We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.
As they’ve done each of the past two seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers will focus on player development at the expense of wins. Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor give the team a top-six big man from each of the last three drafts,1 but Embiid will miss his second straight season recovering from foot injuries. That means one of coach Brett Brown’s major tasks in 2015-16 is figuring out how to make Noel’s defensive talents — and offensive limitations — mesh with Okafor, whose skills are the polar opposite. Around them, Philadelphia has accumulated a glut of one-dimensional young wings, from which Brown will need to sort out useful parts for the future. So while there are skills to refine, a system to learn and an identity to establish this season, Sixers fans can be forgiven for letting their imaginations drift back toward the NBA draft after another year spent rebuilding.
FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system has the Sixers going 25-57.
With the help of CARMELO, here’s what’s in store for the 76ers in 2015-16:
In his first full NBA season, Nerlens Noel was a defensive force, ranking among the top 5 percent of all players in steal rate, block rate and overall defensive plus-minus. The question now is whether he can add any production on offense. Nene is encouraging as a No. 1 comparable — the longtime Nuggets and Wizards big man is a slight positive on offense over his career, and the Sixers would be delighted if Noel turned out so well at that end of the floor.
Jahlil Okafor figures to be an extremely strong and polished post scorer, but he has a lot to prove about his ability to play NBA defense. So, looking at his comparables, the Sixers would be thrilled if he turned out more Derrick Favors (a solid defender) than Derrick Williams (a dreadful one). Okafor and Noel are the frontcourt of the future for the Sixers, but it will be important that they figure out how to complement each other’s games this season.
A dynamic off-the-dribble shot creator sounds nice, but Tony Wroten also happens to be one of the worst 3-point shooters the NBA has ever seen. Wroten’s blend of high-volume shooting and low efficiency can kill an offense, and his player comparisons offer several reminders of that fact. (Looking at you, Dion Waiters.)
After a disastrous rookie season in Sacramento, Nik Stauskas gets a second chance with the Sixers. His value is indelibly tied to his ability to hit 3-pointers, which he did not do enough of a year ago. Coincidentally, CARMELO says Stauskas is most similar to Ben McLemore — the guy Stauskas was unable to supplant as the Kings’ starting shooting guard last season.
With his ability to cover multiple positions, Jerami Grant is the kind of defender any team could use. But on offense, he’s a turnover machine with an ugly jump shot. His top four comparables — Quincy Miller, Dorell Wright, DerMarr Johnson and Travis Outlaw — all showed similar promise when they entered the league, but none figured out how to turn it into production. Let’s see if Grant can break the cycle of disappointment.
Robert Covington isn’t exactly a household name, but as a phenomenal 3-point shooter who is growing into a serviceable wing defender, he could provide useful depth when (if?) the Sixers pivot toward chasing the playoffs. No. 1 comp Danny Green is a great role model for any budding 3-and-D player.
Read more: 2015-16 NBA Previews