and Simmons injury histories are well documented, and 2017 #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is now dealing with shoulder soreness. You simply can’t win games if your top three players are sidelined for extended periods of time, so health will be the key to the Sixers season.
Another thing I feel is being lost in the buzz and excitement of the upcoming season is the lack of an established winning culture only. Philly has only registered a mere 75 wins in the last four seasons combined- an average of roughly 19 games. It’s easy, and perhaps even well founded, to say how the past teams weren’t nearly as talented as the current bunch, but the lack of a winning culture remains. This isn’t to say the Sixers won’t establish one, but if one isn’t ingrained early the season may get away from them a bit at times.
My last worry about the Sixers is the lack of consistent outside shooting. Last season, the Sixers ranked 25th in three point percentage (34%) whilst attempting the seventh most three point attempts per game (31.2). Over the past several seasons the NBA has transformed into a three point reliant league, and it was apparent the Sixers wanted to feature it in their offense, but did not have the personnel. While offseason additions JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz, and Furkan Korkmaz should provide aid in that area, it remains to be seen if or with what amount of consistency Fultz and Korkmaz can do it at the NBA level.
Out of these three Sixers struggles I’d say health is the biggest obstacle to overcome. Philly can maneuver their way through a pedestrian Eastern conference whilst learning what it takes to be a winning team. The team could also manufacture wins without shooting a barrage of three pointers. If the injury bug rears its head again; however, the Sixers can’t hope to be more than the tenth or eleventh seed in the East, especially if Embiid gets injured (viciously knocks on wood).
In all honesty, if the team remains healthy and Fultz and Simmons are what they’re expected to be, I don’t see a way the Sixers finish outside the top five in the depleted Eastern Conference. This Sixers squad is incredibly talented and are going to create major matchup mix ups (try saying that five times fast) with their jumbo lineup. We caught a glimpse of what the team was capable of last season with Embiid leading the charge, and with the big man healthy along with reinforcements it’s difficult not be excited about their potential. Brett Brown finally has a full arsenal at his disposal and I believe he leads this team to a 44+ win season and their first playoff berth since 2012.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Aaron Gash