The Philadelphia 76ers have now won 7 of their last 9 games. Wait… what? But no, you actually read that sentence correctly. The 76ers have started the new year on a tear, and things are finally starting to look up for the city of brotherly love.
And to top it all off? The Sixers just beat the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night. The so-called bottomdweller just beat the second-best team in the East. Was it a fluke, or are these signs of genuine improvement coming from Joel Embiid and company?
Trust The Process
For years now, the 76ers have been mired in the bogs of mediocrity. Actually, that’s already sugarcoating it – they’ve been downright horrible. In each of the last three seasons, they won less than 20 games. Last year, they only won 10. That’s a 12% win record.
Now, they’ve already won 13 at the season’s midway point. The reason for their scorching performance as of late? Joel Embiid has really come into his own. The big man is averaging 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game in his rookie season. He proved his efficiency in Toronto with a +20 in 26 minutes. And in attacking the rim, he is fearless, leading the league in 10.9 free throw attempts per 36 minutes according to Liberty Ballers.
Sure, being 7-feet tall and 250 lbs. makes the job easier. But it’s commendable nonetheless – he’s converting on 78.6% on those freebies. This is what Philly was itching for since they first drafted him, prior to the injury that delayed his debut.
The rest of the team pulls their part. Dario Saric’s block on Jared Sullinger is representative of how good the team can be on defense when they try. If you go a few games back and remember TJ McConnell’s buzzer beater on Carmelo Anthony, you see how they can be mentally tough. Jahlil Okafor’s numbers have dropped since last season, but only because he now shares the frontcourt load with Embiid.
The process seems to be paying dividends in significant portions for the first time in years. Maybe the team won’t be able to sustain this run all season, sure. But now we know for a fact, that the potential to succeed is there. It’s in the win column, in the numbers.
Philadelphia 76ers has a bright future
And the best of those numbers? 22, 21, and 20 – those are the ages of Embiid, Okafor, and top draft pick Ben Simmons, respectively. Simmons hasn’t even played yet, and he’s expected to be really, really good.
They also own the Los Angeles Lakers pick in the 2017 draft. Seeing how badly the Lakers have regressed since their hot start to the season, that’s valuable. Philadelphia could have two top-ten draft picks in a loaded draft.
Are they going to make the Playoffs this year? Probably not. The second half of their season would need to be miraculous for that to happen. This year is not Philadelphia’s time. They’re still building on a young core of talent, living out the growing pains (as they have for the last few years).
But in three, maybe four years’ time? When they unleash Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid starts coming into his prime? And especially if their 2018 picks are winning moves? Then the process would no longer be about improving. It would be about flying high. There’s a bright future for the Philadelphia 76ers, folks. And this is the start.