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The Sixers’ Ascension Is Already Upon Us

Being only the third- or fourth-worst would count as progress in Philly

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The 76ers just completed one of the worst three-year stretches in NBA history. They won fewer games over the past three seasons combined (47) than the Warriors did before last year’s All-Star break (48). And now, no. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons is expected to miss the beginning of the season after suffering a broken bone in his right foot. But Kevin O’Connor doesn’t believe the Sixers are destined to be the worst team in the NBA again. As he explained to Chris Vernon on The Ringer NBA Show, the Sixers finally have the talent and organizational structure to be only the third- or fourth-worst team in the NBA. That’s not great, but for Philly, it’s something.

The duo’s full takes on Ben Simmons and the 76ers are in their podcast here. This transcription has been edited and condensed.

The Sixers Have Some Talent for Once

Kevin O’Connor: This year, I don’t want to say [the Sixers] have good talent, because they’re going to be a bad team, but [having] Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless at point guard gives them two shooters. That’s an upgrade from [T.J.] McConnell. I think [Dario] Saric is going to be pretty solid as a rookie, and if I’m betting on the Rookie of the Year, I think it’s going to be Joel Embiid.

People are afraid to say how good [Embiid] could potentially be because he’s been [injured] for two years [and] because he has such a high risk of reinjury, but man, like if this dude stays healthy then he could be a Karl Towns–level prospect. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration given how much he improved as a freshman at Kansas [and] how good he looks right now at the weight he’s at with his quickness. He can shoot 3s, play in the post, and protect the rim. There isn’t [another] guy who can do what Embiid does.

The Lakers and Nets Look Even Worse

K.O.: They’ll be at least better than the Nets and the Lakers. The Nets don’t have a lot going for them other than Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin. And the Lakers, I like the young talent that they have, but unless Luke Walton is a miracle worker, I don’t see how they’ll be better than the [next-worst] team in the West.

Chris Vernon: Let me look at this real quick. Last year, Brooklyn won 21 games and the 76ers won 10. The Lakers won 17 last year. Do you think the Sixers are going to double their win total? Are Brooklyn and L.A., in your opinion, winning less than 20? What number do you think the Sixers feasibly get to, even if they maximized what you think they’re capable of?

K.O.: I just don’t know if the Sixers are going to be tanking this year. I think that’s the main reason why they won 10 games. Sure, they stunk and sure, they didn’t have great talent, but they were also tanking.

The Kings Might Be Secretly Worse

K.O.: The [other] team who I think [has] a chance to be worse is the Sacramento Kings. I want it to work out for the Kings and Dave Joerger. I want it to work out, but look at their point guard situation. Darren Collison’s out for the first eight games, and then behind him they have Ty Lawson and Jordan Farmar.

C.V.: Don’t they have Garrett Temple? You don’t believe?

K.O.: They do have Garrett Temple. He might get some heavy minutes at point guard.

C.V.: The Kings are not going to be worse than the Sixers, but whatever.

They Could Easily Double Last Year’s Win Total

C.V.: What is the maximum amount of [wins] the 76ers could get? Give me a number. They won 10 last year.

K.O.: These are the over-under numbers I’m looking at. This is from the Westgate SuperBook: They have the Sixers at 27.5. I don’t know what numbers you’re looking at. But I’d probably take the under in that case, but I don’t think 24, 25 wins is out of the question for them. I really don’t, especially with the way that [Bryan] Colangelo and [Brett] Brown are on the same page now and aren’t tanking anymore. I think they want to be competitive and I just think they have enough talent to win at least 20 games. That’s not saying much, but it’s progress. Right?