The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent All–Stars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.
2016-17 finish: 28-54, second-to-last in the East
• Offensive rating: 100.7 (30th)
• Defensive rating: 106.4 (17th)
Did the summer help at all?
More than any other in Philadelphia for at least a few decades. Not only did they move up to grab all-everything guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick, but they return a healthy Ben Simmons — their point forward of the future — and even an oft-injured and electric-when-healthy Joel Embiid has resumed 5-on-5 basketball duties. At long last, it appears, “The Process” will take shape on the court.
In addition to debuting a Big Three with an average age of 21 and only 31 NBA games between them, the Sixers actually invested in two veterans who can do more than help reach the salary cap floor.
Redick and Johnson will earn a combined $34 million to captain an otherwise inexperienced crew. That may seem like a lot, but Philadelphia had the capital to spend and didn’t extend its commitment past this season. In the process, they landed a pair of the league’s best glue guys. Redick is a tireless worker and expert marksman, and few enjoy doing the dirty work as much as Johnson. This is how you transition from trying to lose for four straight seasons to actually giving a damn about basketball.
Finally, the Sixers brought in Korkmaz, another draft-and-stash European who they took in the first round a year ago. He seemed bound for the end of the bench after a subpar summer league showing, but the 6-foot-7 sweet-shooting wing impressed in camp enough to illicit this blunt scouting report from Redick: “Holy [expletive].” The lanky Korkmaz won’t win any armwrestling bouts, but he’s another athletic and energetic young piece to fit into a puzzle that will take a few years to finish anyway.
Those additions are all gravy, since the Sixers had nothing left to lose, and the losses of Henderson, Rodriguez and Splitter — three role-playing veterans who are a dime a dozen — don’t rock the boat.
Best-case scenario: Embiid is the same beast he was pre-injury, only that monstrous on/off rating is extended over 35 minutes per game and 70-plus appearances instead of 25 and 31. Simmons is every bit the young Australian LeBron James the Sixers have made him out to be. Fultz gives his fellow No. 1 pick a run for Rookie of the Year. Saric adds efficiency to his skill set. Redick’s shooting opens up room for the kids to operate. And the Sixers, after years of tanking, actually make a run at a playoff spot.
If everything falls apart: Injuries plague Embiid, now in his fourth season and in danger of becoming another Greg Oden. Simmons and Fultz are more projects than projected franchise cornerstones. Saric, Korkmaz and the secondary building blocks are a shaky foundation. Jahlil Okafor trade speculation becomes a distraction. And Philadelphia tanks its way to another top pick. It could be worse. It has been worse. Everything already fell apart. This is about the pieces fitting back together.
Best guess at a record: 37-45
Read all of Ball Don’t Lie’s 2017-18 NBA Season Previews:
Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz
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