Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers' 2014-15 schedule and predictions

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Sixers' 2014-15 schedule and predictions

The NBA schedule was released Wednesday evening. Like the NFL, the NBA made a big deal of it and did a one-hour show on the league’s television network.

The season opens Oct. 28 with the defending-champion Spurs against the Mavericks in a Lone Star state showdown. The Cavaliers and Bulls will play each other for the first time on Halloween night. Christmas Day -- the league’s annual showcase -- will feature all the expected storylines: LeBron James and the Cavs take on the Heat; Thunder vs. Spurs; Warriors vs. Clippers.

Not listed for any of that: The Sixers. You are no doubt shocked.

This feels like a missed opportunity for the NBA. What, no Timberwolves-Sixers clash on Christmas? Sure, Thad Young said he didn’t know anything about a trade to the Timberwolves for Anthony Bennett, but come on. That would make him the only guy who doesn’t think something might happen. (It’s a good idea for the Sixers, by the way.) Imagine the inflated ratings for a Young-Bennett meeting. The NBA is totally missing out on tens of extra people.

Or what about a Bucks-Sixers game? Think of the advanced billing. The two worst teams in the NBA a year ago meet on Christmas Day in … [dramatic pause] Bricks for Picks. They could have Bill Murray reprise his role and give it the Frank Cross/Scrooged promo treatment. It sells itself.

For added entertainment, there could be a halftime trivia contest consisting of questions about the CBA, the salary cap and arcane league rules. On one side, Sam Hinkie. On the other, all the general managers who pushed for the ridiculous lottery reform proposal. Winner gets to decide what happens to the lottery, and when. Tell me you wouldn’t watch that. Even Alex Trebek and Sean Connery would tune in.

Ah well. Some Sixers’ dates of interest:

• The Sixers open the season Oct. 29 on the road against Indiana. Then they head to Milwaukee before returning to Philly. Without Paul George and Lance Stephenson, maybe the Sixers squeak out a win against the Pacers. But maybe not. Call it 0-2 to start.

• Like last season, the Sixers will play their first home game against the Miami Heat. Unlike last season, James will not be present. And unlike last season, when the Sixers somehow beat the Heat and started the year 3-0, they’ll probably lose. Because they are not good. That's analysis. You're welcome. Call it 0-3 to start -- or 0-4, actually, with the Rockets coming to town in the next game.

• The Sixers play the Magic in the fifth game. If they don’t win that one, they’re probably looking at mid-November, when they host the Celtics, before they have a shot to get a victory. Added bonus: Evan Turner returns to Philly, only he’ll be bricking three-pointers in Boston green instead of Sixers red. Everyone wins that night.

• James and the Cavs come to Philly on Jan. 5. That gives all the faux Heat fans in the area some time to convert to Cleveland gear.

• If everything goes to plan and Young is flipped to Minnesota for Bennett, then Young will return as a member of the T-wolves on Jan. 30. Maybe he’ll get a video montage. If Andre Iguodala got one, Thad gets one.

• The Clippers play the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 27. If you like stars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin should be in attendance. If not, hey, look at that, it’s Spencer Hawes.

• Oh, and the Sixers have a seven-game road trip that will keep them out of town for Christmas and New Year’s. Lucky them.

So that brings us to the prediction portion of the program. The Sixers have the worst odds to win the NBA championship this season. They’re listed at 300/1 with the Bucks. Poor Milwaukee. (Has that city discovered the wheel? Or fire?) The Sixers won 19 games a year ago. That’s about the right ballpark this season. After going through the schedule and doing the win-loss thing -- I lead a full life -- I have the Sixers going 21-61. Two more wins. That’s called progress.

Don’t worry. The Sixers should be the worst team in the NBA this year. The Bucks, despite being lumped with the Sixers in terms of title odds, have appreciably more talent on the roster -- in that they have talent beyond three players (or two and a half in the Sixers' case, depending on how you feel about Bennett). There’s not another team in the NBA that should come anywhere close to being as bad as the one Philly has right here. Rejoice. Own it. The future will be upon you soon enough.

In a predictable development, certain prognosticators have the Sixers finishing last in the reconfigured and suddenly interesting Eastern Conference. After (seconds of) consideration, I concur. My far-too-early predictions for the East:

1. LeBron James (58-24): LeBron James, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and LeBron James. Cleveland is the best team in the conference.

2. Chicago Bulls (56-26): Even after trading Loul Deng, and even after Derrick Rose went down again, they were still good last year. Now Rose is (ostensibly) healthy. They went out and got Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott. And they still have one of the best defensive and passing centers in the league in Joakim Noah. Love the Bulls.

3. Toronto Raptors (49-33): They didn’t do much in the offseason -- except re-sign Kyle Lowry. Which is all they really needed to do.

4. Atlanta Hawks (47-35): Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and (a healthy) Al Horford as the starters. Thabo Sefolosha, Adreian Payne (love me some Adreian Payne), Pero Antic, Kent Bazemore and some combination of Shelvin Mack/Dennis Schroder off the bench. That’s a good team in the East. They make the jump this year.

5. Washington Wizards (46-36): Do not mess with The Polish Hammer.

6. Charlotte Hornets (45-37): The Hornets are starting to shape up. Like the Lance Stephenson addition. Really like the contract.

7. Miami Heat (43-39): Still a team that plays basketball.

8. Brooklyn Nets (41-41): Positive: Brook Lopez will be back. Negative: Paul Pierce won’t. Positive: Hey, Deron Williams looks healthy(ish). Negative: They have no draft picks until the rapture.

9. Detroit Pistons (40-42): Sleeper team for the eighth seed. Stan Van Gundy knows what he’s doing. He gets a pass for giving Jodie Meeks a three-year deal worth $19 million. Chalking it up to just-took-the-job jitters. SVG will settle down.

10. New York Knicks (38-44): Carmelo Anthony can dry his tears with $1,000 bills. (Do they make $1,000 bills? I could consult Google but … nah.)

11. Indiana Pacers (36-46): All the Roy Hibbert they can handle. What a grim situation.

12. Milwaukee Bucks (30-52): Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a star pretty soon. Jabari Parker will add much-needed scoring. Larry Sanders has issues, but he and John Henson give the Bucks some serious rim protection. Brandon Knight was OK last year (that’s a compliment). Ersan Ilyasova … still has potential. Could be worse.

13. Boston Celtics (28-54): Without Rajon Rondo, this team would completely crater. Did you know they gave Avery Bradley a four-year deal worth $32 million? Avery Bradley couldn’t believe it either.

14. Orlando Magic (27-55): That’s four more wins than they had a year ago. They might throw a parade.

15. Philadelphia 76ers (21-61): Asset acquisition continues. Smile.

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss who should be the Sixers' sixth man going into the 2017-18 season.

Camerato
This role has become a hot topic since the Sixers finally have the pieces to put together a consistent starting five and establish a go-to sixth man. This summer I wrote an article on the starting lineup in which I projected Robert Covington to start and Dario Saric to come off the bench as the sixth man. The Sixers need Covington’s defensive presence at small forward and Ben Simmons likely will start at power forward while running the floor. Not every reader agreed in the comments section and the Saric-as-a-starter sentiment was echoed on social media. 

I still see Saric as the best fit for sixth man. This role is often filled by a starting-caliber player. Saric had 36 starts as a rookie, including all 25 games in which he played after the All-Star Break. Brett Brown wants the Sixers’ sixth man to be on the court to end games. Saric averaged more minutes (7.1) in the fourth than any other quarter last season. 

The key would be getting Saric to buy in to being the sixth man. Saric worked his entire career to be the best player he could be. He is his own toughest critic and became visibly disappointed when he had letdowns last season. There is a shift in mindset going from a starter to the first player off the bench. Saric can thrive in this role, but first he has to embrace it and not looking at it as a demotion. The sixth man can be just as valuable, if not more, than a starter. 

Haughton
With a widely projected starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Simmons, the Sixers’ sixth man would appear to be a lock as Dario Saric. After all, Saric is a strong all-around player and coming off an impressive rookie season.

However, that starting five may force Brett Brown to go in a different direction with his first man off the bench.

Sure, Brown’s opening group may have a lot of firepower, but it lacks a necessity of legitimate NBA teams: a proven floor general. With Fultz and Simmons in the backcourt, the Sixers have two players that have yet to take part in an NBA regular-season game. They also will be trying to adjust to playing off the ball (Fultz) and running the team as a full-time point guard (Simmons).

That’s why I believe Brown may opt to go with Jerryd Bayless as his first reserve to combat the expected growing pains of his rookie backcourt. Bayless didn’t exactly wow Sixers fans by playing in just three contests a season ago because of torn ligaments in his wrist, but the veteran still has 513 career games under his belt (29 in the postseason) and knows how to play both guard positions.

It may not be the preferred pick, but Bayless may be the necessary choice as sixth man if the Sixers hope to achieve their goals in the upcoming campaign.

Hudrick
I know it doesn't please some Sixers fans that Saric seems destined to come off the bench, but really, it's a great sign.

Saric has proven to be a good NBA player after a strong rookie campaign, but think about it. This roster suddenly has talent. People are getting giddy and talking playoffs. Do you know what playoff teams have? Good players coming off the bench. It's not a knock on Saric as much as it's a testament to how talented this roster has become.

I will say that Matt's idea of using Bayless as the team's sixth man is interesting. Brown puts such a heavy emphasis on the point guard position. He's referred to it as the hardest position to play in the NBA. And now he's turning the keys over to a 6-foot-10 player that's never truly played the position. 

In the end, I'm going Saric. He should come in and dominate most team's second units offensively. Plus his grit and energy are perfect for the role. The Sixers just have to hope he embraces it.

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Guess what time it is … just over a week until the start of training camp. Playoffs, winning records and restrictions are on the minds of a lot of Sixers fans. Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions with #CSNSixersMailbag. 

My prediction for this season is 43 wins. That being said, the win total has so much to do with health and restrictions.

The Sixers finished 28-54 last season. Reaching 43 wins would be a significant jump. I heavily considered their 10-5 month of January for this projection. That was the small window last season when the Sixers (finally) had a healthy group to work with and Brett Brown could coach a team, not just a revolving door of players. Based on the potential they showed during that month, a 15-win improvement is not out of the question.

I did factor in the fact the Sixers have 14 sets of back-to-backs. It remains to be seen in how many of those Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be cleared to compete. I would expect restrictions to be heavier at the start of the season, when the Sixers’ schedule is stacked with playoff-contending opponents. Even if the team starts out below .500, they will have the opportunity to catch up in the standings in the second half of the season when their schedule is much more Eastern Conference-heavy. 

And if you’re thinking playoffs, the Bulls grabbed the eighth seed last season with a 41-41 record. The competition in the conference has lessened and teams may be able to get into the postseason under .500. 

Good question, and one that will be a hot topic for Simmons and Embiid this season.

The team has not announced minute restrictions for Simmons, who has yet to play in an NBA game because of a right Jones fracture. That will be further evaluated during training camp and into the season. 

I would expect the Sixers to place some type of restriction on Simmons and monitor him carefully as they did with Embiid. Whether that is a limitation on minutes or consecutive games is to be determined. 

Simmons is a key piece for the Sixers’ future, not just the 2017-18 season. They will not rush into playing time just because he is cleared for game action. 

From lottery picks to postseason seedings, yes, we are talking about the playoffs before the season even begins.

The Eastern Conference is wide open for teams to move up in the standings. Trades by the Pacers, Bulls and Hawks have created the opportunity to shake up last season’s top eight. 

I made this prediction earlier in the summer and I’ll stick with it in mid-September: I am projecting the Sixers as the seventh seed in the East. That’s behind the usual five, the Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards, Raptors and Bucks and … the Hornets jumping back into the playoffs at six. 

Of course, playoff predictions for any team, especially the Sixers, depends on health, player availability and future trades. 

Feels like a while since last season ended, right? Here are some dates to look forward to before Opening Night on Oct. 18 against the Wizards in Washington, D.C.:

Sept. 25 - Media Day

Sept. 26 - Start of training camp

Oct. 4 - First preseason home game against the Grizzlies