With the NBA Summer league now in the books, and with what was probably the most insane free agency period to date pretty much finished, now all 76er fans have left to do is…. well, wait in anticipation for the 2016-2017 season, and it’s the first time in a long time that fans are excited for an upcoming season to begin.
It’s not that the 76ers will compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference next season, that won’t happen, but with the string of good news in the last month in Sixer land, fans like me cannot wait to see the formation of a potential young core, starting with the first pick in this past draft Ben Simmons.
Simmons is a mix of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, LeBron James and Thor. Just kidding, I was just overacting like most people tend to do with the NBA Summer League. Half the time, Summer League seems like a glorified pickup game, but there is some merit when rookies play because it’s the highest level of competition they have faced to that point in their young basketball lives.
Again, I’ve pretty much documented at length how great of a passer Ben Simmons is, but I had no idea he would be this good at passing. Simmons has looked like a jumbo sized rookie Jason Kidd (the comparision is even more apropos because he is working on his jump shot) and he made some passes this summer that I’ve rarely seen players make, even in Summer League level of play; the best part is he is a willing passer and sees things two steps ahead of everyone else. Combined with his special vision, the no look passes are something to behold because a lot of times defenders will watch the ball handlers' eyes and react to where the pass is going. Simmons has already shown great awareness and anticipation of where his teammates will be and with no look passes how can a defender possibly react? Answer: You can’t
With his summer campaign complete people will look at his high turnover rate and assume he has a turnover problem, but when you play with a special passer like Simmons sometimes teammates have to adjust, and not only that, Summer league teams usually don’t have the chemistry you see during an actual NBA season which means the timing is off, and the familiarity is just not there. He will still have a steep learning curve next season and he will most certainly have his fair share of turnovers, but the dude is only 19 years old, and he’s making plays like this as a 6’10 245 pound Power Forward/Point Forward/Point God.
The top spin and touch on this fast break is mind boggling.
A no-look for good measure.
Yeah, I’m just going to add an extra clip here.
I lied, Here's one more. Just....what?????
To go along with the Simmons craze, the last month of good news has caused even more excitement, as Joel Embiid has been playing 5 on 5 scrimmages in a "controlled environment" and is on track to play in his first NBA game after sitting out for two years. Most would assume the Sixers have been a poorly ran franchise the last three years, (a perception created by a lack of wins due to the Tank) but they actually have the some of the best practice facilities, medical personnel, trainers and developmental staff in the Association, a resource Embiid has been constantly using. We don’t know what Embiid can bring but there is no question about his physical features, and players along with coaches who have seen him up close rave about his talent and skill-set. While he is an unknown commodity at the moment, he was one of the best big man prospects I ever saw in college and the 76ers used a 3rd overall pick on him in the 2014 draft, we have to see what he can do.
Another 76er “rookie” from the 2014 draft, Dario Saric, also flew into Philly on Friday to officially ink his contract, after being stashed overseas for two seasons. For those who haven’t watched Saric (YouTube recommended), he is another 6-10 point-forward, and while he doesn’t have anywhere near the skill-set or vision of a Ben Simmons as a ball handler (stuff you really can’t teach), Saric showed overseas that he can handle, pass a little bit but more importantly he can shoot the ball, as he posted a 50-40-90 season (the holy grail for a shooter) in the Turkish League this past year. Saric’s skillset actually allows him to complement and play with Simmons, and I cannot wait to see two 6-10 “big men” with diverse skill-sets running the floor in an up-tempo style.
Of course this will not be a playoff team, not even close, but at very least this will be a league pass team to watch. Seeing Ben Simmons run point and push the ball in transition this Summer has already been one of my favorite things to watch in basketball and with the Embiid and Saric news, the recent signings of veteran wing players and a possible Jahlil Okafor (or Nerlans Noel) trade down the road. The Sixers are looking prime to win 25 to 30 games. Yeah, that might not sound too exciting… unless you understand what Sixer fans willingly had to endure for the last three years.