One team in the entire league has less than 10 victories.
Take a guess?
That’s right – the Philadelphia 76ers.
Even the depleted Los Angeles Lakers (11), Brooklyn Nets (14) and Phoenix Suns (14) have won more games at the All-Star break.
The Sixers started 1-30 and currently sit at 8-45. With 29 games remaining, they’re more than likely to eclipse their dubious mark of nine wins set in 1972-73. Overall, it’s been a rough season in year three of the rebuild.
Technically, the halfway point came at game No. 41. Since All-Star weekend has come and gone, let’s take time now to grade the franchise category by category.
The Sixers re-acquired Ish Smith from the New Orleans Pelicans on Christmas Eve. Good thing. Up to that point, the backcourt play was very spotty. Sure, the Sixers have a lot of guards but not a clear-cut No. 1. Smith is not an All-Star caliber player, but at least he has given them a true point guard along with a major spark. His shooting is inconsistent, but his ability to run the offense and mesh with the big men has been solid. T.J. McConnell was a surprise in training camp and he earned a roster spot with his grit. Isaiah Canaan can make 3-pointers yet his shot selection is poor. Kendall Marshall has barely played since joining the team. Nik Stauskas was picked up in a trade with the Sacramento Kings and his shooting has been ragged. He doesn’t seem to have any rhythm from beyond the arc, Occasionally, Stauskas will flash to the basket and score some points. In order to be successful, he needs to locate the stroke he showed at the University of Michigan. The same goes for Hollis Thompson. Some nights, he’ll be 6-for-7. Other times, he’ll shoot 1-for-10. Jakarr Sampson isn’t likely to be in the Sixers’ long-term plans. Overall, the backcourt is a major work-in-progress. Grade – D.
Robert Covington rallied from an injury and a slump and has proven his mettle as a legitimate shooter from distance. If Covington can work on the other parts of his game, he’ll have a solid future in this league. Jerami Grant may be the most improved player on the Sixers. His knack of blocking shots has been terrific as the season has gone on. Grant does a little bit of everything for the Sixers every night. You can see every part of his game improving almost on a nightly basis. Richaun Holmes and Carl Landry have each given the team a lift on certain nights. Without consistent minutes, it’s hard to gauge their actual value. Landry at least is a proven veteran who can help lead the young players. He’s a very good shooter from 15 feet and can go several games without playing only to come in and score points in bunches. Holmes is an athletic player who is getting better in all aspects. His shot must improve so defenders won’t sag in the lane. Nerlens Noel has stepped up defensively, but too many nights, his offense is stagnant. He must continue to develop his offensive game. Elton Brand was signed to provide some more veteran leadership. He hasn’t played in a game yet. However, his presence matters because of what he offers the team on and off the court. There are some positives looking ahead at this position. There’s also a lot to work on. Grade – C.
Rookie Jahlil Okafor rebounded from some off-the-court issues early in the season to show why he was the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft. Okafor is a proven scorer in the low post. What needs work is his rebounding and defense. That’s the case with any young big man in the NBA. Okafor must use these last 29 games as a model to help him next season. The wins and losses don’t matter for this team. It’s about improving as a team and individually. Okafor has all the skills. That’s clear. His rookie season has already been one lesson after another. The other center is a question mark. Will Joel Embiid ever play? He’s out for a second straight season. If he can come back healthy next season, it would be a huge boost for this franchise. Grade – C.
Brett Brown has the toughest job in the league. There’s not even a close second. Brown is being asked to show patience in a profession where there is none. He’s teaching the smallest tactical skills to his players because of their youth. With injuries, inconsistency and a lack of overall talent, Brown has a daunting challenge every single night. It will be interesting to see how Brown does when the talent level rises from top to bottom. You’ve got to love Brown’s passion, energy, desire and dedication. He’s in this for the long haul. He wants to see the franchise succeed. It’s impossible to be picky about anything now. Grade – B+.