For the past two seasons the word that has consistently been associated with 76ers basketball is “rebuilding” (some may claim the word is “tanking”). Now in year three of General Manager Sam Hinkie’s master rebuilding plan, the City of Brotherly Love is expecting to see some progress. After all, rebuilds can’t last forever and eventually an improving product needs to be seen night in and night out on the court at The Center.
To his credit, Hinkie sounds optimistic about year three of trusting the process. And he should…I mean they can only get better right? During a fourteen-minute media session last week Hinkie covered a range of questions and hinted that he believes the Sixers will improve on the court in 2015-16. A coachable group of young, skilled players who are willing to put the work in seems to be main reason Hinkie acknowledged that we should expect a step forward from the Sixers this season.
“I told Brett (Brown) it feels night and day compared to 24 months ago when we were at St. Joe’s,” said Hinkie when referring to the outlook of the last couple years and this upcoming season. As far as head coach Brett Brown there seems to be a mutual partnership. “I’m glad you guys like Brett Brown just as much as I like him,” Hinkie said when asked about Brown’s time in Philadunkia nation.
Hinkie is right, 18-20 wins this season isn’t going to cut it. There has been major improvement with the additions of players such as Kendall Marshall and Nik Stauskas. Now neither of the moves were national headline grabbers and I don’t think they will lead to the Sixers contending for the Eastern Conference title, but both provide significant upgrades for Brett Brown’s rotations this season. In particular, bringing in Stauskas provides the Sixers’ lineup with a much needed perimeter threat who can drain open threes and score off the dribble some.
Obviously the point guard position is an area where this team needed to improve drastically from last year. Hinkie attempted to address this issue during the off-season as along with Marshall, Hinkie has 3 other new prospects along with returning players Isaiah Canaan and Tony Wroten battling for the starting lead guard spot during training camp and the preseason. While none of these players are considered future All-Stars, this type of open competition gives the Sixers’ brass an opportunity to find a diamond in the rough that can actually help this team.
Of course, let’s not forget about Jah! This summer and during the preseason, the rookie big man has looked powerful and his polished post game was made for scoring on slower NBA big men. After their preseason contest against the Wizards, in which Jah scored 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting in just 17 minutes of action, Marcin Gortat called Jah, “a smaller Al Jefferson” (FYI: that’s a compliment). Gortat also noted the following about Okafor, “He’s on my list right now.” We assume Gortat’s comment is a sign that the “Polish Hammer” was impressed by Jah’s skills.
With a year of NBA action under his belt and a reshaped shooting stroke, Nerlens Noel should take his game up a level. Wroten will eventually be healthy and can provide a change of pace and a scoring punch as the 6th man. Robert Covington’s leap from D-League All-Star to the Sixers’ starting lineup in 2014-15 turned a lot of heads. He has now spent 70 games and a full training camp in Brett Brown’s offensive system, so it is reasonable to expect that “Cov’s” offensive contributions in 2015-16 will be more consistent. Finally, the team also boasts some depth with second year prospects Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson coming off the bench.
In short, the bar should be set higher for the 76ers than during the previous two seasons of the rebuilding process. I’m not saying playoffs by any means. Still, Hinkie was right, who wants players that don’t have playoffs on their mind? Playoffs or not, it’s not unreasonable to expect that a better season is just around the corner and fans should start to buy in to the Sixer buzz now.
Tyler Cook is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @.
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