- NBA Rank: 20
Conference Rank: 11
- Philadelphia 76ers
Guys who might not be superstars but because of their hustle, because of the little things they do, these are the guys who can really mean the difference between winning and losing.Dwyane Wade
The 76ers are going to be a bad team. But they aren't going to be historically bad. The mainstream media has made a very large fuss over two things that Sam Hinkie has done: 1) he took forever to hire a coach, and it was well after the draft when he finally did (meaning he didn't value having a coach on board to influence any draft choices), and 2) the team is operating at or below the league minimum payroll, and for a long while had many roster spots to fill. These facts led most analysts to believe that Philadelphia wanted to lose. I disagree; I think it is far more likely that management does not care if they win. The distinction is important, and it's why the "over" on Philadelphia is one of our biggest predictions this year.
The 76ers' new general manager, Sam Hinkie, worked with Daryl Morey in Houston. He is, by all accounts, an "advanced stats" guy. I'm not really sure what this really means about him, but judging by the things that he and his "mentor" Morey have said in public, I suspect that Mr. Hinkie believes strongly in a few key ideas:
- You cannot contend without a superstar or a couple of star players
- There are market innefficiencies to exploit for many players (i.e. inefficient scorers get overvalued, efficiency is undervalued unless it is at volume)
- Draft picks are very valuable, especially if your talent evaluation is good
- Getting the far better end of a deal is worthwhile, even if it doesn't make your team currently better, unless you are contending
Note that although some or all of these may lead to situations where "winning now" is not important, none of them require "losing on purpose". Again, I am not privy to the 76ers' decision making processes, but this very much looks like a team that is making decisions based on real vs. perceived value, and where each individual decision is not about winning now, but about putting the team in a better position overall. Sometimes the two will overlap, but other times it won't. For instance, over the next 4 years, having Noel on the roster will be far superior to having Holiday on the roster. But it won't be this November and December.
|Jrue Holiday ||2926||23||.077||4.7|
|Dorell Wright ||1783||28||.185||6.9|
|Nick Young ||1411||28||.052||1.5|
|Damien Wilkins ||1095||33||.069||1.6|
|Royal Ivey ||698||31||.085||1.2|
|Maalik Wayns ||165||22||-.282||-1.2|
|Justin Holiday ||142||24||-.119||-.4|
|Shelvin Mack ||7||23||.050||.4|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
Last year the workhorses on this relatively bad team were Young, Wright, and Holiday. Holiday, however, was nowhere near as good as the popular perception. He posted a career high in points, but that was only because he took a career high number of shots -- his shooting efficiency was at a career low, and was well below average for a point guard. He also caused a great deal of turnovers. Fans will say that he made up for this by being a great defender but even if that's true (I'm not sure I accept the premise), that makes him a role player, not a star. It's shocking to me that New Orleans gave up this year's best prospect (torn ACL or not, Noel was the best prospect) and an additional first round pick to acquire, essentially, a replacement-level point guard.
The Spencer Hawes gamble looks like it isn't working -- his 2011/12 season may have been an anomoly. But that's ok, because the contract was both cheap and short.
|Michael Carter-Williams ||1.0||2406||22||.023||1.1|
|James Anderson ||2.4||1788||24||.072||2.7|
|Darius Morris ||1.0||1352||23||-.020||-.6|
|Nerlens Noel ||5.0||782||19||.112||1.8|
|Tony Wroten ||1.9||660||20||.016||.2|
|Vander Blue ||2.0||515||21||.006||.1|
|Mac Koshwal ||4.0||388||26||.055||.4|
|Hollis Thompson ||2.0||189||22||.055||.2|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
As you can see, this year will basically be more of the same: stellar play by Thaddeus Young, and not a lot else. There should be a bright spot as Moultrie will get some more minutes (despite his injury), and we think that this will make a positive difference. As bad as some of these wing players are....well, they're replacing minutes from Nick Young, so there's no harm done. The loss of Wright hurts but probably not that much.
Our projection for Noel's minutes is very low, and his per-minute performance projections are modest; if he comes back in January and gets starter minutes, or if he lives up to pre-torn-ACL projections, things can get even better for him and by extension the 76ers.
What it boils down to is this: the 76ers are a bad team, no question, but the vegas over/under of 16.5 wins is simply ridiculous. It amazes me that some folks are predicting that this will be the worst team of all time. Those people have very short memories. Let's consider the lockout Bobcats. That teams best player was Derrick Brown. Derrick "Who the hell?" Brown. It managed an astounding 6 players that produced negative win totals. I am not sure that people understand just how bad a team's players need to be to drag it down to the 16-win level. The fact is, this roster has a borderline star, a budding young star, and a bunch of guys who are "only" sub-par. There are no players on this list anywhere near as bad as, for example, Tyrus Thomas, Darko Milicic in the 11/12 season. If Thaddeus Young were surronded by the likes of the Kevin Love's supporting cast on the 10/11 Timberwolves, we'd have a different projection, but there aren't any truly pathetic players on this roster.
And there is one final fact that everyone keeps forgetting: they'll be playing games in February and March vs. other teams that have just as little interest in winning. It wouldn't suprise me at all if they finish with 25 wins, but 16 wins would require truly herculean effort towards losing.
Our projection of nearly 35 wins is bound to attract some scorn and laughter. The fact is that this roster simply doesn't have enough truly terrible players to be "historically" bad. Consider that only 27 teams have done this since 1946, and take another look at how horrific the rosters of those teams were. When you add to the fact there is almost no chance that David Stern (Adam Silver) is going to allow his final (first) season to be marred by shenanigans in the style of "Mark Madsen shoots 7 threes in the fourth quarter" this year, it's going to be downright hard for Philly to lose 20 games no matter who it trots out on the floor. In fact, simply by trying to win, even with its underpowered roster, it has a longshot chance of eeking in to the playoffs by wiping the floor with other terrible teams that aren't trying too hard.
Finally, given that the 76ers play in a division where only the Nets look strong, and a conference that's far weaker than the West, predicting that this team will surprise a few people seems like a no-brainer.
The Second Opinion Arturo nods his head
16.5 wins in a "tank year" (i.e. a year where several teams will probably be trying more-or-less on purpose to maximize their lottery chances) is a tough number to achieve. The last two tank years (2002-3 and 2006-7) saw 17 wins and 22 wins respectively take the crown for worst record. The thing is, these years provide incentives for everyone to lose. The Sixers, as covered above, haven't got a terrible roster and they'll be playing teams that will be trying to lose.
I actually think that they might even bring some of their injured players back after the All Star break, get them some run and be a decent team. That's better than, say, the Suns, who will not have any injured good players to bring back.