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Sixers build with young talent

Maya Hughes | 11/1/2014, 6 a.m.
The Philadelphia 76ers are hoping to move forward from the troubling season that the team just had. After a franchise ...
From left, Michael Carter Williams, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel.

The Philadelphia 76ers are hoping to move forward from the troubling season that the team just had. After a franchise worst, and NBA record-tying, 26 consecutive losses, the team garnered the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, with which it used to draft Kansas University big man Joel Embiid. The Sixers look to rebuild a solid foundation with the new and youthful talent on the roster.

As the Sixers are in a rebuilding process, the team is still many pieces away from being a championship contender. The Sixers also will not be able to form an immediate chemistry with their main pieces. Although this season will see former Kentucky University star Nerlens Noel’s NBA debut, two of his fellow teammates will not be ready to play the first couple games of the season along with him. Embiid is still sidelined, having had surgery in June to repair a broken navicular bone in his foot, which requires four-to-six months of recovery time. Michael Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year, underwent surgery back in May to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. No exact date has been set for Carter-Williams’ return, but he is still not cleared to practice fully with the team.

The inexperience of the team’s roster will also be a factor in this upcoming season. After trading away players such as Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, the Sixers only have two players on the roster with at least three years of experience, Jason Richardson & Luc Mbah a Moute. The team also has room to add another key player if they choose to, as it has the lowest payroll in the league coming into the season ($30,484,909). The Sixers must work hard this season in order to establish their identity in both the Atlantic Division and the more competitive Eastern Conference.

Keys to the Sixers season:

Embrace the tank: Philadelphia won’t be good, but that’s by design. The decision has been made to have solely young and developing players on the roster — both as a plan for long-term improvement, as well as a way to take advantage of the draft lottery system that’s currently in place by losing enough games to get a chance at landing one of the top picks in next summer’s draft.

Nerlens Noel: The Sixers prize of the 2013 draft sat out all of last season, even though from a health standpoint he was ready to go, and could have played in games that counted in the latter part of the season. Head coach Brett Brown could often be seen on the main court working out Noel personally on game nights, which is rare for head coaches at the NBA level. But it shows just how much player development is in the forefront of this current incarnation of the Sixers’ team. Now we’ll see whether or not the entire season of rehabilitation and teaching has paid off, along with finding out just how good Noel’s prospects are of being one of the franchise’s long sought after cornerstones.

Michael Carter-Williams: As the rebuilding plan begins its second year, Carter-Williams will be the focal point. The point guard’s averages of 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game were indeed impressive, but it’s worth wondering if the strength of those numbers was dependent on the team being so dismal. Carter-Williams will be worth watching closely to see if the development is taking place as scheduled; because with Noel in place, those assist numbers have a chance to jump significantly. But whether they do or they don’t, his shooting percentages — both from beyond the three-point arc (26.4 percent) and overall (40.5 percent) must begin to show marked improvement in order for him to begin to realize the potential he’s already shown.

Why you should watch: Carter-Williams and Noel should be entertaining to watch, and if Embiid gets on the court at some point later in the year (unlikely), that’s a lot of young talent with star potential that you can begin to follow in its extremely early stages.

Prediction: Another losing season. But only in the short-term, and only because that’s the mandate from the front office.