The Philadelphia 76ers made strides forward in the 2016-17 NBA season, bouncing back from their embarrassing previous campaign.
The 76ers almost broke their own record for the most defeats in a single term, losing 72 of their 82 contests – only one shy of the 73 the club suffered in the 1972-73 season.
Brett Brown managed to retain his position as the franchise’s head coach, although general manager Samuel Hinkie did not last the term, resigning before the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
In his place came Bryan Colangelo – son of president of basketball operations Jerry Colangelo – and one of his first tasks was to manage the selection of the first-overall pick in the 2016 Draft.
The 76ers selected Ben Simmons with the pick following his impressive season at LSU, while Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz were also added in the first round.
Philadelphia opted from making big splashes during free agency, with only the signings of Jerryd Bayless and Dario Saric displaying significant investment.
Perhaps the most important boost was the return to fitness of Joel Embiid, although his campaign was still affected by lingering problems that limited him to just 31 matches.
Simmons became the latest 76ers star to suffer the injury bug, which ruled him out of the entire campaign due to a foot problem.
Philadelphia battled on without their key players and improved on their performance in the previous term, but still were well off the pace in the race for the playoffs, winning only 28 of their 82 games.
The 76ers could not have asked for a worse start to the term, facing the Oklahoma City Thunder straight out of the gate, suffering a six-point defeat at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Atlanta Hawks were next up, but Brown’s men were on the receiving end of a hammering as their offense failed to click into gear, mustering only 76 points.
November yielded back-to-back defeats to open the second month of the term, while match against the Cleveland Cavaliers highlighted the potential of the club, only to lose by a point to the reigning champions.
The 76ers endured a seven-game winless run to start the campaign before they finally notched their opening win of the term, defeating the Indiana Pacers in overtime thanks to a 25-point display from Embiid.
Philadelphia won three of their next six matches to establish themselves in the season, including back-to-back triumphs over the Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat as Embiid starred once again in and around the net. However, November was to end with four defeats on the bounce.
The start of December did not provide respite for Brown’s men, with his side extending their winless run to eight contests before Ersan Ilyasova guided his side to victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on the road.
Strong performances from Robert Covington and TJ McConnell saw off the Detroit Pistons, while Embiid put in a 33-point outing to defeat the Brooklyn Nets. However, the 76ers’ issues with consistency would see them drop their next four matches before a victory over the Denver Nuggets ended 2016 on a high note, although their record was an unappealing 8-24.
January proved to be a promising month for the 76ers, beginning with a fine performance to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves, with Embiid leading the way with a 25-point outing.
A defeat to the Boston Celtics ensued, but Brown’s men found their form by producing three wins on the bounce as Embiid took command of the team to drive them to the triumphs.
For the first time in his NBA career, the 23-year-old displayed his peak talent, thriving even when his side were not on top, putting in an impressive performance in a defeat to the Houston Rockets.
Philadelphia boasted a winning record in the month, winning 10 of their 15 matches, improving their overall record slightly. However, that momentum was stymied at the beginning of February as the club lost their opening five games by significant margins, including two defeats at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs – home and away.
Saric ended the run with a 24-point performance to defeat the Orlando Magic on the road, kickstarting a three-match winning run, with the Croatian putting in another fine outing to lead the 76ers’ victory against the Charlotte Hornets.
A knee injury ended Embiid’s season, while other losses began to take hold, which limited the club’s progress towards the end of the season. Brown’s men did record wins against the Celtics and the Bulls as Saric again highlighted his quality, but Philadelphia claimed only six triumphs in their last 23 matches of the season, ending the campaign on a low note.
The 76ers have a young core of players emerging in their roster, with their draft picks beginning to pay dividends. Embiid missed the first two seasons of his career, but flashed his talent in his limited time on the court in the 2016-17 campaign, leading his side in points per game and putting in impressive performances, especially in January.
His health will be vital moving forward – as if he can replicate that form over the course of the 82-game season then the 76ers could well be on to an All-Star calibre player.
Simmons missed his rookie season due to a foot injury, but should return to boost his side’s power on the court for next term. The 76ers missed his power and athleticism on the court, and could be a strong candidate to be named Rookie of The Year at odds of +300 with Bovada sportsbook.
Philadelphia made a statement of intent in the 2017 Draft by moving up to snag the first-overall selection from the Celtics. They traded away future first-round selections, but acquired the perceived top talent of point guard Markelle Fultz. McConnell was solid in the position in his second season, but the quality of Fultz could provide an immediate upgrade on the court. His odds to be named Rookie of the Year of +550 are equally intriguing.
Brown’s men are trending in the right direction after several years of abject results. They should continue to make strides forward next season, but their odds of +50000 with 188Bet suggest that there is a long way to go for the club to get back to prominence.
Ben Simmons To Be Rookie Of The Year
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