15 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

October 27, 2014

2013--14 RECORD: 19--63 (5TH IN ATLANTIC) COACH: BRETT BROWN (2ND SEASON WITH 76ERS)

SPOTLIGHT

After a 19-win season, the 76ers probably brought in heaps of veteran help. No, wait, they actually subtracted it, dealing leading scorer Thaddeus Young to the Timberwolves. Philadelphia's draft must have yielded reinforcements. Um, not exactly. Center Joel Embiid, the third pick, could miss the season after surgery on his right foot, and forward Dario Saric, the 12th choice, is playing in Turkey. At least the Sixers had to have spent lavishly. Well, no. For now, their payroll is more than $20 million under the salary-cap minimum. Nineteen victories? This group—the product of a radical rebuild—will be lucky to crack double digits.

The 76ers do truly have a bright spot: Michael Carter-Williams, the reigning Rookie of the Year, who joined Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only players to average 16 points, six rebounds and six assists in their first season. The 23-year-old point guard has a new but familiar partner in 6'11" Nerlens Noel, a former AAU teammate who missed last season with a torn left ACL. "We'll be on the same page quickly," says Carter-Williams. First, though, he has to get healthy. At week's end Carter-Williams hadn't been cleared for full-contact drills in his return from off-season surgery on his right shoulder.

He admits the losing is tough, but he understands the plan. Over the summer he traveled to Europe with Noel and the Sixers' staff to watch Saric play. The trip left Carter-Williams dreaming about a frontcourt of Embiid, Noel and Saric. "This is going to pay off eventually," says Carter-Williams.

PROJECTED LINEUP

(2013--14 STATS)

STARTERS

PG

M. CARTER-WILLIAMS

16.7 PPG; 6.3 APG; 6.2 RPG; 40.5 FG%

SG

TONY WROTEN

13.0 PPG; 3.2 RPG; 3.0 APG; 42.7 FG%

SF

LUC MBAH A MOUTE*

3.5 PPG; 2.3 RPG; 0.6 APG; 45.1 FG%

PF

NERLENS NOEL†

10.5 PPG; 9.5 RPG; 4.4 BPG; 59.0 FG%

C

HENRY SIMS

7.6 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 1.1 APG; 47.4 FG%

BENCH

SG

HOLLIS THOMPSON

6.0 PPG; 3.2 RPG; 46.0 FG%; 40.1 3FG%

PF

ARNETT MOULTRIE

3.0 PPG; 2.9 RPG; 0.7 SPG; 42.1 FG%

*NEW ACQUISITION

†ROOKIE (2012--13 STATS AT KENTUCKY)

BEST CASE

The guards smooth out their strokes, and Noel quickly establishes himself as an anchor on D.

WORST CASE

The Sixers set the NBA record for losses—and then fail to land the top pick in the 2015 draft.

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE 76ERS

It was a miracle they won 19 games last season, and it's hard to see how they will be better this year. They have some promising pieces, but their whole approach to team-building is risky.... Brett Brown's coaching can't be judged in a situation with so little NBA-ready talent. He's approaching it the right way: Because they have no post scoring, and half-court execution is a problem, they have to extend their defense, force turnovers and create easy transition opportunities. It's a credit to him that they played hard and didn't look down despite the hopelessness.... I'm not sure Michael Carter-Williams is the real deal. Lots of guys can get numbers on bad teams, especially in wide-open games like the Sixers play. Carter-Williams is a strong penetrator, and he has the size to finish over most point guards or find a teammate when the defense collapses. He really has to improve his shooting.... Tony Wroten reminds me a little of Lance Stephenson; they have similar size and quickness. Wroten is so young [21] that he's still learning how to play under control and take care of the ball. His shooting has to get better too.... Nerlens Noel's size and athleticism are impressive, but his lack of strength will make it difficult for him to do damage in the post. His scoring will come from using a quick first step to get to the rim, hitting the offensive glass and beating bigs down the floor on the break.... Luc Mbah a Moute is one of the few guys with extensive experience. He hasn't been the same since having surgery [on his right knee in 2012], but he can set an example defensively.

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDThe raw Wroten typifies the Sixers. FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)