9 76ERS - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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9 76ERS

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Center Joel Embiid played the first 31 games of his career last season before being shut down with a left knee injury. That means that Embiid has played in only 12.6% of Philadelphia's games in the three years since he was drafted third overall.

But those 31 games were tantalizing. Embiid swatted shots, drained threes, ran the floor and threw down dunks. The 76ers were 13--18 with him in the lineup and 15--36 without him. Simply put, if they are serious about competing for a playoff spot, Embiid must be on the court.

There are other reasons to be excited in Philadelphia, starting with the last two top picks in the draft. Ben Simmons, effectively a 6'10" point guard, will make his NBA debut after missing all of last season with a broken right foot. And he'll share time in the backcourt with a gifted scorer and creator in 6'4" Markelle Fultz.

Philly has to be concerned that Embiid's body couldn't hold up last season despite playing on a minutes restriction. When training camp opened, he was still sidelined after knee surgery. The 7-footer has come to embody the Sixers' painstaking rebuilding approach, a.k.a. the Process. Unless he's healthy, there is more pain to come.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2016--17 STATS

COACH BRETT BROWN

(5th season with 76ers)

2016--17 RECORD 28--54

(4th in Atlantic)

PG MARKELLE FULTZ [ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS]

23.2 PPG; 5.9 APG; 47.6 FG%; 41.3 3FG%

59 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

SG J.J. REDICK [NEW ACQUISITION]

15.0 PPG; 1.4 APG; 44.5 FG%; 42.9 3FG%

SF BEN SIMMONS [ROOKIE, 2015--16 COLLEGE STATS]

19.2 PPG; 11.8 RPG; 4.8 APG; 56.0 FG%

PF DARIO SARIC

12.8 PPG; 6.3 RPG; 41.1 FG%; 31.1 3FG%

41 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

C JOEL EMBIID

20.2 PPG; 7.8 RPG; 46.6 FG%; 36.7 3FG%

BENCH

82 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

SF ROBERT COVINGTON

12.9 PPG; 6.5 RPG; 39.9 FG%; 33.3 3FG%

SG NIK STAUSKAS

9.5 PPG; 2.8 RPG; 39.6 FG%; 36.8 3FG%

PF AMIR JOHNSON [NEW ACQUISITION]

6.5 PPG; 4.6 RPG; 1.8 APG; 57.6 FG%

• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 PLAYERS

*NEW ACQUISITION

(R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS

(R†) ROOKIE, 2015--16 COLLEGE STATS

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP PHILADELPHIA

There are a lot of things to work out, like who's going to have the ball down the stretch, BEN SIMMONS or MARKELLE FULTZ? Is JOEL EMBIID always going to be healthy enough? ... Embiid can be the best player in the league, definitely the best defensive player. He's so dominant, he can switch on a guard. He's unstoppable, man, he's a two-way player.... Optimally, Simmons is their point guard because he needs the ball to be effective, to create shots for other guys. Because his shooting's going to be a problem.... Fultz, that guy is a super talent. He's going to have an ability to create shots in pick-and-rolls and in isolation.... J.J. REDICK is really good with young players. I don't think that's said enough. He's vocal, he's tough, he's got his routine and he's very dedicated.... DARIO SARIC, he made 100 threes too. He comes off the bench and can play a bunch of different roles. He's so tough.... You're hopeful for JAHLIL OKAFOR because he was picked so high [No. 3 in 2015], but the league has changed. The thing is, I don't think he's been fully utilized. He's a very, very good passer, he can get his own shot in iso situations, he can command a double team. If you have that, even in short minutes, it's valuable. But he's got to be a better defender and rebounder.... Look at their transaction logs from four or five years ago, it's crazy, and they mined ROBERT COVINGTON out of that mess. He's got size, can make threes, guard all over the floor. He never dribbles, and he only shoots threes and layups. Playing with Simmons and Fultz, he can be a really good piece.

TELLING 12.6 STATISTIC

BOTTOM LINE

Inexperience plus injury-prone players add up to a sixth straight season without a playoff berth.