SPEED UP THE PROCESS
Trust the process. That's the mantra in Philadelphia, where the draft-pick-stockpiling, cheap-young-talent-adding Sixers are poised to finish with fewer than 20 wins for the third straight season—and GM Sam Hinkie doesn't seem to be the least bit concerned about it. Pick a statistic, any statistic, from 2014--15: last in the NBA in shooting (40.8%); last in turnovers (16.9 per game); 25th in fouls committed (21.7). Yet despite tens of millions in cap space, Hinkie refused to address a few of his roster's gaping holes by spending on a savvy shooter with a championship pedigree (such as Danny Green) or an experienced floor leader (Mo Williams, Jameer Nelson). None of those signings would get Philly into the playoffs this season, but they could have significantly improved the team on the court while—and this is important—bringing lessons learned from winning cultures to a locker room that has never experienced success.
Instead, the Sixers will slowly, sloppily sink back into the Eastern Conference cellar. The No. 3 pick out of Duke, center Jahlil Okafor, should contend for Rookie of the Year through sheer number of touches alone; his pairing with shot-blocking Nerlens Noel offers a nice offense/defense dynamic in the frontcourt. Hinkie did snap up guard Nik Stauskas, a former lottery pick, and veteran forward Carl Landry from the cap-clearing Kings. But point guard is woefully undermanned, and there are few proven scorers on the wing, freeing defenses to key on Okafor. It all adds up to another lost season, another step in a process with no end in sight.
A rival scout sizes up Philadelphia
The roster is set up to lose. They're awful. Where do you go with this team? They've been losing for so long, accumulating draft picks. The thing about the draft picks is that they're duplicating—I just don't understand that.... I don't see, at all, the combination of Nerlens Noel at power forward and Jahlil Okafor at center. That's probably how they'll start. Okafor is legit. You can build your team around him. But Noel's a center too. He's not a power forward. How's he going to go out and guard stretch fours? And then opponents don't even have to guard him. Noel can't shoot past 10 feet.... If you look at the rest of their roster, I think the only bright spot is Robert Covington. He has consistently shown improvement.... They gave up their former lottery pick in [point guard] Michael Carter-Williams. I don't know their reasoning. So instead they're bringing in a bunch of guys to lose. The most important position is the point guard. Now, there was a pretty damn good point guard out there in the draft in Emmanuel Mudiay, and they passed over him. You would've had your point guard for the future and your center for the future.... Brett Brown, at least, makes them play hard all the time. He kept them believing that they were making progress. He tried to implement a lot of the things the Spurs did. He couldn't do it all because they really had no point guard.... I don't like Tony Wroten's game. I don't think he's a point guard who's going to distribute the ball well enough; he just wants to score.... Remember: They scored 92 points a game last season. You can't win in this league scoring 92 points.
COACH BRETT BROWN
(3rd season with 76ers)
2014--15 RECORD 18--64
(4th in Atlantic)
PG ISAIAH CANAAN
9.2 PPG; 2.1 APG; 38.6 FG%; 37.0 3FG%
SG NIK STAUSKAS*
4.4 PPG; 1.2 RPG; 36.5 FG%; 32.2 3FG%
SF ROBERT COVINGTON
13.5 PPG; 4.5 RPG; 39.5 FG%; 37.4 3FG%
PF NERLENS NOEL
9.9 PPG; 8.1 RPG; 1.9 BPG; 46.2 FG%
C JAHLIL OKAFOR (R)
17.3 PPG; 8.5 RPG; 1.4 BPG; 66.4 FG%
PG TONY WROTEN
16.9 PPG; 5.2 APG; 40.3 FG%; 26.1 3FG%
SG HOLLIS THOMPSON
8.8 PPG; 2.8 RPG; 41.3 FG%; 40.1 3FG%
PF CARL LANDRY*
7.2 PPG; 3.8 RPG; 0.2 BPG; 51.5 FG%
*NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS
Rookies in NBA history who have averaged at least 1.8 steals and 1.9 blocks: Nerlens Noel, who did both last season.
NED DISHMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES