Are the 76ers Failing At Failing?

Nerlens Noel may be the best player on the 76ers, and he's not yet even played for the team who has already knocked off the defending NBA champions.

Nerlens Noel may be the best player on the 76ers, and he’s not yet even played for the team who has already knocked off the defending NBA champions.

On draft day, when the Philadelphia 76ers traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel, I thought it was a great deal. The 76ers had secured Michael Carter-Williams, who I had going at 12th overall (primarily due to the shaky FG and 3pt percentages he posted in college).  With Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young in toe, I figured that the 76ers had a solid base to start building around.  As the offseason progressed, though, it seemed that the 76ers weren’t building to win a title, but rather, to win the draft lottery with the hopes of securing Andrew Wiggins in the upcoming draft. 

 

Evan Turner has no plans of giving up anytime soon.

Evan Turner has no plans of giving up anytime soon.

The 76ers took months to hire a new coach after Doug Collins stepped down and then failed to sign Turner to an offer before the deadline, suggesting that they may move him during the season.  A trade, which I thought may have great potential, landed promising, if not troubled, forward Royce White.  White, though, was soon dropped by the team.  After that, trade rumours began to swirl around Young and Turner, with the latter twice coming out in public to make declarations that seemed to suggest he thinks the team is more interested in winning the lottery than securing a playoff spot.  In one interview he professed that he was ‘not a loser’.  Another interview saw Turner claim that he and the 76ers were headed in different directions, while NBA pundits have noted that the 76ers, along with the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic and a couple other teams, seem to be intentionally tanking.

 

Bret Brown has done an excellent job developing Michael Carter-Williams so far.

Bret Brown has done an excellent job developing Michael Carter-Williams so far.

Three games into the season, Turner is not throwing in the towel.  Quite the opposite. He is putting up the best numbers of his career, as is Young.  The 76ers have won every game, one against the Chicago Bulls and one against the defending champions.  Bret Brown, it seems, is more than qualified to be a head coach in the NBA (likely all that time under Greg Popovich helped) and Michael Carter-Williams is making me look like an idiot for listing him at number 12 in my mock draft.  The 6’6 point guard has turned his shooting percentages around and cut back on his turnovers, demonstrating a quick learning curve and posting numbers that not even the likes of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordon or LeBron James ever posted, let alone posted as rookies.  It is early in the season, so it is important not to get too excited, but the potential is certainly there, especially when the 76ers have a rebounding stud like Hawes in the paint, who is posting nearly 20/10 numbers three games into the season. 

 

Spencer Hawes is posting nearly 20/10 a game so far this season.

Spencer Hawes is posting nearly 20/10 a game so far this season.

The scary thing is, the 76ers may have their best player sitting right now.  Nerlens Noel was a clear cut first overall pick.  The only issue was his injury.  With guys like Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden failing to reach their full potential due to injuries, teams were reluctant to pick up an injured center with a bum knee.  They didn’t want to be the team to draft the next Sam Bowie.  They didn’t want a player whose career would be cut short like Yao Ming’s.  So they passed up on the player who was clearly the best talent in the draft.  As a result, the 76ers were able to pick him up in a trade that not only brought in Noel, but also a first-round pick for next year, all while shedding a contract that was likely a little more rich than it ought to have been. While the history of players like Oden and Bynum may have scared teams away from Noel, the Clippers might remind us that Blake Griffin missed the entirety of his rookie season due to injury and has since demonstrated that he is a perennial All-Star and potential franchise player.   If Noel can stay healthy, it is certain that he will be a great talent in the NBA, and coupled with the potential that Carter-Williams has demonstrated so far this season, and the level of play that Turner, Young and Hawes are currently playing at, it seems obvious that the 76ers, despite what many pundits have suggested, may actually have one of the best starting line-ups in the league when healthy. 

 

Thaddeus Young may be playing out of position, but when Nerlens Noels recovers from his injury, the 76ers will be able to move Young to his natural position.

Thaddeus Young may be playing out of position, but when Nerlens Noels recovers from his injury, the 76ers will be able to move Young to his natural position.

A 10-game losing streak could easily follow this brilliant start to the season.  It is true.  Once some teams get a look at game tape of the 76ers, coaching staffs may make adjustments that can negate this quick start, but the talent level of these players still exists, and Brown is doing a solid job as coach so far.  If the 76ers were planning on tanking, then it seems that they are even failing at failing, and if players like Turner, Young, Carter-Williams and Hawes have any say on the matter, the 76ers are going into the playoffs this season, and if Noel can get healthy, they may be able to make a run.  Though this seems unlikely, even considering the strong start, the future is certainly bright; not an observation many would make if they were told a team had, for two straight seasons, traded their lone All-Star for an injured center who would likely miss the entire season (Iggy for Bynum and then Holiday of Noel).  The 76ers’ general manager, Sam Hinkie, may very well look to blow this roster up and send Turner, Young and Hawes out with the hopes of bringing in some first-round draft pics this season, in what is supposed to be the deepest draft since 2004, but even if he hangs onto his cards, the 76ers should are on the right path, which is good news for Philly fans who were likely heartbroken after the Bynum debacle.

Speak Your Mind

*