2018-19 Season Preview Extravaganza | The Sixers' Process Is Reaching Its Conclusion
Twenty-nine different opposing NBA teams will walk through the doors of Target Center to play the Wolves this season, and we want you to know as much as you can about all of them. We’re going worst to first in order of last year’s standings and telling you everything you need to know. Next up, a team loaded with incredible talent and loads of untapped potential.
Notable Players Acquired: G/F Zhaire Smith (draft), G Landry Shamet (draft), G Shake Milton (draft), F Wilson Chandler (trade), F Mike Muscala (trade)
Notable Players Lost: F Ersan Ilyasova (free agency), G Marco Belinelli (free agency), G Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (trade)
Recapping 2017-18: The Sixers finished with a record of 52-30 and lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics. Riding a Rookie of the Year campaign from Ben Simmons and an impressive return to form by Joel Embiid, the Sixers reminded everyone how important it is to #trusttheprocess.
Oh, and Embiid nicknamed himself “The Process,” which was pretty hilarious.
A lot of attention in 2017-18 was focused on the development of No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz. Fultz missed almost the entire season and in one of the more bizarre storylines of the decade, apparently had to re-learn how to shoot. That was definitely a blow for the team, who really could have used Fultz’s shooting next to Simmons, who is already elite in many areas of his game but absolutely cannot shoot threes.
Outside of the two guards, there was a ton of focus on Embiid, who looked like a generational talent, but still struggled to stay on the floor. Embiid played 63 games last season. With him, the Sixers are a legitimate finals contender. Without him, they lack a true No. 1 scoring option. While Simmons could be that guy eventually, without an outside shot his scoring upside is limited. Simmons could be the captain of an incredible offense, but it would be getting a little ahead of ourselves to say he has the ability to be a primary scoring option on a championship team.
The Sixers had an interesting offseason. They didn’t bring in any talent that will definitely moved the needle, but they replaced an effective and interesting bench unit with… another effective and interesting bench unit. The loss of Ersan Ilyasova hurts, there’s no question about it, but Wilson Chandler could be a great option off the bench or even in a starting role if he can stay healthy, and Mike Muscala’s shooting certainly has a place on the team as well. The Sixers got more athletic and better at shooting the ball this offseason, creating a supporting cast that makes sense with their young exciting core. We’ll see if it’s enough.
The Big Question:
Can Embiid and Fultz stay healthy?
Two of the Sixers’ three cornerstone franchise players have had major injury concerns in the last few years. That’s not a great sign. While the drafting of Fultz over Lonzo Ball and Jason Tatum may seem crazy in retrospect, it completely makes sense why Philly did it. Fultz was a career 42 percent shooter from three in college, and a guy who could create his own shot on offense, pass confidently and defend well. That’s exactly what they needed. If they can get that guy this season they could be a dangerous team. Embiid is more critical though. He is a Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner and an absolutely elite post scorer. There are few if any players in the league who can go head-to-head with him. The Sixers need Embiid for at least 70 games. If they can get that they’ll be hard to stop.
How Do The Wolves Beat Them?
Don’t get outrebounded. Embiid and Simmons are both elite rebounders at their position, and the Sixers run an efficient enough offense that giving them second chance opportunities is a quick way to run into trouble. Outside of winning on the boards, limiting the Sixers’ bench unit is key. Make Simmons and Embiid play 40 minutes and beat you by themselves.
This team could be really good. Though I’m not sure they have enough to get past the Raptors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy, and they aren’t better than the Celtics, they will definitely be a tough out for every team in the league. I’m predicting they finish with the No. 3 seed again, but a No. 2 finish wouldn’t surprise me. The Celtics are this team’s kryptonite—they’ll play in the playoffs as long as they can until they run into them.
Describe This Team In 15 Words Or Less
One of the most talented teams in the league, incredibly injury-prone.
So When Can I See Them?
The Wolves travel to Philly on Jan. 15, and the Sixers come to town on Mar. 30.