June 5, 2017, 10:59 am
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
The Sixers’ record this season may have been a humble 28-54, but it will still be remembered as one of the more exciting years in the team’s otherwise forgettable recent history. Philadelphia finished 14th in the East, a mark which they haven’t surpassed in four straight years, yet Sixers fans were treated to a new phenomenon that took the NBA world by storm. The 76ers have been going through a long and controversial process for quite some time and it wasn’t until this past season that coaches, players and fans alike found themselves finally reaping some rewards.
The “process” amounted to tanking and hoping to hit on some high-level talents with a handful of draft picks to build a solid young core. While that’s nice in theory, the Sixers had shown little improvement and plenty of uncertainty since their strategy was employed. That was the case this season as the roster was expected to heavily feature three players who had never seen NBA action – Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and 2016 top pick Ben Simmons. With fans and league officials growing tired of Philly’s act, expectations were high.
Unfortunately, Simmons went down with a Jones fracture in his foot that would sideline him for the entire season. While the team wouldn’t see their top pick in action, the injury, as well as Nerlens Noel’s, gave the team some temporary clarity regarding a loaded frontcourt rotation.
The Sixers started the season slow, losing their first seven games. Joel Embiid’s injury history meant the team kept him out of back-to-back sets and on a strict minutes limit. As he shook of the rust, Philly started to win some games and everyone saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The physical embodiment of the franchise’s wayward years, Embiid nicknamed himself The Process and lifted the team to the outskirts of the playoff chase. At their best point in the season, the Sixers won 11 of 13 games in early January including memorable game winners from T.J. McConnell and Robert Covington. Philly also had a weird “Raise the Cat” phase, but it wasn’t nearly as popular as their cult-like, Process-trusting ways.
Tragedy struck the Sixers again when Embiid was diagnosed with a minor meniscus tear that would eventually sideline him for the rest of the year. While the team had won several games without the big man, the outlook for the rest of the season took a sizeable hit. Dario Saric struggled in the first half of the year but thrived as the team’s best remaining player. When deadline deals sent Noel and Ersan Ilyasova out of town, the Croatian forward finished the season admirably by flashing his tremendous playmaking and shooting skills to complement his size and strength.
The Sixers finished 7-19 after the All-Star break but will have Embiid and Simmons hopefully back for next year. The team looks much closer to achieving some of their long term goals and the future in the City of Brotherly Love is looking bright.
This was Brett Brown’s fourth year as the head coach after previously serving as an assistant for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. He’s a coach who pays a lot of attention to detail and tries to maximize the output and effort of each player; hardly a throwaway compliment considering the state of Philadelphia’s rosters since he took over.
He’s taken some heat for questionable playcalling down the stretch in close games, but the Sixers lack the proven All-Stars who are typically counted upon in those situations. It’s tough to eke out close victories when leaning so heavily on rookies, but Brown’s teams have always been competitive in the face of long odds.
Brown is a defensive-minded coach, and the team’s rotations are heavily influenced by that end of the floor. Robert Covington continues to grow as one of the league’s premium wing defenders while T.J. McConnell has made good stride in short order. It also helps illustrate the playing time struggles of Jahlil Okafor, who found himself the odd-man out on several occasions as Brown turned to more reliable defenders at the four and five spot. On the other side of the ball, Philly had the fifth-highest pace in the league and showed their analytics influence by shooting 29.8 threes per game, good for seventh in the NBA.
The 28 wins are the most he’s achieved in his tenure.
ADP: 104/120 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 187/201 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 21/36 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 31
After spending two years off the court recovering from a broken navicular bone in his foot, Joel Embiid took the league by storm and was one of the best stories of this past season. The rookie from Cameroon showed off an incredible display of athleticism, technique and talent in the 31 games he played in. He was a 7-footer who could block shots consistently, score down low with incredible footwork, but could also step out behind the arc and shoot from deep.
He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.5 blocks, 3.8 turnovers and 1.2 three-pointers on 46.6 percent from the field and 78.3 percent from the line. That’s not bad for a rookie. Understatements aside, Embiid became the first rookie ever to average 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and one made three-pointer making him one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year. He looks unlikely to win, however, as it’s tough for his phenomenal 31 games to outshine full seasons from fellow rookies, including teammate Dario Saric.
Embiid is perhaps the toughest case when it comes to balancing total and per-game values. He was a second round value in games he did play but was limited by injuries and didn’t play in back-to-back sets. He started the season on a strict 20-minute limit but often exceeded it in close games and saw his cap rise as the season went on, moving up to 24 minutes and finally 28 minutes in December. Unfortunately, Embiid was shut down in late January and ended up needing surgery on his knee. While it’s a red flag, it shouldn’t affect his offseason program.
The Sixers will certainly want to be careful with his workload in the future and unfortunately his health will always be in question. However, this was just his first season and many feel like we have just scratched the surface with what he can do. It will be interesting to see how he plays with Ben Simmons and Dario Saric next season, and he’s shaping up like an early-round pick if you trust his body to hold up.
ADP: 117/135 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 100/153 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 135/191 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81
The story of Dario Saric’s season can be told in two parts. The pre-All-Star break version of Saric struggled to gain any momentum, failing to establish consistency amidst the NBA’s grueling schedule and competition level. He was the starting power forward when the season began but was later benched in favor of veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova and found his way onto the waiver wire in many fantasy leagues. He was scooped right back up when the Sixers traded Ilyasova and Nerlens Noel, shut down Embiid and basically gave command of the team to Saric for the rest of the year. He ended up being one of the late pickups-of-the-year.
The post-break version of Saric averaged 17.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks, 3.0 turnovers and 1.4 three-pointers on 43.2 percent from the field and 77.9 percent from the line. The Homie showcased the potential of his stat set, facilitating and rebounding at high rates while leading his team in scoring over that period. His strong finish has him in serious contention for RoY.
As for next season, it remains to be seen how Saric and Ben Simmons will play together. They possess many similar quantities as forwards who have terrific passing ability to complement size and strength. Saric is likely a better shooter while Simmons is assumed to be a better playmaker. Coach Brown said that Simmons will be running the point once he’s healthy so there will be opportunity for the two to play alongside each other during this “point forward” experiment. Saric should improve on his rookie campaign but may see his usage capped playing next to a healthy Simmons and/or Embiid.
ADP: 107/105 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 50/44 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 40/37 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 67
Sir Robert Covington was one of the best values in last year’s draft for a variety of reasons. He was often slept on until the tenth round. He had multi-position eligibility. He got plenty of minutes when he was healthy. To top it off, Covington was the only player in the NBA last year to average 2.0 three-pointers, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. That’s right, not even Kevin Durant could get those numbers last year.
RoCo finished the season with 12.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.0 blocks, 2.0 triples and 2.0 turnovers on 39.9 percent field goal shooting and 82.2 percent free throw shooting. While his shooting over the season could be described as sporadic at best, Covington had a career year in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
He’s come a long way since his D-league days and should be considered a key piece of Philly’s future and one of the best finds of Sam Hinkie’s famous process. He destroyed his ADP and belongs in the top 50 in both 8 and 9-cat leagues. This gets said every year, but please don’t sleep on him in the next draft.
ADP: N/A /142 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 63/71 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 86/103 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81
T.J. McConnell has been described time and time again as a survivor. After being left undrafted in 2015, McConnell worked his way onto the Sixers roster after a strong preseason showing. The second year pro worked his way up the depth chart in 2016 and wound up starting 51 games at point guard this year.
He averaged 6.9 points, 3.1 boards, 6.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.1 blocks and 2.0 turnovers while shooting .461 from the field and .811 from the line. While his scoring is certainly capped, there are only three other players who averaged 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting over .450 from the field: Steph Curry, John Wall and Chris Paul. That’s some pretty good company.
McConnell is another player whose outlook is dependent on how the Sixers use a healthy Simmons. Still, whether Simmons serves as point guard or point forward, McConnell earned a role on this team going forward. He will be likely be drafted as a late round guy but could easily work his way into the top-100 again next year.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 166/146 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 112/93 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 57
Richaun Holmes has long been a Hoop-Ball favorite. He originally was buried deep on the depth chart behind Embiid, Noel and Okafor. It wasn’t until Noel was dealt away and Embiid was shut down that he finally got a chance to showcase his abilities. He suddenly found himself as the starting center for the Sixers and he did not disappoint savvy owners who managed to pick him up off waivers.
After the trade deadline, Holmes averaged 13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks, 0.7 triples, and 1.0 turnovers on 58.1 percent from the field and 77.4 percent from the stripe. Those numbers were good for top-35 value in 9-cat leagues over that period and his multi-category production had owners very excited late in the season.
As we saw to end the year, the upside is certainly there and Holmes should be owned everywhere if he is given 20-plus minutes on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, he could be back to a minimal role while everyone is at full health but he should at least be on your radar if any trades or injuries should happen. Additionally, he could be a useful handcuff for owners of Embiid.
ADP: 85/95 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 248/265 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 186/230 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 50
After averaging 17.5 points, 7.0 boards and 1.2 blocks in his rookie campaign, there were reasonably high expectations for the big man from Duke to give owners something similar this season. Unfortunately, he couldn’t deliver on those requests and was dogged by trade speculation right up until the deadline.
Okafor’s playing time was cut and he struggled to see the court even when Embiid was benched. A lot of this is due to his defensive flaws and Jahlil averaged just 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 22.7 minutes, finding himself completely out of the rotation at times when both Embiid and Noel were active. Richaun Holmes eventually overtook him on the depth chart and he wound up being shut down at the end of the year. Okafor wasn’t worth owning this season and we don’t expect him to be drafted in 12-team leagues next year, barring any injury news.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 218 / 219 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 261 / 256 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 75
Justin Anderson has always intrigued fantasy owners in deeper formats with his across-the-board potential and it looked like he might blossom after being traded to the Sixers at the deadline. He certainly got his chance, as his minutes per game rose from 13.9 to 21.6. Anderson’s production rose as well, and he posted averages of 8.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks and 0.9 threes on .463 from the field after the trade. Unfortunately, his upside will be severely capped as he’s stuck behind Covington at small forward and joins a loaded power forward group. It’ll be tough to trust him for fantasy purposes, though you could do worse on a late round flier in deep leagues.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 276 / 289 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 310 / 337 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 69
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was an afterthought for much of the year but really came into his own once Philly’s roster was thinned out by trades and injuries, finishing the year with a surprising 19 starts. While his season averages of 6.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.7 threes don’t inspire much confidence he was able to post 12.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.8 threes per game in his last 18 games, all of which were starts. Unfortunately he’s another player who will have minimal fantasy value unless he can get a big-minute role – something that seems unlikely for TLC despite the strong finish.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 154 / 177 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 197 / 227 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80
Despite modest averages of 9.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.7 triples in 27.4 minutes, last season was a career year for Nik Stauskas. Those all serve as career-best marks while he was also able to post career-high efficiency marks from the floor and from deep at .396 and .368, respectively. He put together a quietly solid fantasy year but likely won’t be more than a three point specialist going forward.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 193 / 229 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 203 / 242 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 68
Six years removed from his last NBA stint, Sergio Rodriguez opened the season as Philadelphia’s starting point guard and acquitted himself nicely, averaging 9.3 points, 6.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.6 threes in his first 30 games back (29 starts). Unfortunately for him, he sustained an injury in late December that cost him three games and his starting job. When he returned, the Sixers decided to roll with T.J. McConnell in the starting five and Rodriguez started just one more game the rest of the way. He’s highly unlikely to be fantasy relevant next year, though he always has appeal as an assist specialist when he starts.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: N/A / N/A (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: N/A / N/A (8/9 cat), Games Played: 0
Ben Simmons is the new big mystery for the Sixers. Will he live up to his number one pick label? Will he fit in with the current team? What role will he play? Power forward? Point guard? Point forward? The young Australian is a favorite to compete for the Rookie of the Year award next season despite some known shooting and efficiency issues. He should be treated as a mid-late round pick with considerable upside if everything breaks his way.
The 28-54 record doesn’t accurately show the progress Philadelphia made this year. They finally have a real young core to build around and the next trick will be making sure these players develop and stick around for the long haul. From a positional point of view, Philly has plenty of talented frontcourt players and will look for a long-rumored point guard upgrade this offseason. It will be interesting to see if the Sixers rely on trades, free agency or simply continuing to trust that good ol’ fashioned process to strengthen their roster. Stay tuned.