By: Scott Brock-Wilson and Justin Lynch
In the first installment of a 15-part series, Scott and Lynch preview the bottom two teams in the NBA
These are Scott and Lynch’s rankings for the upcoming season. We will release two teams per day until the season starts. The rankings and projected records were a collaboration. For each team one will write the season outlook and the other will do best/worst case scenario. Scott is denoted as SBW, Lynch as JL.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
Last Season: 18-64, Missed Playoffs (14th in East)
Key Offseason Acquisitions: Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Kendall Marshall
Key Offseason Losses: Jason Richardson, Thomas Robinson, Ish Smith
Projected Starting 5:
PG: Tony Wroten
SG: Nik Stauskas
SF: Robert Covington
PF: Nerlens Noel
C: Jahlil Okafor
Key Role Players:
1. Kendall Marshall
2. Carl Landry
3. JaKarr Sampson
SBW Season Outlook:
The Sixers are on team tank again, SHOCKER! This offseason they didn’t lose anyone substantial (but then again who beside Noel would be a substantial loss?). Their biggest ‘loss’ would be the news that Joel Embiid will miss his entire sophomore season due to another injury to his right foot. To combat the injury, Hinkie drafted yet another center. Hinkie continued to build their talent by drafting the best available player in Jahlil Okafor.
Okafor was a star with Duke’s offense relying on him in his one year there, boasting a an impressive 17 points and 8.5 rebounds/game. He will have his troubles defensively, that is for sure, but that is where Noel will aid him. In his first year, Noel was the lone bright spot on the 76ers. He averaged nearly 2 of each assists, steals and blocks while putting up 10 points and 8 boards. These two will have to carry the load and hope for a contribution from second year man Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas had high expectations when he came into the league only one year ago, but of course, Sacramento could not find a way to effectively involve their first round pick yet again (Jimmer, Thomas Robinson). The Kings gave up on the 22 year old way too early. Stauskas’ shooting was poor last year (32.2% 3pt), but hopefully he can bounce back to aid Philadelphia’s atrocious (2nd worst) three point percentage of 32%. Regardless he will help the spacing on offense for both Nerlens and Okafor.
When people say Philadelphia is young, that’s an understatement. The Sixers’ roster currently has one guy with more than three years of experience: Carl Landry. They need some type of experience if they want to win, but then again, as I’ve already alluded to, they aren’t really trying to win. The Sixers will be fighting for the top spot in the draft yet again.
JL Best-case scenario:
Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor become a two-headed monster with Okafor beating up unsuspecting defenders on the post, while Nerlens protects the rim and rebounds at ungodly rates. Kendall Marshall thrives in more playing time and we see numbers similar to those he put up in Los Angeles (8 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds), while still retaining his improved field goal percentage from last season (46%). Nik Stauskas also starts to blossom as an NBA talent, and with more of the load offensively, he begins to develop his ability to drive to the basket after teams become worried about him from behind the arc. Despite all the individual success, the team as a whole falters, and they finally win the lottery and draft Ben Simmons. As a kicker, the Lakers pick falls outside of the top 3. Philly goes into 2016-17 with a healthy Embiid, Dario Saric, and two top-five picks to go along with their current roster.
JL Worst-case scenario:
It becomes clear that playing Nerlens and Okafor together is too cramped on offense. Okafor’s defensive questions become serious issues and he is worse than people thought offensively. Nik Stauskas cannot get anything going because teams are not worried about anyone else offensively. Joel Embiid wears ugly suits on the sidelines, reminding everyone just how dire the situation is. Dario Saric decides he wants to remain overseas and the 76ers become forced to negotiate with him, likely costing them millions in cap room. They finish with the worst record in the league, but fall in the lottery, missing out on Ben Simmons.
Projected Record: 21-61
29. Los Angeles Lakers
Last Season: 21-61, Missed Playoffs (14th in West)
Key Offseason Acquisitions: D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, Roy Hibbert
Key Offseason Losses: Carlos Boozer, Wesley Johnson, Ed Davis, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lin
Projected Starting 5:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Role Players:
1. Brandon Bass
2. Nick Young
3. Lou Williams
JL Season Outlook:
The Lakers come in at 29 in our rankings, but their season could really go two ways; either it works out or it crashes miserably, as Scott will further enlighten us in his best/worst case scenario. Of course, this ranking expects the latter. Three of the five projected starters are new to the team (I’m counting Julius Randle) and Kobe and Clarkson started a combined 73 games.
Russell comes into LA with a lot of hype, and a backcourt of him and Clarkson is definitely a bright spot for the Lakers future. Clarkson finished last season with a -2.36 RPM, 56th among point guards and only shot 31% from three. However, Clarkson’s 17 PER for the season, as well as his 17 points/game on 48% shooting after the all star break is promising. The downside is Kobe will still command the ball and take seemingly infinite touches from the two youngsters trying to develop.
(Quick tangent: Kobe is a hinderance to this teams rebuild and his presence on the team is hurting the team’s long-term success. The Lakers will deal with it again this season, but pulling the plug on Kobe might end up being this team’s only option.)
The biggest issue with this team is up front. Roy Hibbert’s ability to protect the rim is about the only positive quality this duo brings to the table. Roy Hibbert, for being 7’2”, is a terrible rebounder. He averaged seven boards/game in 25 minutes on a 15.5 rebounding rate. That ranks him 60th in the league, behind the likes of Aron Baynes, Carlos Boozer, and Joel Freeland. Randle rebounded well in college, but he’s undersized and not really as on the boards as people think. To make matter worse, Randle cannot guard anyone.
Offensively, neither Hibbert nor Randle can make a shot outside the paint. Hibbert struggles to create for himself in the post, other than a decent baby-hook and Randle’s only move is to catch is on the elbow, spin, and throw up a crazy shot that comes closer to the shot clock that it does the bottom of the net. The clogged paint will be a real issue for Clarkson, who (as noted above) struggles from deep. The jury is out on Russell’s three point ability, and Kobe has never even been a knockdown shooter from behind the arc.
This team has talent. But the mishmosh of that talent makes it hard to think it can work. It will get ugly in Los Angeles, and it will get there fast.
SBW Best-case scenario:
Kobe takes a lesser, more efficient, role at the three position letting Russell, Randle, and Clarkson develop and lead the team. Russell and Clarkson find success playing next to each other in the backcourt while Randle overcomes his lack of size to be a tenacious rebounder who pulls down boards on both ends and garners a rather surprisingly good mid range jump shot. A ‘successful’ season will be one that allows the young players to develop, improve and lead.
SBW Worst-case scenario:
Kobe holds the ball and takes too many shots, leading to the stalling of the growth of their young core. Russell struggles running the offense and taking care of the ball, as Randle proves he is nothing more than an undersized four with no jump shot, who gets take advantage of defensively. Clarkson fails to match his success from his rookie season due to his lack of improvement in his offensive range. And, oh by the way, Swaggy P decides that he can be Kobe as well. These events lead the Lakers to the worst record in the league, but the fall out of the top three in the draft, losing their pick to the 76ers.
Projected Record: 22-60