NBA: Three Teams With Game-Changing Young Talent

Apr 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Injured Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) practices prior to a game against the New York Knicks at Wells Fargo Center. The New York Knicks won 109-102. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Injured Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) practices prior to a game against the New York Knicks at Wells Fargo Center. The New York Knicks won 109-102. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia 76ers: A Process Payoff

While Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie was often reviled for his seeming disregard for the feelings of both NBA players and fans, it is arguable that his plan to accrue as many premium assets as possible (often to the detriment of watchable basketball) worked.

Looking across the roster aside from the point guard position, the 76ers have potential top talent across the board. Ben Simmons is being compared to LeBron James if LeBron James barely ever scored; people were calling Joel Embiid the next Hakeem Olajuwon during his college career; Dario Saric is an international and Olympic competition stud; and a genetic splicing of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel would result in a complete NBA big man.

Depending on how much you buy into TJ McConnel’s star potential, the 76ers lack of a starting caliber point guard is concerning. Fortunately, as I’ve touched on in my other articles, starting caliber NBA point guards more or less grow on trees nowadays. Jeff Teague was an All-Star on a 60-win team two years ago and the Hawks couldn’t get more than a pick for him in their trade with Indiana.

Value comes with scarcity, and Teague’s high talent, confusingly high availability, and relatively cheap cost point to the lack of scarcity at his position. Whether through trade, draft, or free agent signing, the point guard position is the most relatively easy one to fill from a team building standpoint in the NBA.

Even so, the 76ers have some of the most high potential talent in the NBA. By both regular and advanced statistics, Joel Embiid had a great season at Kansas. He posted 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks a game. Even more unusually, his success was the result of years of conditioning and training.

He began playing basketball at the age of 15. He essentially went from not knowing how to play at all to being the 3rd pick in the NBA draft in five years. One can only imagine what he will turn into with NBA trainers and resources and the time to take full advantage of them. I hesitate to analyze his game and highlights of it any further however, since the guy hasn’t had recorded action in two years.

For all we know his game looks completely different now than it did when he played at Duke. So our discussion of him will end a bit shorter than expected.

Ben Simmons of course combines the advantages of having an unfair physical profile like Lebron James with the deity given unfair passing ability of pre-body disintegration Steve Nash.

The first action he does in this video is a full court one man fast break against Jaylen “Lateral Quickness Monster” Brown which leads to Simmons getting him out of position and results to Simmons earning two free throws. Out of the gate we see that he handles the ball extremely well for someone his size and he is able to earn fouls against a strong defensive prospect.

And while he doesn’t score much in this video outside of drawing fouls, his much lauded passing is already on display. At the 58 second mark he delivers an extremely on point quick over the shoulder pass to a curling Timothe Luwawu. The next two consecutive highlights after that in conjunction are mildly jaw dropping.

He hits a jumper even though his shot is supposedly broken, and then you’ll see him catch a rebound, push the ball a couple of dribbles, and then somehow throw a curling bounce pass through two Celtics to a running Luwawu while Simmons himself  moves at close to full speed.

The description doesn’t do the play justice. As far as summer league basketball goes, it was a pretty special moment.  The next play he decides to show off again and he makes an excellent instinctive touch pass to a cutter who moved to the basket.

A couple of plays later, at around the 1:38 mark, and he tops off his NBA introduction by throwing an almost look away one armed bullet pass to a different cutting player. Add his pretty ridiculous passing to a workable jumpshot form, an excellent for his position-handle, and a strong and athletic 6-foot-9 body that will probably be able to feasibly defend 3 or 4 positions if coached properly, and you could argue pretty well that Philadelphia got an alright prospect.

Ben Simmons will probably do okay in the NBA.

Philadelphia has enough talented assets that they may either result in winning with experience, or if not, they are also flexible and varied enough to move if eventual roster redundancy necessitates a consolidation. Even with their front court log jam, they are in an enviable position. While I was relatively dismissive of Jahlil Okafor in my previous article about defensive value, I could just as easily be proven very wrong this year when Okafor makes 3rd Team All NBA and leads the Philadelphia 76ers to the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Nerlens Noel could also go from being “raw” offensively (“raw” being a polite euphemism for “terrible”) to being Anthony Davis with more eyebrows and flatter hair. Crazier things have happened. Regardless, Philadelphia is loaded at the most scarce positions in the NBA and shallow at its deepest.

The team is in an easier than most position to balance out their collection of young blue chip talent into a very scary team. Once they do, Sam Hinkie will probably be smiling from his private jet as the Sixers take the NBA by storm.

Next: Post-Kobe Era Lakers