Philadelphia 76ers total is 27.5? Take the over!

Jun 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers number one overall draft pick Ben Simmons (R) is greeted by center Joel Embiid (L) during a press conference at the Philadelphia College Of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers number one overall draft pick Ben Simmons (R) is greeted by center Joel Embiid (L) during a press conference at the Philadelphia College Of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

With an influx of young talent and a credible backcourt the 76ers are going to start to win sooner than many expect.

Every season for the past three years, the Philadelphia 76ers are projected to finish near the bottom of their league from experts and, of course, Vegas.

Well this season Vegas seemed to be a little friendlier to the rebuilding franchise. There are three teams that have lower win totals in terms of over under.

Las Vegas oddsmakers put the 76ers win total at 27.5 and the haters are out.

And my personal favorite.

Oh, Ye of little faith.

With last year’s season still seared into the fan’s collective minds, it easy to overlook a few pertinent facts that suggest this 76ers team will fare far better.

  1. Led by Michael Carter-Williams, and with partial seasons from the dynamic duo of Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, but without even a single game from Nerlens Noel, the 2013-2014 managed to win 19 games.
  2. The 2014-2015 team did not have any of the veterans (even Thad Young was gone by then) and had Noel as a rookie and only a half year from the (sorta) sorely missed MCW, but still managed to win 18 games.
  3. 2015-2016 saw another infusion of talent in the form of Jahlil Okafor, but the lack of anything resembling capable guard play, an experiment that forced their best player (Noel) to play out of his natural position, not a shooter to be found to take pressure off of the front court, as well as a spate of injuries – Stauskas, Marshall, Covington and Okafor all either started the season injured,  or missed considerable time – was not conducive to wins and the team limped to a 10 win season.

This year brings a considerably greater talent infusion than last year.  After 3 years of constant roster turnover and picking free agents off of the waiver wire or shipping them in from the D-League, the 76ers will actually have some roster decisions to make during training camp.  The early guess at the depth chart is:

Philadelphia 76ers
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PG – J. Bayless,  S. Rodriguez, T. McConnell

SG – G. Henderson, H. Thompson, N Stauskas

SF – R. Covington, T. Luwawu-Cabaret, J Grant

PF – B. Simmons, D. Saric, R. Holmes

C – J. Embiid, N. Noel, J. Okafor

While there is still a log jam at Center, the experiment of putting the team’s best players out of position is over.  At some point there will be a trade which will loosen that log jam and bring in more talent to back-court or on the wing – and McConnell, Stauskas, Grant – all who saw considerable floor time last year – are at risk of not even making the team.

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Adding a talent like Embiid who offers the defensive stopping ability of Noel, with the post moves and offense of Okafor, is a considerable talent upgrade over either of the teams which won 18 and 19 games.  And this is before discussing the arrival of the #1 pick in the draft, Ben Simmons, who has the ability to make everyone around him better.  And throw in ‘the Homie’ Saric for good measure.  This is clearly a better team.

As we saw last year – just adding talent doesn’t always add wins.  ‘BC’ addressed this with some smart signings that don’t threaten to derail the impact of “The Process”.  Bayless, Rodriguez and Henderson are all solid complementary players who will contribute to the win column this year.  Subtracting a negative is every bit as powerful as adding a positive and the more balanced roster alone has the ability to offset the 8-win backstep experienced last year.    One doesn’t have to be very excited about the new guards in town to feel optimistic about the changes.  The Kendall Marshall, Tony Wroten, Isaiah Canaan, Phil Pressey train-wreck is history.

Brett Brown, who successfully held this team together facing the most difficult 3 season stretch

Philadelphia 76ers
. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

imaginable, finally gets to show his coaching chops.  While still focused on developing his still very young team, he has also been charged with changing the culture, and the best way to do that is winning games.  With the new players, potentially generational talent(s) and a new commitment to getting games into the win column it is foolish and short sighted to use last years win total as the starting line.  The 18-19 wins observed the preceding 2 seasons is a more representative baseline to use as for comparison.  And when comparing to those baselines, there are too many positive factors to equate to less than a 10 win increase.

  • Replacing MCW with Simmons as the key playmaker.
  • A healthy Embiid as a substantial 2 way threat.
  • Noel will not be forced to share the floor or play out of position, and instead will return to Center, a position he dominated as a rookie, and will most likely be turned loose on opponents second string players.
  • Covington garnering less attention as the only outside shooting threat will boost his performance relative to his first year when he benefited from the presence of the Noel down low.
  • Also – Okafor, Saric, the new guards, even the possibility of Stauskas finding his stroke as a pure shooting specialist without the defensive responsibilities he clearly does not handle well – there are many more reasons to be optimistic.

Other incremental improvements include –

  • Increased focus on the 76ers front court will free shooters up to finally realize their potential.
  • This team will play some defense.  Trotting out some version of Simmons, Noel, Embiid, Covington and McConnell to play tough defense late in a close game will create real mismatches that will absolutely equal wins over time.
  • Likewise, having Embiid, Simmons, Stauskas, Thompson and Henderson to try and get that last bucket will be brutal to defend.  Simmons can drive and dish to the 7’2″ Embiid sitting behind the arc with a very credible 3 point shot to exploit mismatches.
  • Literally having too many ROY candidates to count.

Next: Embiid's Unlikely Stardom

Most of the league recognizes that the 76ers will be exciting this year.  Few of them realize that the team building started in earnest 3 years ago and the payoff is going to show up sooner rather than later.  Expect this team to be approaching last year’s win total before the calendar shows 2017 and to end the season with better than 30 wins.