People get personally offended by the obvious tanking of the 76ers. I just don't get that. They certainly aren't trying to win, and even season ticket holders have to buy a program at each game to figure out who is on the team at the moment, but at least they have a plan - one they are obsessively devoted to. That's more than you can say about far too many teams in this league.
You might not like or agree with the plan, but they are losing now, they believe, to win later. The Nets, for example, are just losing now because they are terrible and clueless. I know which one I'd take if I had to choose. At the rate they are going they could have every pick in the first round of the draft next year. They are either going to be very good at some point, or the eventual implosion will be the best theatre in the league in a long time. Either way, fans should be more excited, or at least curious, than outraged.
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2015 Philadelphia 76ers Betting Story Lines
Last year the team played 25 different players during the season. Twenty-five! Even the most passionate of college basketball fans couldn't pretend to be familiar with every face that donned the jersey. It was ridiculous. It won't be a primary goal perhaps, but they should have less turnover this year - hopefully much less. They have a better lineup now than they did at this time this year - a more deliberate one.
At the core of the lineup is the twin towers - Philadelphia's hopeful attempt to create their own version of the success they had in San Antonio back in the day. Nerlens Noel was very solid last year and should be improved again with more depth of experience. He isn't exactly offensively explosive, but he's a major force on defense. Rookie superstar Jahlil Okafor, the favorite for Rookie of the Year from Duke who was surprisingly still available when the team picked third overall in the draft, is the opposite - a brilliant offensive force in the post who isn't likely to break any records on defense. If the two big men can co-exist and find chemistry, and if Okafor is as ready for primetime as he looked to be last year then this could be a tough team to play against - at least relative to where they have been. If those two struggle, though, then it could be a long game.
The team opened some eyes when they traded away Michael Carter-Williams last year. He wasn't an ideal fit despite his talent, and they got good value in return, so the deal is fine, but it still leaves questions about the short-term future at the point. Isaiah Canaan is the most likely to shine, with Kendall Marshall also likely to play a fair bit. I'm higher on Canaan than a lot of people are, and given the chance to enjoy stability and significant playing time he has plenty of upside.
Pace of play will be something to watch with this team. They played incredibly fast two years ago, and it had a very negative impact on their defensive play. Last year they weren't quite as fast, and their defense was much-improved - though those two weren't necessarily related. This year it seems, if the preseason is any indicator, that they are again determined to run their opponents off the ground. What will be interesting to watch, though, is how it changes when Okafor is on the court. It's hard to play really fast when you have an offense centered around a post player. They surely have a plan - it will just be interesting to see what it is.
Since we talked of it early we should at least mention tanking. There is a chance that they will again not be that interested in winning - not only would they get a good pick of their own, but they would decrease the chances of the Lakers getting a top three pick - and the Sixers get the pick from the Lakers unless it is in the top three. On the other hand, player development has to be the priority, and if the development goes well the team isn't likely to stand in the way of what success they have.
2015 Philadelphia 76ers Additions and Departures
The addition of Okafor was obviously the centerpiece of the summer, but they didn't stop there. In a steal of a trade they grabbed Nik Stauskas from the Kings along with some draft considerations, and all they had to do was take on some contracts - not a big deal for a team in their cap space. Stauskas had a horrible rookie year, but he was used very badly in Sacramento - the worst-run team in the league - and had no chance to succeed. He's still a high draft pick with laser accuracy, and a sharpshooter would be a very good complement to the inside forces of Noel and Okafor. He was very solid with the Canadian national team this year and is a prime breakout candidate.
2015 Philadelphia 76ers Futures Odds and Trends
Despite only winning 18 games last year the team was a respectable 40-40-2 ATS, so they punched above their weight. If they perform a little better this year - but not so much better that the public notices - then there could be real value here. Their lack of consistency on offense meant that they were under the total 46 times in their 82 games - enough to be solidly profitable on the year.
Philadelphia 76ers Futures Odds (from BetOnline)
NBA title odds : +25000
Eastern Conference title odds : +10000
Odds to win the Atlantic Division: +10000
Jahlil Okafor Rookie of the Year Odds : +350 (favorite)
2015 Philadelphia 76ers Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
I am at least a little optimistic about this team - more than some people. The upside isn't massive -- they are still rebuilding and don't have all the pieces they will need in place. They are going to be a significantly improved team, though. After averaging 18.5 wins the last two years, 25-27 wins would be a reasonable expectation this year. They beat the Knicks in their division last year, and it wouldn't be an upset for them to do so again. Okafor will win ROY, too.
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