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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sixers 2013-14 Season Preview





By: Steve Zoladek
Follow him on Twitter @WarRoomPHLSteve by clicking here
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With NBA Training Camps opening up this Saturday, the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers season is almost upon us.  After a disappointment of a season last year that saw Jason Richardson go down with an early knee injury and Andrew Bynum milk his own knee injury for the entire season, the Sixers completely revamped their entire organization with a new front office, coach, and roster.

The Team



(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
The most talked about move this offseason for the Sixers, and perhaps the entire league, was the trade they made with the New Orleans Hornets Pelicans to deal away All-Star PG Jrue Holiday for the sixth overall pick of the 2013 Draft, Nerlens Noel, and a top-five protected first-rounder in the star-studded 2014 draft.  Before the draft, Noel was the favorite to be taken first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who instead chose to go with UNLV product Anthony Bennett.  Noel was then passed on by Orlando, Washington, Charlotte, Phoenix.  The explanation on why it happened wasn't clear.  Some said that questions were raised about the knee that he injured during his freshman season, others said that it was because of his lack of offensive game. Whatever the reason, Nerlens was devastated.  Sixers fans, however, were elated.  They got a defensive gamechanger in the paint, as well as a defensive stopper at the PG position in Michael Carter-Williams. Do I think that MCW is going to be the point guard of the future for the Sixers?  No.  I believe that the point guard that will lead this team for the next ten years is in the upcoming draft (Marcus Smart, perhaps?).  I also believe that MCW will play a key role for this team for a long time.

When the Sixers shipped out their leading scorer, most of Philadelphia was in an outroar at first.  They acted like the Richmond players when Coach Carter kicked out their two leading scorers from the previous season. Which led to one of my favorite lines of the movie: "Then I guess we'll have new leading scorers this season, huh?"  Looks like Thaddeus Young is going to be our new leading scorer!  Thad had a fantastic season last year at the power forward spot, averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds (a career high), despite rarely having a play called for him; most of his points last season came from offensive rebounds and fast breaks. Expect his number to be called this year early and often.  With Noel out until December recovering from his knee injury and Andrew Bynum being allowed to walk in the offseason, Spencer Hawes becomes the best center on the team by default, which speaks volumes about the state of the team this season.  Evan Turner will undoubtedly be in the starting lineup, and will provide the same average numbers that he's been contributing for the past two years.

The Sixers bench looks very different compared to a year ago.  They replaced Dorell Wright and Nick Young with James Anderson and Tony Wroten, which is obviously a downgrade. With Richardson's knee injury, James Anderson may win the starting shooting guard job simply because he lacks any competition.  They brought back Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown; the former could see time as the starting center, while the latter will provide close to nothing that could be deemed productive.  Arnett Moultrie, a player who was in the doghouse under Doug Collins, is out until at least January with an ankle injury.  They brought in Royce White, who has anxiety issues and butted heads with Houston Rockets management.  To round out the roster, the Sixers signed a couple of undrafted guards, Khalif Wyatt and Vander Blue, and former Laker guard Darius Morris to partially guaranteed deals. Wyatt is the hometown kid, a Temple alumnus that averaged 20.5 points per game last season.  Vander Blue played for Marquette last year and averaged 14.8 points in his junior year.  Morris played very little for the Lakers, averaging just four points in 14 minutes per game.

The Coach

Sam Hinkie, the Sixers' new GM, was hired on May 10th, 2013.  What was thought to be his most important job (finding a new head coach) was put on the back burner until after he completely changed the roster.  It took Hinkie three months to finally find his head coach, Brett Brown, on August 14th, 2013.  Brett Brown never made it to the NBA as a player, but he did play under a former NBA coach, Rick Pitino, while he was at Boston University. Playing for Rick Pitino would be the foundation for the coaching career that would eventually lead him to Philadelphia.

(via Associated Press)
For the first 14 years of his coaching career, Brown was making his way around Australia; first as an assistant, and then as a head coach. As the head coach of the Melbourne Tigers, he posted a 149-129 win-loss record in 278 games.

He made the jump to the NBA in 2002 as the San Antonio's Spurs director of player development.  After five years, he finally earned a spot on Greg Popovich's bench, where he spent the next six years of his career, before signing a four-year contract with the Sixers. So what type of style does he plan to bring to Philadelphia?

He has been known as more of a defensive mind, but has been known to run a complex motion offense.  He used that offense as the head coach of Australia's national team in 2012 and made Patty Mills a force to be reckoned with.  He has already said that he will not force his team to shoot three-pointers, which the rest of the league has been leaning towards, because he doesn't have the correct personnel.  I applaud him for making that logical decision that other teams in the league can't seem to reach.  With an offensively limited team, expect the Sixers to rely on creating turnovers and getting out on the break.

The Front Office


(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Hinkie believes in the analytical approach to building a team, naturally, since he was the protégé of current Rockets GM Daryl Morey for eight years in Houston.  Daryl Morey turned a team that lost stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady into a team with Dwight Howard and James Harden by stockpiling prospects and making the right moves.  Expect Sam Hinkie to be just as good.  Imagine this is "Moneyball".  Sam Hinkie is the Peter Brand to Daryl Morey's Billy Beane.

Hinkie is a man with a plan.  He started off a new era of Sixers basketball when he traded away point guard Jrue Holiday.  He slipped the franchise out of the bonds of mediocrity, and ushered in a wave of excitement about the prospective future.  Unfortunately, Sixers fans are going to have to suffer through a year of terrible basketball and then a couple of years of growing pains, but the future is bright.  He also traded away the largest salary on the Sixers' roster, allowed Bynum's monstrosity of a contract to expire, and opened them up to a ton of cap space for the future.  They only have $23 million committed to their entire roster in 2014-15. The New York Knicks are paying over $23 million to Amare Stoudemire ALONE in 2014-15.  IN HINKIE WE TRUST!

The Predictions

1. Evan Turner leads the Sixers in scoring up until the All Star Break, and will subsequently be traded to a playoff team for a future first round pick.

2. Your starting five for opening night will be MCW-Anderson-Turner-Young-Hawes.  MCW will get the nod over Darius Morris simply because he's a much better defender.

3. Sixers fans sell-out Nerlens Noel's first game at the Wells Fargo Center. Well...maybe not, but they'll at least get 18,000 fans there.

4. Jason Richardson plays inspiring basketball up until the trade deadline, and will get swapped for an expiring contract. (Edit: Richardson isn't coming back until January either, whoops)

5. The Sixers finish with a 17-65 record and win the right for the most ping-pong balls in the upcoming lottery, which they will then lose and get the third overall pick.

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