Philadelphia Freedom aka Ben Simmons

New Faces:  Jerryd Bayliss, Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez, Dario Saric (R), Ben Simmons (R), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (R)

2015-16 Regular Season Record: 10-72

2015-16 Regular Season Achievements: 3rd: Blocks. 8th: 3-Point Attempts.  10th: Steals.

Leading Scorer: Jahlil Okafor, 17.5

Leading Rebounder: Nerlens Noel, 8.1

The 76ers were grounded by Jahlil Okafor’s 17 and 7 season, despite the rookie’s rough start with maturity early on. He settled in and gave the 76ers what they expected. He’s not explosive around the rim, not a shot blocker, but he has scoring talent, making half of his shots. This year, another rookie is being hailed as the savior and the 76ers, after dog years with “The Process”, may finally have gotten a break.

Ben Simmons may never be a 25 point scorer in the league but watching him in (a small sample size) the summer league was to be thrust back into those Magic Johnson years. His passing is sublime. His court awareness and vision makes him a special player, able to feed players before they even know they are going to be open. If that breaks down, he can get by his defender with a quick first step and dribble. At the rim no one is stopping him. It remains to be seen what he can do outside of ten feet, if he can make the shot NBA defenses will give him. Frankly, it may not matter. Simmons is so gifted as a point forward, think a better passing Lamar Odom, a worse scoring Lamar Odom.  He is the poster child for “makes his teammates better.”

Joel Embiid is finally making his rookie debut and coupled with Okafor and Noel, the Philly frontcourt has the possibility of something special. But not this year. The three have to figure out how to play together and Simmons has to work his magic, figuring out the tendencies of all three players. The immediate question is who starts? And who comes off the bench?

Okafor is a scorer but not much on defense. Noel is a defender, rebounder, a decent but not great shot blocker. But what is Embiid? No one knows yet.

There is hope in Philadephia. This team is different than last year’s 76ers team that Sam Hinkie, the ousted 76ers general manager, had thrown off the cliff with his “The Process” dreams.  There is young, inexperienced mediocrity sprinkled around a few talents. Lets meet them.

Ben Simmons:  The number one pick in the draft not expected to be Rookie of the Year. ROY is reserved for great offensive numbers. No one expects that from Simmons. But, as a forward, he is slated to be the best point guard and playmaker, getting the most out of this quilt of mismatched talents.

Jahlil Okafor: He  was disappointing early with off the court miscues then settled into his role. He provided the 76ers with scoring punch but his defense was a no-show. Sometimes he gave effort, sometimes he didn’t.

Dario Saric:  Croatia isn’t known as a NBA powerhouse but here comes Saric, who was stashed in Europe. He is not really quick but at 6-10 can handle the ball similar to a point guard so another point forward is in the wings. He’s not a stretch four but scouts think he may develop a perimeter game. This is a learning year.

Sergio Rodriguez:   He hated the NBA his first go round (2006-10), missed Europe, returned, played for Real Madrid and now he’s back, older and not explosive. His shooting is what the 76ers are hoping for, consistency and efficiency.

Joel Embiid: He is here. Finally.  His size and athleticism screams double-double but he hasn’t played a NBA regular season game. Hold all expectations.

Jerryd Bayliss:  He shot 43% from three last year (Milwuakee). The 76ers desperately need that kind of magic. The 9 year veteran brings experience to a young core but outside of a possible perimeter threat, he doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, hence the 7 NBA teams.

Gerald Henderson:  A journeyman guard, the home grown Pennsylvania product patterned his game after Kobe Bryant except he isn’t a dominant scorer, he doesn’t defend beyond the basic general effort and he isn’t explosive. The Duke scorer has had an average career. Last season in Portland, he was a bench player, a little less than 20 minutes per game and 8.7 points.

Nik Stauskas: Can’t shoot. Changing coasts didn’t change his throwing up bricks game.

Nerlens Noel: Good rebounder and shot blocker with the potential to be a great rebounder and shot blocker. No offensive game of note, limited post moves, great length, good feel for the game. Nice touch. Gets pushed around. Needs strength work.

Timothe  Luwawu-Cabaroot:  A rookie from France.  He played well for his team in Sebia and they won the Serbian Cup. He had nice numbers for the season: 14.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists.

Robert Covington: a 6-9 forward who from time to time is a clutch 3-point shot maker. He’s not explosive around the rim, doesn’t block shots nor grab offensive boards but he is a solid defensive rebounder.

Jerami Grant: He gave the 76ers some nice moments, here and there. He’s a 6-8 forward and 24% three point shooter. He blocks shots and rebounds.

Richaun Holmes: 51% shooter who like the rest of the 76ers can’t throw a pea in the 3-point ocean. Bad free throw shooter, not particularly explosive.

Hollis Thompson: Philly’s most consistent scorer from the perimeter, 40% and 38% from three.

As noted, the 76ers biggest problem is scoring. They averaged 97.4 points per game.  They were 25th in 2-point percentage. They were 24th in 3-point percentage. They were next to last in field goal percentage. Their number one need was an offensive player and they drafted a playmaker, an explosive around the rim dunker.

Teams are still going to double Okafor and force anyone else to shoot, particularly from the three. The 76ers are desperate for knock down shooters on the perimeter. They have no one reliable so it looks to be pretty dreary for the 76ers.

So, here we are again. The seasons keep repeating themselves except with a twist. The Ben Simmons era has (finally) arrived. The Process is over (let’s celebrate). No longer is Jahlil Okafor the 76ers best player. Things are looking up. It is the Philly Freedom way.

Prediction: 20-62

photo via llananba