The Sixers and Opposite Ends of the Spectrum, Part 1: A Realistic Worst-Case Scenario

Photo Credit - John Geliebter, USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers over/under win total for the 2017-2018 season currently sits at 40.5.

That’s an extreme jump from the 27.5 over/under win total heading into last season.

It’s an impressive number, considering that the 13-game year-to-year difference (plus or minus) is second only to the Houston Rockets’ 15-game difference (41.5 to 56.5). There’s obvious reason for the expected win increase, but I won’t exhaust you with that.

The tricky thing about using that 40.5 number to project the Sixers’ performance this season, for fans and degenerates alike, is that the team leaves the door open for a wide range of variance. Joel Embiid playing 40 games versus Joel Embiid playing 62 games could be a difference of seven, eight, nine, or more wins. Lineup experimentation could force the Sixers to play two or three months of basketball before they finally “figure it out.” Ben Simmons could light the league on fire right out of the gate, or he could struggle mightily with turnovers and become exposed as a poor shooter.

With so many factors surrounding this team’s potential, let’s focus on an extreme, while being realistic. 

Worst-case scenario

The lack of information on Embiid’s status – combined with Howard Eskin stirring up a shit storm whenever he feels left out – has Sixers fans waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. It’s no secret that a healthy Embiid is the single most important element to a successful 2017-2018 campaign. Any time this team goes to battle without their prized big is a time that they’re significantly worse. 

Embiid was manning the paint when the Sixers actually appeared to be an NBA team last season, going 14-15 in December and January. The team’s defensive field goal percentage* within six feet of the basket was 58.4% in that first month and 58.7% in the second month. Those two percentages, stretched over an 82 game season, both would rank 5th overall in the league.

Embiid’s influence goes even further than the numbers, as his presence alone deters ball handlers from penetration. In a nightmare scenario, Embiid again plays limited games (less than 40?) and Brett Brown is forced to give significant minutes at center to a combination of Richaun Holmes (block chaser), Amir Johnson (undersized with ankles made of Play-Doh) and o̶n̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶u̶r̶n̶s̶t̶i̶l̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶W̶e̶l̶l̶s̶ ̶F̶a̶r̶g̶o̶ ̶C̶e̶n̶t̶e̶r̶’̶s̶ ̶B̶r̶o̶a̶d̶ ̶S̶t̶r̶e̶e̶t̶ ̶e̶n̶t̶r̶a̶n̶c̶e̶ Jahlil Okafor.

Despite the Sixers’ additions of veterans Johnson and J.J. Redick, they are still a young team that will have issues offensively with or without Embiid. When a team’s two primary ball handlers are rookies, turnovers figure to be frequent. You can survive with those growing pains on offense if you can play smothering defense. Take JoJo out of the lineup, and you lose the defensive foundation on which the house is built. Plainly put, the Sixers are elite defensively with Embiid on the court and below average without him. If they lose their centerpiece, they will have no ability to compensate for inconsistent offense.

There isn’t a scenario I can fathom where the Sixers do not improve offensively, though Brett Brown has his hands full with maximizing his rotation. Chemistry goes a long way, and many of the Sixers’ featured guys have played no more than zero minutes together. Looking at film and knowing the strengths of the roster allows for a blueprint, but no one can know for sure what will work and what won’t until it plays out on the court.

Philadelphia fans know this all too well:





Yes, at their peak the Sixers will be a drastically improved offense; but when that peak is realized, no one knows. It could be post All-Star break before Brown is able to put the puzzle together, in which case the Sixers are playing at a fraction of their potential for the majority of the season.

The most important thing to remember about the talent the Sixers accumulated is that it is young and inexperienced. Two players who figure to be heavily featured (Simmons and Markelle Fultz) have yet to be tested against the finest the NBA has to offer.

Here’s a universal truth about the NBA: rookies rarely ever contribute to efficient basketball. Somewhere in learning the intricacies of the pro game, first year players’ inefficiencies mask their talent, and the result is harmful to a team’s overall performance. There are very few exceptions to this – a certain seven footer with a penchant for cherry flavored beverages comes to mind – and yet Vegas still projects the Sixers to be about .500.

But Vegas sets that number to generate action, and people are focused on the potential of the Sixers’ nucleus. In practicality, it’s completely possible that Simmons is a turnover machine and Fultz shoots when he should pass and passes when he should shoot.

Inefficient and inconsistent play should be expected, but professionals can be impatient, and the consequences of rookies playing, well, like rookies, could go past the team’s record. If Simmons and Fultz don’t show month-to-month improvement while being exposed as immature teammates, a veteran like Redick could become unhappy with being in a losing situation. The relationship between Redick and the Sixers is an important one, because how it ends signals to the rest of the league either that “the Sixers have arrived” or, “this culture is poison.”

If Redick sours on the Sixers, it won’t only hamper the only results of the season, but next offseason as well. I’m not one who believes the team needs to make a huge splash in free agency, but the roster needs to be rounded out with valuable role players and veterans. The season ahead can affect their ability to do so.

Worst-case scenario record: 34-48

Causes: lackluster defense, lack of lineup optimization, woefully inefficient rookie play

*DFG% is a flawed statistic in regards to perimeter defending; however, it is a good measure of a center’s ability to protect the rim.

(Stats from


8 Responses

  1. first of all, I don’t put any credence into ANYTHING that Howard Eskin says, so I sleep fine at night! Second, I would take the over, but before I lay any $$$ down, i would wait to see if Embiid is going to play in the preseason or not. If he plays at all, and with the additions of Simmons, Fultz, Reddick, and others, I could see this team still hovering around .500, which would be 42.

  2. BFD – FUCK the sixers and FUCK basketball!
    I hope the entire over paid league goes down the shitter!

  3. You just wrote a whole post about “worst case scenario” and didn’t think to mention that Embiid isn’t even cleared to play? Due to a somewhat “routine” meniscus surgery? Worst case scenario is not Embiid on a minutes restriction; it’s Embiid having no minutes…

    1. this kevin love guy reminds me of the retarded white rapper sweet dee dated on “it’s always sunny”

      1. The driving, the drooling in the yearbook, the overcoming the odds, the living with the mom, the special thing. Retarded 5, Normal zero.

Comments are closed.