Remember back in October, when the handicappers in Vegas said the Philadelphia 76ers would win about 16 or 17 games?
And remember in November, when the 76ers started their season with three straight wins, beating the Miami Heat, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls with Derrick Rose?
How are those 17 wins looking now?
Without the Hubble telescope, the Sixers can’t see them.
The small sample size of the season’s first week – three surprising wins, a rookie as Player of the Week – is a distant memory. All it did was momentarily delay Philadelphia’s inevitable descent to the bottom of the NBA standings.
Even with virtually every team in the Eastern Conference looking like they are learning how to ice skate, the Sixers dropped from first to 14th in five weeks. Only the inept and injured Milwaukee Bucks are preventing the Sixers from exclusive occupancy of the basement. Brian Kamenetsky has them at No. 28 in our latest Power Rankings.
Philadelphia (7-18) has dropped six in a row and 10 of 11. They are 0-16 in regulation games since Nov. 8. A 135-98 loss at New Orleans was the worst in the league for a while. The buck-thirty-nine the Sixers surrendered to Portland on Saturday was the most in the NBA this season.
“I want to leave it far behind – really, really far behind,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said afterward.
Yeah, good luck with that. Between now and April, there is always going to be a lousy loss in Brown’s recent memory. And many will be as bad as Saturday, when backup center Daniel Orton’s tussle with Meyers Leonard was the only fight the Sixers showed.
That’s what happens when you put together a roster with four legitimate, healthy NBA players – Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen. And GM Sam Hinkie may be trading one of them. Everyone else on the roster falls into three categories:
Unproven: Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams.
Off the scrap heap: Orton (waived by Oklahoma City), Brandon Davies (LA Clippers), Lorenzo Brown (Minnesota), Hollis Thompson (Oklahoma City), Elliot Williams (Cleveland).
Yeah, MCW looks like a keeper. But so far, he has proven is that he is prone to turnovers and injuries. And even with their hotshot rookie point guard running the show, this is by far the worst roster in the NBA, and the numbers are starting to reflect that.
On offense, the Sixers are one of 14 teams averaging triple digits, which makes for a pleasant pace but is highly misleading. They are 27th in 3-point shooting (.328) while ranking 11th in attempts (22.1), part of the reason they are 24th in points per shot (1.16). And that doesn’t even factor in turnovers, where they are dead last (17.9).
But it is the defense which is astonishingly bad. Not only are the Sixers last with 110.4 points allowed, they give up nearly seven more per game than the next-worst defense. Their point differential of minus-8.5 ranks 29th.
The Sixers are eighth in total rebounding, but that is a product of pace. They are the only team in the top 12 getting beat on the boards. And they are 24th in offensive rebounds allowed (11.8), which means when their awful defense does manage to get a stop, they often have to do it again.
And they can’t. The Sixers can’t scheme to take away threes and give up the drive or double the post and give up threes because the defense is bad everywhere. They are 24th in opponents’ overall shooting (.464) and 24th in opponents’ 3-point shooting (.372).
In Saturday’s loss to Portland, Philadelphia gave up 71 points in the first half, made its halftime adjustments and surrendered 40 in the fourth quarter. Portland made 21 threes in 39 minutes before Terry Stotts pulled back on the reins.
It’s going to get worse. The Sixers have played just 11 of their 25 games on the road, where they haven’t won since All Saints Day and play eight of their next 10 games. They have yet to travel west of Dallas.
Optimistically, there are about two dozen remaining games on the schedule that Philadelphia can win: four each against Titanic Division foes Boston, Brooklyn and New York, three vs. Charlotte and two apiece vs. Toronto, Orlando, Utah, Sacramento and Milwaukee.
Realistically, the only teams that look like they could possibly be worse that the Sixers are the Jazz, who have been far more competitive with Trey Burke at point guard, and the Bucks, who still have Larry Sanders coming back but could decide to surround him with Khris Middleton and rookies Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters in their own tank deployment.
Whether or not the Sixers reach those magical 17 wins is irrelevant, unless you are holding a futures ticket. The payroll is a league-low $47 million and will be half that this summer. Philadelphia is on track to receive the first-round pick of the New Orleans Pelicans, who appear headed for the low lottery. And Hinkie may flip Young, Turner or Hawes for another pick.
This was Hinkie’s plan, and it’s taking shape.
But one thing is for sure. When you look at the standings this season, the Sixers will be far, far behind.
TRIVIA: Which team currently has the fewest top-five draft picks on its roster? Answer after the jump.