Sixers camp questions: How many wins this year?

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Sixers camp questions: How many wins this year?

With the Sixers' training camp set to open at the end of the week, there are questions that come to mind -- many questions. Over the next couple days, we will ponder those burning questions entering the Brett Brown era.

How will the Sixers fare in their division, the Eastern Conference and overall?

The Sixers are a good bet to be a lottery team given Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 overall pick in June’s draft, is sidelined for the first couple months of the season. They also have a rookie starting at point guard in Michael Carter-Williams, no experienced shooting guard and a starting center in Spencer Hawes whom would definitely be a backup on a winning team.

Brooklyn -- with its high-priced, All-Star-laden roster -- is the favorite to win the Atlantic division. The Nets have great talent with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. However, age could factor in along with having a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd.

New York will say it has a legitimate shot in the Atlantic after winning the division last season. Carmelo Anthony led the league in scoring last year with 28.8 points per game to help the Knicks win 47 games. The Knicks showed great improvement defensively, holding opponents to the seventh-fewest points per game (95.7).

The Sixers, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are all in similar situations with rosters that are looking to the future. The Raptors and Celtics have more guys with experience than the Sixers, but they are merely players that have received quality minutes and not big-time talents.

With that said, the Sixers will likely occupy the cellar of the Atlantic Division.

In the East, Miami is clearly the class of the conference. However, Indiana and Chicago -- with a healthy Derrick Rose -- will be equally difficult to beat. Those three opponents account for 10 of the Sixers’ 82 games this season.

Teams that should have similar struggles to the Sixers are Charlotte and Orlando. Cleveland, Washington and Detroit all got better on paper. Meanwhile, Atlanta and Milwaukee have changed some personnel, but were both playoff teams last season.

The Western Conference has been the stronger conference for a number of years now. The four teams I can’t see the Sixers beating at all are Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers. It would take an extraordinary effort on a given night for Brett Brown’s team to beat any of those squads when healthy.

Phoenix and Sacramento are rebuilding franchises and are the two best bets for the Sixers to at least split those matchups.

The west’s other teams have more or comparable talent to the Sixers, who will struggle to compete on the road against those squads but could stay in the fight at home.

Overall, I see 20 wins for Brown’s team in his first year as Sixers head coach.

NBA All-Star Saturday: Glenn Robinson III dunk champion; Eric Gordon wins 3-point contest

NBA All-Star Saturday: Glenn Robinson III dunk champion; Eric Gordon wins 3-point contest

NEW ORLEANS -- Glenn Robinson III is the NBA's new dunk king, with an assist to Indiana teammate Paul George, the Pacers' mascot and a Pacers cheerleader.

Robinson leaped over all three, snagging the ball from George along the way before finishing with an emphatic, two-hand, reverse jam, giving him a perfect score -- and the title -- on his final dunk.

Robinson edged out Phoenix's Derrick Jones Jr., who was done in by his failure to complete his difficult first dunk of two in the final round.

Jones still managed a perfect score on his second dunk, when he received a bounce-pass in the paint, put it between his legs and threw down a left-handed jam. But Robinson made sure it wasn't enough.

In the 3-point contest, Houston's Eric Gordon dethroned Golden State splash brother Klay Thompson. Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks won the Skills Challenge.

Both dunk finalists delighted the crowd with soaring slams over teammates and others that showcased the explosive spring in their vertical leaps.

Robinson had one dunk in which he leap-frogged one man sitting on another's shoulders, grabbed the ball from the elevated man's hands and slamming it home.

Jones jumped over four teammates including Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss in the first round. He also drew roars from the crowd when he took a pass off the side of the backboard from Booker with his right hand, put the ball between his legs to his left for a round-house jam.

The dunk that cost him was a bold one. He tried to leap a friend and the Suns' gorilla mascot, grab the ball on the way over, put it between his legs and then finish with a windmill. But he couldn't get the dunk to go down in his allotted three attempts.

DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers and Aaron Gordon of Orlando were unable to emerge from the first round. Jordan dunked over DJ turn tables and Gordon dunked after receiving a bounce pass from a drone that had flown over the court with the "Star Wars" theme music playing.

Eric Gordon got his win in New Orleans, where he played the previous five seasons before leaving last summer in free agency.

Gordon's score of 21 in a final-round tiebreaker defeated Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, the 2013 winner who had 18. The pair had each finished with a score of 20 in the final round, meaning they each had to shoot 25 more balls to decide it.

"I wasn't really concentrating on how many I made," Gordon said. "It's all about just knocking down the shot. I never counted in my head or anything. I just go out there and just shoot the ball."

Thompson was stunningly eliminated in the first round, missing a final shot from the corner that could have put him through ahead of Kemba Walker.

Big men reigned supreme for a second straight year in the skills competition, with the 7-foot-3 Porzingis beating Utah's Gordon Hayward in the final round.

Those vanquished in earlier rounds included guards John Wall of Washington and Isaiah Thomas of Boston, both because they couldn't make their initial 3-pointers required to close out the course before Hayward did, even though Hayward had trailed each of them dribbling down the court by a considerable margin before hitting his clinching shots.

Porzingis emerged from the big-men's division that included the Pelicans' Anthony Davis and Denver's Nikola Jokic.

"It's a good feeling that I'm able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you're capable of doing that even if you're tall and lanky like me," Porzingis said. "I think a lot of kids now growing up will improve those perimeter skills just seeing guys like -- I don't want to mention myself, but big guys with perimeter skills that can do it."

Porzingis and Hayward were neck-and-neck until the end of the course, but Porzingis hit his 3 first to end it.

The three-round, head-to-head obstacle-course competition tests dribbling, passing, agility and shooting skills.

Earlier on Saturday, Rollie Massimino, who coached Villanova to the 1985 NCAA championship, and Chris Webber were among the 14 finalists for this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Others include NBA referee Hugh Evans, Connecticut star Rebecca Lobo, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Kansas coach Bill Self and two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

Previous finalists returning to the ballot include point guard Tim Hardaway, record-setting high school coach Robert Hughes, Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw, former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and 10-time AAU national champion Wayland Baptist University.

Enshrinees will be announced at the Final Four on April 3. The induction ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts are Sept. 7-9.

Report: Sixers sat Jahlil Okafor because trade with Blazers was 'close to happening'

Report: Sixers sat Jahlil Okafor because trade with Blazers was 'close to happening'

Remember last Saturday night, when Brett Brown said he did not play Jahlil Okafor against the Heat because of trade rumors? All the signs were pointing to Okafor's being traded.

Seven days later, Okafor remains a Sixer at the All-Star break, but more information as to why the Sixers held Okafor out last week against Miami has emerged.

Okafor did not play against Miami because the Sixers and Portland Trail Blazers had a trade that was "close to happening," according to TNT's David Aldridge. Portland instead opted to trade with Denver for Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick, per Aldridge.

Aldridge's report contradicts a previous report from The Ringer that suggested the Okafor trade talks were "stuck in gridlock" and the Sixers were dealing with just the Pelicans.

With five days until the Feb. 23 trade deadline, the Sixers still have time to move Okafor. On Saturday, the Mavericks were linked as a potential landing spot for Okafor. Add Dallas to the list that includes the Bulls and Pelicans. Both the Nuggets and Blazers were reportedly interested in Okafor, too, before making a trade themselves. Denver opted for Mason Plumlee, and Portland added its third first-round pick in the 2017 draft, which is believed to be loaded with talent.

It's been a bizarre week for the Sixers and Okafor. Okafor didn't make the trip to Charlotte last Monday, and then wasn't traded. He did travel to Boston for the Sixers' final game before the break with his future with the organization still unclear. An answer will come Thursday as to whether the Sixers can trade Okafor, or if they will have to wait until the offseason to solve their logjam in the middle with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Okafor.

Stay tuned.