Tanking for Wiggins? Expectations low
Following the Andrew Bynum debacle, the Sixers changed direction.
Unfortunately, it will mean taking some steps backward before plunging ahead and making a playoff run.
Glance at the Sixers’ roster and there aren’t any stars. The lone All-Star is now playing in New Orleans. Point guard Jrue Holiday was shipped to the Pelicans on draft night in exchange largely for Nerlens Noel. But the highly-touted Noel may miss the entire season while recuperating from a torn ACL.
The Sixers feature a bunch of young players with very little experience. Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes are nice pieces, but hardly franchise-changing players.
Starting Wednesday night, against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, the Sixers are going to be underdogs. They’re not expected to win much. With the potential for two prime draft choices, the Sixers are clearly building for the future.
But they still have to play the games. And they plan on competing every single night.
“We will bring the energy and intensity every night,” said Young, the longest-tenured player on the team. “We’re going to compete like crazy. We’re playing to win. We’re going to give it everything and the fans deserve that.
“There’s no way we’re going to just step aside and let teams walk all over us. We’re all competitors here, and we’re going to bring it to the best of our ability every single game.”
What they’re saying
» Playing for Wiggins: Ultimately, you need to get lucky in the lottery. Not even the worst record in the league guarantees the top pick. If the Sixers do wind up with the No. 1 pick, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins is likely to be the player selected. That’s far from settled, though. Wiggins has been called the next LeBron James. He averaged 23.6 points and 11.3 boards as a high school senior — and top sneaker companies, like Adidas and Nike, are reportedly already fighting over him.
» Prediction: It’s going to be a long season for the Sixers. Wins won’t come easy against anyone. Look for the Sixers to string together 25 wins. That’s a 25-57 record.
» Honoring Iverson: Before the Sixers host the Heat, Allen Iverson is expected to announce his retirement. No one will ever forget the run to the NBA Finals in 2001 when Iverson nearly led the Sixers to a championship. It was a career filled with excitement and drama.
“I remember watching A.I. as a kid and he was incredible,” said Sixers rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams. “He played with passion every game and was so much fun to watch.”
Sixers Players to Watch
1. Evan Turner, SF — The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft has greatly underachieved with the Sixers. He lacks a strong perimeter game, but thrives when he has the ball in his hands. With not many scoring options on the Sixers, it’s do-or-die time for Turner. He averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in six preseason games.
2. Michael Carter-Williams, PG — The Sixers didn’t take him in the first round (11th overall) to sit on the bench. The rookie will start immediately and seemingly learn on the fly. His jump shot has been criticized, but he was an assist machine at Syracuse, something the Sixers are counting on without Jrue Holiday.
3. Lavoy Allen, PF/C — Nothing was expected out of the late-round pick out of Temple — until he held his own in the 2011-12 playoffs against Kevin Garnett. Since then, he’s been criticized for being out of shape, oversleeping and missing practices. Rise and shine, Lavoy.
4. Thaddeus Young, PF — The longest-tenured, and most talented, player on the roster is the leader. His “tweener” status isn’t going to change unless he can consistently get busy in the paint. Young has averaged 13.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in six NBA seasons.
5. Kwame Brown, C — He’s still not in shape and has done little to think he’ll contribute anything since arriving in Philly. Yet, Brown is like a car accident, too intriguing not to watch. He made final cuts, so the Sixers must have seen enough raw potential. He just has to get healthy on get on the court.
— Mike Greger contributed to this article
Games to watch (or not watch)
Las Vegas has set the over-under for Sixers wins at 16.5, the lowest total in more than a decade. As bad as that sounds, it still wouldn’t be the worst in NBA history. That title belongs to the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats at 7-59. With those dubious numbers in mind, here’s a quick breakdown of the Sixers’ schedule.
» Oct. 30, vs. Miami: This one is bound to get ugly fast as LeBron James should have his way with everyone, especially Evan Turner, his likely defender. But the atmosphere at the Wells Fargo Center should be surreal with Allen Iverson returning home to officially retire.
» Nov. 4, vs. Golden State: The Warriors are a sleeper pick to contend for the championship. They feature the two best shooters in the world, in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. They also scooped up Andre Iguodala in the offseason.
» Nov. 13, vs. Houston: Arguably the best big man in basketball — and biggest diva — Dwight Howard will look to channel his inner Wilt Chamberlain. Good luck, Spencer Hawes and/or Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown.
» Nov. 29, vs. New Orleans: It’s not exactly Brian Dawkins coming back to Philly, but diehard Sixers fans are sure to stand up and cheer for Jrue Holiday when he returns as a Pelican. The All-Star point guard was a lone bright spot for the Sixers last season.
» Dec. 9, vs. LA Clippers: The Clippers, not the Lakers, are Hollywood’s best team nowadays. This should be a runaway for Lob City, with the Chris Paul-to-Blake Griffin connection set to soar at the Wells Fargo Center.
» Feb. 7, vs. LA Lakers: It’s always fun when Kobe Bryant comes to town. The Lower Merion product usually receives a nice mix of boos and cheers, and plenty of honest postgame commentary.
— Mike Greger contributed to this article