The formula for turning around a fledgling NBA franchise is well known: lose a ton of games, land a high lottery pick and draft a future star. The Philadelphia 76ers have certainly mastered the first step of this process. Entering Saturday, the Sixers own a 17-62 record, good enough for second-worst in the league. A large portion of these losses came during a historically awful 26-game losing streak that spanned from late January to the end of March.
Looking at the team’s statistics helps to explain Philadelphia’s horrendous record. Defensively, the Sixers allow 110.2 points per game, the most in the league. Offensively, they score just 96.4 points per 100 possessions, which is the lowest offensive efficiency rating in the league. These stats combine to give Philadelphia a plus/minus of -11.0, good for, you guessed it, the worst mark in the NBA.
The Sixers should not be surprised by their record or these statistics. Their front office has intentionally made the team worse in order to secure a better pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. In a blatant display of how to compile a losing roster, the Sixers traded players such as Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for little to nothing in return. The Sixers’ roster now resembles a D-League team, with guys like Casper Ware, Henry Sims and Brandon Davies earning playing time in recent games.
Despite their terrible roster, there is hope on the horizon. The Sixers’ plan of being as bad as possible has put the team in position to land one of the top picks in the draft. Philadelphia’s pick will likely fall in the top-three, giving it a chance to draft a true difference-maker. With this pick, the Sixers should draft Jabari Parker from Duke University.
Parker is a polished offensive player who draws comparisons to a young Carmelo Anthony. Parker averaged 19.3 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting during his freshman year at Duke. One of his strengths is his versatility on the offensive end.
Duke’s lack of traditional big men forced Parker to play in the post throughout the season. His low-post game developed throughout the year as he became more comfortable making moves and counter-moves on the block. Parker also showed the ability to stretch a defense with his outside game.
He shot just under 36 percent from three-point range and exhibited a repeatable shooting motion that should translate to the pros. At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, Parker is a dominant offensive player who would quickly become Philadelphia’s primary scoring option.
Defensively, Parker has plenty of room to improve. He struggled as an on-ball defender and was too often slow in rotations. Some of his defensive issues can be attributed to playing out of position at Duke, but it does not explain everything.
Parker is not an elite athlete, so he will need to learn how to use his size and length to become a reliable defender. If he winds up in Philadelphia, the team will also have to figure out whether he is better suited to play small or power forward.
If the Sixers are lucky enough to land Parker, they would have a young nucleus of Parker, Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. In addition, Philadelphia holds the New Orleans Pelicans‘ first-round pick which will likely fall around number 10. This will allow the Sixers to add another young piece like Nik Stauskas or Gary Harris to play shooting guard.
In the blink of an eye, Philly could go from an unwatchable mess to one of the league’s most exciting young teams. I guess the formula works.