Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other you’ll read before the 2016-17 season tips off. The premise is simple. We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
The Sixers can win the NBA title this season. Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers. Laugh if you want, but for the first time in what feels like a decade, there’s real excitement around this team, thanks in large part to the on-court presence of a certain 7’2 first-round draft pick who is finally on the verge of contributing after two seasons of recovering from foot injuries. Add in two baby-faced 6’10 point forwards with magical passing ability — one of whom could return from his own foot injury in a few months, and the other of whom is named Dario — and a few legit NBA players on the perimeter, and suddenly this is starting to look like a real, actual basketball team. Will winning the title be easy? Well, no. Will the team need some help? Yes. But we’ll get to that. I swear. Just promise to hear me out.
And so, without further ado, here is my very simple 10-step plan for the Sixers to win the 2016-17 NBA season.
STEP 1 – Joel Embiid must remain healthy all year and begin developing into the player Sixers management thought he could be when they drafted him a few years ago. The importance of this can’t be overstated. Embiid’s potential is almost limitless. He’s a 7’2 shot-erasing giant with the speed and agility of a small forward and shooting range out to the three-point line. His top-end comparisons are basically “Anthony Davis but bigger” and “Karl-Anthony Towns but way better at social media.” If he pans out, it changes the entire future of the organization, beginning this season. So that’s where the plan has to start.
STEP 2 – Ben Simmons must return from his broken foot around Christmas and quickly develop into the passing virtuoso he showed glimpses of being both at LSU and during Summer League. He probably won’t be a point guard in the strict, dictionary-defined sense of the position, but he will have the ball in his hands and he will be initiating the offense, and the Sixers haven’t had a top-end player capable of doing this since… I honestly don’t know. Things got so bad last year that they brought Ish Smith back and he looked like Chris Paul by comparison. But like, better. Ish Smith looked like a better version of Chris Paul. That’s what I’m saying. Trust the process.