From the very moment the Philadelphia 76ers shocked the world by drafting Joel Embiid, yet another injury-riddled center with their No. 3 pick in last weeks NBA Draft, writers everywhere have made comments about how unbearable it will be to watch the Sixers in action next season. After using their two lottery selections on a center who will be out five to eight months, and Dario Saric, who won’t be seen in a Sixers jersey for the next two seasons, most believed the draft was a failure and seeing the Sixers on the hardwood next season would be more difficult than simply gouging their eyes out. But if you really look at the upcoming roster in comparison to the one we saw compile a total of 19 wins last season, the 2014-15 campaign will actually make the wait for Embiid and Saric seem less immense.
Last season, the tank was pushed to complete emptiness as Sam Hinkie shipped his few key assets in Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner off, while leaving rookie Michael Carter-Williams surrounded with a roster of guys who seemed incapable to even compete along-side him — outside of Thaddeus Young of course. All the while, Philly kept a recovering Nerlens Noel sidelined for the entire season and focused on development for the future. In a nutshell, outside of Young and MCW, there wasn’t much about the Sixers that would attract even the most passionate basketball fan’s eye. That said, with the guys that became the newest additions to the Sixers on draft night, in addition to Noel looking to debut, and Carter-Williams growing as a player and leader, there’s no way possible basketball in Philly won’t be at least semi-entertaining in 2014-15.
So let’s look at why the 76ers will be worth watching next season. First of all will be the most notable reason with the reigning Rookie of the Year, MCW, coming back from an offseason of developing his craft after leading all rookies in points, assists, rebounds and steals. At times, Carter-Williams was likely the only reason people made their way to the Wells Fargo Center at all, as night after night, he tinkered with double-doubles and triple-doubles. Even for the simple reason of just watching the next step of evolution for the Sixers’ point guard of the future, fans will still come out to support their team.
But in addition to watching their reigning ROY, the debut of a guy who will be in the running for top rookies next season in Noel will be yet another reason hundreds of fans will flock to games, even if it’s just for the first few outings. But, if the storied progress Noel has made throughout his recovery and growth as a player sitting last seasons comes to pass, then fans will have more of a reason to fill seats than they did last season, when they were without an electrifying and defensively dominant force anchoring the paint. And for those who didn’t know, MCW and Noel were teammates back in their AAU days and had loads of success running the pick-and-role with some Nerlens lobs at the other end.
Finally, simply based on the talent the Sixers snagged in the draft who will be in a Sixers uniform this season, there will definitely be much more reason for excitement and optimism surrounding the Sixers next season. I’m not saying there’s reason to believe we could see some playoff games in Philadelphia by any means, but there will surely be more than a handful of exciting plays that lacked last season.
With their 32nd and 39th picks, the Sixers came up with some supremely athletic wings in K.J. McDaniels and Jerami Grant. Both have built their names on physical defense and explosive plays in transition, where they usually live above the rim. Seems like a perfect fit for Brett Brown’s system. The addition of Pierre Jackson will give the Sixers an explosive scoring option off the bench, which will make it a little easier to watch while MCW gets his rest. And the late-draft addition of Jordan McRae will provide the Sixers with yet another explosive wing; this time, it will be one who can actually hit shots from the perimeter.
Of course next season is destined to be another rough one, but in comparison to last season when dull talent led to an NBA record tying 26-straight losses, the Sixers of next season will be far from the most difficult they have ever been to watch.