By Jon Johnson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Having to endure arguably the toughest season in the history of franchise, the question comes up again, and again, “How long will we have to wait before the 76ers are title contenders?”
Some believe it can happen in a season or two, others three or four, and some believe unless luck is on their side it won’t happen at all.
The truth is, all three are possibilities. I believe our 76ers could be a legit NBA title contender in the team’s fourth season under Brett Brown.
Let’s take a look at the current roster: aside from Michael Carter Williams, Nerlens Noel, possibly Thaddeus Young and Henry Sims, there’s not much of a chance anyone else makes it beyond this year’s draft. That leaves a slew of roster spots available for draft picks, and free agents.
As historically bad as the Sixers are playing, which was by design, and their losing streak speaks to that, they still trail Milwaukee for the worst record in the NBA, giving the Bucks the edge in NBA Draft Lottery ping pong balls. Unless they’re able to catch the Bucks, they’ll have a 19.9% chance of winning the #1 overall selection, while Milwaukee would have a 25% chance.
So what could the Sixers come away with on June 26th?
If Milwaukee gets the first pick, Embiid seems like the pick, though health concerns could throw a wrench in that. One way or another, the Sixers will have a chance at either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. If they’re lucky, they’ll have their choice of which supremely talented, 6’8″ possible-future-superstar they’d like to take.
It’s just just their own lottery pick the Sixers will have to work with. They will likely have the New Orleans Hornets’ first round pick, which should land around #10, along with five second round picks. It’s unlikely that means five second round selections, but the ability to use them as trade currency exists.
In addition to positioning themselves beautifully in the draft, general manager Sam Hinkie has the 76ers’ payroll at just 26.9 million next season, if Jason Richardson and Byron Mullens accept their player options, and aren’t traded. This brings up another big question, “how much to spend on free agents this offseason and on whom?”
There are a lot of big names entering free agency, the most notable of which is Lebron James. Sorry Sixers fans, nothing short of the biggest magic act of all time would bring the King to the city of brotherly love. With several young players and a roster in need of many pieces, it seems like a big-time free agency play is still at least another year away. Perhaps Hinkie has his sights set on the big free agent class of 2015.
If we assume the Sixers are lucky enough to draft either Wiggins or Parker, add in another first round selection, Carter Williams, Noel, and some role players, the franchise will make another small step next season under Brett Brown.
Don’t worry, you won’t see a repeat of this season. What you will see is exciting growth and chemistry over time that may amount in a near .500 record. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t pick the Sixers to make the playoffs in season two of the rebuild.
We see the potential Michael Carter Williams has. Will Nerlens Noel become an all star, or a bust? How about Wiggins, Parker, or Embiid? Can Hinkie make the right moves, sign the right free agents?
Right now, there are more questions than answers, but the plan is an obvious one.
The long term goal is to recreate what Oklahoma City and San Antonio have done. The Sixers taken the first steps to do so.
What do you think? Your thoughts are always welcome @jonjohnsonwip, or anytime during his Saturday night show on Sportsradio 94WIP.