I made some assumptions and predictions about the 76ers over the summer. Some of them are making me look smart. The others? Hoo boy.
In this generation of instantaneous-response, it's hard to find the time to look back on things. We respond when something happens and then immediately move on, feeling for the next stimulus that we can respond to. It's exhausting.
In an effort to backtrack, I want to call myself out on some of the things I suggested about the 76ers earlier this season, now that we're starting to get a sense of the team.
With Ben Simmons (and Nerlens Noel) sidelined, it's hard to make heads or tails of a team that's basement-dwelling. Even so, the Sixers haven't been quite the train wreck of years passed — even if they started on a seven game losing streak. Let's be diplomatic about this and start with a correct(ish) prediction and then follow it up with one that was wrong.
I was (kind of) right about...
Not trading Jahlil Okafor. I still stand firm that this would've been a bad move to make in the preseason. Okafor has had more time to showcase himself and prove that he can be a very good offensive player in the NBA, and someone out there needs that. He's still around the 20 point mark per 36 minutes and shows flashes of being a big-time scorer. Obviously, Okafor needs to learn defense or have a coach that pushes him defensively, but he's only 21 years old and is being thrown in trade rumors on a weekly basis. He's not super-motivated right now, but a panic-trade wouldn't be a useful solution. Floating Okafor's value will work out better in the long-run if they go for a trade.
I was (kind of) wrong about...
Jerryd Bayless. This one is a little misleading because Bayless has been hurt and has only played a few minutes here and there. However, he keeps showing up in the box scores as being on the active roster, which is very confusing to me. The surprising thing is that the guys who would be battling Bayless for minutes — Nik Stauskas, T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez — have all been pretty OK thus far. The back-court hasn't been a total disaster, and Philly has eked out a few wins.
Even so, I think Bayless has a chance to be a solid player upon his return. I was very high on him and the injury woes have tempered my excitement.
I was right about...
Gerald Henderson. As predicted, he won't blow up with 30 point games or electrify an audience with four straight triples, but he's been a solid wing layer. Through the first week of December, he's putting up 10 points a game and giving reliable minutes to a team that's constantly in-flux and finding ways to cover for injured players. He's battling a hip injury of his own, though, and there's a chance that he's about to be put on the shelf to heal.
The big surprise here is that Henderson started the season by bricking his corner-threes. He's a 39 percent shooter from the corners in his career but was only making about 15 percent of them through the first month. He's picked it up though the season thus far and is shooting 39 percent from deep overall, which would be the best mark of his career.
I was VERY wrong about...
Joel Embiid. Hoo boy was I wrong. I know it's early and I would still look right if he got hurt again, but, holy crap, this guy is wild. You don't need me to tell you, because if you're reading this you know enough about the NBA to see that this guy is out of control good right now. On a minutes per game restriction, he's dominating.
I didn't see that coming.
Basically, I had no faith that Embiid would be what he is. I expected the injuries to continue and the heartbreak to pile on. It's still possible, but dang . . . he looks really good. I did suggest that he'd end up in the Rookie of the Year race if he played great defense, but I really didn't think it would happen.
I didn't think the Sixers would be a particularly good team — and they're not — but there's definitely a chance that this becomes a middle-of-the-road team over the next 18 months, and that's a huge step.