2015-2016 NBA Atlantic Division Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

Of the six divisions that make up the NBA, the 2014-15 Atlantic Division was by far the worst of them all. With every team failing to reach 50 wins and with two teams finishing in the bottom three of the whole NBA, it is safe to say that the Atlantic Division was horrendous. Here’s a look at how the division ranks ended up last season:

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Moving into the 2015-16 season, the outlook seems to be very similar to how it did last year. But don’t be surprised if there is a three way race for the division between Boston, Toronto and maybe even New York.

I am going to release a preview for one team in the division each day before the Celtics tip-off on October 28th. The Toronto Raptors preview has already been posted, so if you missed that, click here to read it!

Now it’s time for our next preview: Philadelphia 76ers. Let’s look at the teams starting lineup and bench as the season is set to tip-off on Wednesday!

Philadelphia 76ers

2014-15: 18-64, 14th in Eastern Conference

Coach: Brett Brown (Third Season)

Major Losses: Michael Carter-Williams (Mid-season trade),  K.J. McDaniels (mid-season trade), JaVale McGee, Luc Mbah a Moute, Thomas Robinson.

Key Additions: Jahlil Okafor (1st round draft pick), Nik Stauskas (Offseason Trade), Carl Landry (Offseason Trade).

Time and time again, you will hear about “the process.” For the 76ers, it has been many years in a row of processing players through and testing out which players will work out and this season looks to be no different. A team that has not made the playoffs in the past three years and hasn’t won the Atlantic Division since Allen “The Answer” Iverson won the league MVP in the 2000-2001 season, Philadelphia is coming off of what was tied for their second worst season in team history, finishing with an 18-64 record for the second time since the team moved to “the city of brotherly love” in the 1963-64 season. The only season the team has won less than 18 games was the 1972-73 season, when the team only won a total of nine games.

This year, the team is looking to be just as bad. Even though, according to the Sixers hype video this year, “We lose more sweat, more sleep, more hours, more sanity.”

They forgot to mention that they lose more games than anyone else too…… but anyways, here is the 2015-16 team outlook.

The Starting Five

Starting PG Tony Wroten and his normal backup Kendall Marshall are both out until around January as they are both recovering for ACL surgeries, so it will be the 6-foot guard Isaiah Canaan taking over the starting duties. A guard that has never had a problem with scoring, Canaan is going to be counted on to add the facilitating asset to his game to get his other teammates involved. Acquired in a trade with the Houston Rockets in the middle of last season, Canaan has quickly made an impression with Coach Brett Brown. In 22 games, including 12 starts, Canaan went for 12.6 points and 3.1 assists in close to 26 minutes a game. He went for 31 points with eight three-pointers in a game at Oklahoma City in March. The 76ers will be expecting more of the same through the start of the season to try and help this very young team.

Who knows, he could even have some more crazy shots like this:

Alongside Canaan will be second year SG Nik Stauskas. The incredible sharpshooter out of the University of Michigan was drafted No. 8 overall in the 2014 NBA draft. Playing in 73 games, Stauskas averaged 4.4 PPG in his 15 MPG off the bench, as he was held back with Ben McLemore in the starting role. In his final 22 games of the season, Stauskas shot a very nice 42 percent from 3-point territory. Acquired in early July, the 22-year-old Stauskas was sent to the 76ers from Sacramento alongside forwards Carl Landry and Jason Thompson (who was later traded away), as well as draft picks in exchange for the rights to 2015 second round draft picks Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic. In a trade made with the future in mind, Philly hopes that Stauskas will be able to become one of the top shooting guards in the game a few years down the road. Stauskas is doubtful for the 76ers opener on Wednesday with a leg injury, but is day-to-day and doesn’t expect to miss much action.

On the other side of the court, when healthy, will be Robert Covington, a 6′ 9″ athletic SF/PF combo. The former undrafted free agent out of Tennessee State University, Covington will be playing a lot more SF this year than he did last year. With the addition of Okafor alongside a healthy Nerlens Noel, Covington will be able to show off more of his shooting abilities, stepping behind the arc to hit some more three pointers. Covington had a much unexpected terrific season last year averaging 13.5 PPG while pulling down 4.5 RPG and tallying 27.9 MPG. While he had a nice offensive year and is expected to continue that this season, it is his defense that will be in question, with the task of locking down other small forwards such as Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Like Stauskas, Covington is expected to miss some time at the beginning of the season as he tends to a sprained right MLC and bone bruise in his right knee, which will create some minutes for young players on the bench.

That brings us to the two big men down low. Yet again, another year will come and go without an appearance from the 76ers 2014 First Round Pick Joel Embiid who will miss yet another season after having yet another foot surgery.

Luckily, for the loyal fans of Philadelphia, the Sixers expected this and drafted some kid named Jahlil Okafor to take his spot.

After watching that video, Sixers fans should be excited to watch Okafor. His offensive skills are through the roof for his age. He can back you down with his strength and footwork, he can face you up and he has incredible touch on his shots. Some have even said that Okafor has the vision of a point guard, which is a major help when teams double team him. He also played his only year in college under Coach K, while leading the Blue Devils to the National Championship. While at Duke, “Big J” averaged 17.3 PPG while pulling in 8.5 RPG. He will be a nice complimentary piece to Nerlens Noel. Okafor does need some work on the defensive side, but that can be fixed, as he is only 19-years-old.

The Philadelphia 76ers have had a recent history with first round picks missing their first season with an injury. Just as Embiid missed his first and now second season with injury, Noel was absent from his first year as he was recovering from ACL surgery. Last year though, Noel was healthy and he showed many flashes of the prominent star many expect him to become. Averaging 9.9 PPG and 8.1 RPG through 75 game, things really clicked in March, when he averaged 14.3 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 2.4 SPG and 50.0 FG%. While he does need some work in his midrange game and at the charity stripe, Noel is like the energizer bunny and just doesn’t stop competing. With his hustle and intensity along with his high ceiling of potential, it could be an incredible season for the 21-year-old out of Kentucky.

Off The Bench

With the injuries to Wroten and Marshall, there are not many names of notice coming off the bench. Of those no-names on the bench, Carl Landry has been in the league the longest. With eight years of experience in the NBA, Landry has averaged 10.9 PPG and 5.0 RPG, mostly as a role player. He is without a doubt going to be bringing the team some veteran leadership, as none of the other players on the roster have more than 3 years of experience.

Others on the bench include Jerami Grant, Christian Wood and T.J. McConnell. Grant, in his second year out of Syracuse, will be getting a lot of minutes off the bench, especially with the injury problems in the backcourt. Wood, a rookie out of UNLV, is going to be a big piece of the puzzle, coming in and allowing Noel and Okafor to take a break. McConnell, an undrafted rookie out of Arizona, played his way on to the team. Beating out other rookies, most of who were drafted, to take over as the backup point guard in the absence of Wroten and Marshall.

Prediction 

This 76ers team is very young and raw team. With only one player having over 3 years of experience, it is going to be another long and brutal year for the fans in Philadelphia. Being able to see Okafor and Noel play together will be fun, but other than that, there is not many positives fans can look forward to except for another lottery pick at seasons end.