Atlantic Division Preview: Sixers

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Atlantic Division Preview: Sixers

In the final installment reviewing the state of the Atlantic Division heading into the 2013-14 NBA season, John Finger tells us what to expect out of the Sixers:

Philadelphia 76ers
2012-13 record: 34-48 (fourth place in Atlantic Division)

Arrivals
The entire roster save for Thad Young, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown.

Departures
Jrue Holiday, Andrew Bynum, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, Damien Wilkins.

Projected starting five
PG – Michael Carter-Williams
SG – James Anderson
SF – Evan Turner
PF – Thad Young
C – Spencer Hawes

Fun fact
Thad Young and Spencer Hawes were teammates in the 2006 McDonald’s High School All-American game. Going into his seventh season, Young is the longest-tenured Sixers player since Andre Iguodala spent eight seasons with the team. With seven years in the NBA, Young won’t turn 26 until next June 21.

Outlook
No player has averaged 40 minutes per game since Monta Ellis did it in 2010-11 for Golden State and no Sixer has done it since Allen Iverson in 2005-06 (though Iguodala averaged 39.87 minutes per game in 2008-09). The significance of this is with the Sixers’ inexperienced and depth-challenged roster, Young and Evan Turner will be counted on to play heavy minutes for Brett Brown.

Look, we all see that 10 to 15 wins is going to be a fight for the Sixers this season. In the rebuild of all rebuilds, the Sixers are looking to the 2014 NBA draft in which they could have two lottery picks. In the meantime, it’s going to be a long, trying season on the court for the Sixers.

Projection
Is the 9-73 record of the 1972-73 Sixers in jeopardy? Doubtful. However, each win the Sixers get in 2013-14 is going to be a battle. Nothing will come cheap for the Sixers this season.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens (Noel) - Jahlil (Okafor) thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."