The Future Is Bright for the Philadelphia 76ers

There's no question that the Sixers were awful last year. But after an active off-season, are they poised to turn it around?

It's not always sunny in Philadelphia, and it's been especially gloomy for Sixer fans. Over the past 11 seasons, the Sixers have only reached the .500 mark on four occasions. Since Larry Brown departed for Detroit after the 2002-2003 campaign, the 76ers have had seven different coaches, including two in 2003-2004. And, over the last 11 seasons, this past year was the worst one, as the Sixers finished 19-63 - eight games worse than their next lowest win total. In fact, the 2013 Sixers also earned the second-worst offensive rating, and the absolute worst defensive rating since 2003.

But when you're down this low, there's no way to go but up. The Sixers front office has followed the saying, "You got to tear it down to build it back up," and as a basketball fan, it's hard not to see what's shaping up in the City of Brotherly Love.

2013 Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams is the reigning Rookie of the Year. As bad as the Sixers were last year, MCW was definitely a bright spot. As promising as he looked, he did put up some bad numbers. His nERD of -8.1 was tied for the fourth lowest among all players, and his numberFire efficiency of -2.1 would place him in the bottom half of our player power rankings. Carter-Williams also posted a sub-par defensive rating of 108, and a sad offensive win share total of -0.8 as he struggled to help out his team offensively.

But what was he supposed to do? He was put in a tight spot from the start. I mean, just look at his frontcourt mate, Tony Wroten, who finds himself at the bottom of our nERD rankings after posting a fungus-like -9.9. In addition to Wroten, Carter-Williams didn't receive much help from anywhere else. But he still managed to put up some promising numbers. In 70 games, he averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds per contest. The point guard also tallied 1.9 steals per game as he used his 6-foot-6 length to pick balls from opposing guards. If he dedicates himself to improving his jumper and and his defensive game, the possibilities for this year are endless.

2014 Rookie of the Year?

Nerlens Noel may have been sitting on an NBA roster for a year, but he's not sitting any longer. Last year's sixth overall pick has quickly shown the potential to be the second Sixer in two years to win the Rookie of the Year award. Coming off of his knee injury nearly 17 months ago, and his subsequent "redshirt" season in Philadelphia, Noel has looked great in summer league games. In his July 5th debut, Noel tallied 19 points, 4 steals, 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 block all in just 26 minutes.

Noel's summer league, as a whole, has been impressive. In his four games in Orlando, Noel averaged 12 points while shooting just under 52% from the field. He also contributed 5.7 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 3 blocks per game. The former Kentucky star continued his productive play in Las Vegas, as he averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks in two games. These aren't the same ridiculous numbers (10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks) Wildcat fans saw in Noel's limited time with Kentucky, but he's facing better competition and coming off a major injury. Oh, and he's only played around 25 minutes per game. I can only imagine the impact he will have when he's back in the grind and getting every-day NBA minutes.

2014 Draft Picks and Acquisitions

Joel Embiid, #3 Overall

We all know all about the injury issues. Whether it's the back or the foot, that's the big downside for this pick. But that seems to be the only downside. Embiid's draft grades were off the chart, just like his numbers were at KU. In 28 games, he averaged 11.2 points on 62.6% shooting while also accounting for 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in just over 23 minutes per game. If Embiid's on the court, he's going to produce.

K.J. McDaniels, #32 Overall

Though McDaniels was just drafted by the Sixers, he will be one of the more experienced contributors on the team. He played three seasons at Clemson, and he improved each year. This past season, his junior campaign, McDaniels scored 17.1 points per game while also stuffing the stat sheet on a nightly basis. The former Clemson Tiger averaged 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He was an overall contributor and will look to transfer that game to the NBA.

Jordan McRae, #58 Overall (from San Antonio)

McRae played four seasons in Tennessee. He will also be one of the more experienced players for this year's Sixers, even though he has not logged a single minute in the NBA thus far. In his last two seasons McRae was the primary scorer for the Vols. This past year, as a senior, he averaged 18.7 points per game while shooting 43.6% from the field and 35.1% from three. He does have other statistics, but they really don't matter. McRae is a scorer, and that's what he's going to bring to the table for the Sixers. In four summer league games, he's scored 20, 18, 21 and 25 points in just 29.2 minutes per game. He can score from three or he can take it to the hole for an old-fashioned three, as you can see here. McRae is a pure scorer, something the Sixers haven't had since Allen Iverson.

Dario Saric, #12 Overall (from Orlando)

We all know that Saric isn't going to contribute to the team now. He isn't even coming to America until at least 2016. But he's only 20 years old, and he's already won an MVP award in the Adriatic League. And before he signed a contract to play in the Turkish Basketball League, he was widely considered a top-10 pick. It's not hard to see why. This past year, Saric averaged 19.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. The Sixers plan on getting an even better version of Saric when (and if) he comes over to the States in the next few years - when he'll be hitting his prime as a 23 or 24 year old. It's a smart investment.

A Promising Rotation

I really wanted to look at what the ideal lineup would be for the Sixers. I know you may have your own completely different lineup, but, for mine, I took into consideration everything from the advanced metrics, to potential, to my own film study from watching college basketball this past year. This is what I came up with:

Player, Pos.HeightPEROrtgDRtgOWSDWS
Michael Carter Williams, PG6'6"15.596108-0.82.1
Jordan McRae, SG6'6"24119.2100.74.32
K.J. McDaniels, SF6'6"28.4114.490.83.63.1
Nerlens Noel, PF6'10"27.3112.981.91.62.4
Joel Embiid, C7'0"28.2116.690.91.81.7
Lineup Averages and Totals6'7"24.7111.894.5Total: 10.5Total: 11.3

I know, the first impression of this team is that it's young. But the way the Sixers have built up talent has only left them with youth and more youth. There are only a few players with a decent amount of NBA experience. As I looked at those players and their numbers, however, none of them really jumped out at me as starters. MCW seems like the only start-worthy player with one full year of NBA experience. After looking at the numbers, the rooks - McRae, McDaniels, Noel and Embiid - all stand out, and seem to have much more potential. Most importantly, there are some great features to a starting lineup like this.

The lineup is tall and lanky. Every single player stands at least 6-foot-6 in height. Both Carter-Williams and McRae should be able to take advantage of smaller point guard and combo-guards. McDaniels, though he may seem small, is lanky and has played forward a lot of his college career. He's the type of defender that could do wonders at the small forward position.

The frontcourt, however, is the most compelling part of this lineup. Noel and Embiid, both practically centers, are a great combination down low. Both are very versatile and can step out to hit some midrange jumpers or they can use their skillful post games to attack down low. But they will be even better defensively as they hold down the paint with their height and shot-blocking ability.

The most important part of this lineup is that it works. Well, we don't know that for sure yet, but it sure looks like it on paper. If all of these players play to their best abilities, it should amount to success. In fact, according to the total offensive and defensive ratings in a game where there's 100 possession, this team should win by a score 111 to 94. To be honest, it's not likely this lineup would average over 110 points per game. But I can believe in the defensive rating. Noel and Embiid will be huge factors down low, and McDaniels is a great defender. If McRae is a decent defender, as evidenced by his rating, and MCW improves upon his lackluster 108, this could be a very scary defensive team.

The Sixers are coming. And they play in the Eastern Conference. You never know what could happen. But, one thing is for certain. The future in Philly is bright.