The Philadelphia 76ers are now in complete command of their “tank” for a bad record. On Jan. 10, the Sixers lost 114-110 to the Detroit Pistons at home. Once again, the defense was atrocious, giving up even more than their league- worst average of 110.4 opponent points per game. It seems that with every game, the players on the team forget more and more about the fundamentals of defense in the NBA.
To be fair, the Pistons did have a sizable height advantage in the game, so the defensive difficulties are somewhat reasonable, but giving up over 110 points almost every game is still absurd. Along with the paltry defense, the Sixers’ rebounding has been similarly awful this season, with the Pistons game being no exception. As a team, the Sixers are 29th in the league out of 30 teams in defensive rebounding percentage and allow the fifth-most offensive rebounds to opponents in the league. This, of course, is a problem if your main intention in each game is to actually win.
Fortunately, winning matters about as much to the Sixers as where Andrew Bynum signs following his release from the Chicago Bulls matters to the rest of the league. (That is, not at all.) Against the Pistons, the Sixers allowed three different players — Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond — to have double-digit rebounding games. The Sixers, however, only had one double-digit rebounder in Spencer Hawes, who ended the game with 10. Though no one on the Sixers had truly impressive games, Thaddeus Young turned in a 22-point performance on 21 shots (not good) and Evan Turner scored 19 points with 42 percent shooting.
On Jan. 11, the Sixers dropped another game against the New York Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center, losing 102-92. This was almost a “must-lose” game, as the Knicks were 1.5 games ahead of the Sixers in the standings. Though the Knicks are now 15-23 this year, they came into the game on a four-game winning streak and have actually looked competent over the past few weeks.
The Sixers “held” the Knicks to 102 points, eight points fewer than their season average amount of points allowed per game. If you’re reading this getting excited about the potential of a team that only allows 102 points per game, take a deep breath and realize that the Knicks are awful on offense. They only score 95.4 points per game and only have 90.1 possessions per 48 minutes, which leaves them ranked 25th and 29th in the league, respectively. The most notable part of this game was Amare Stoudemire scoring 21 points on 8-10 shooting. The last season that Soudemire was actually relevant and made a positive impact on his team came in 2009, which was the same year that Kanye West infamously stole the microphone from Taylor Swift at the MTV Music Awards.
Yeah, that long ago.
Stoudemire, a player infamous for his inability to move fluidly on the court due to various knee injuries, managed to basically dribble circles around the Sixers’ defense and make his first seven shots of the game. My personal theory about this unlikely rejuvenation: the Knicks are secretly a front for the Monstars (of “Space Jam” fame) and they have been quietly sapping the knee health of Andrew Bynum since 2010 to transplant into Stoudemire’s body.
With those two losses (and the two before these two), the Sixers currently own the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference, at 13-25. As of Jan. 16, they lead only the Orlando Magic by 3.5 games and the Milwaukee Bucks by six. As of now, if the lottery aspect of the draft is ignored, the Sixers are in line for the fourth and the ninth (from the New Orleans Pelicans) overall picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Along with two second round picks next year that could quite possibly be packaged in a trade for a first rounder and ample trade assets that could yield a possible fourth first-round draft pick, the Sixers’ vision is clearly aimed towards the draft.
Considering that mindset, it is an appropriate time to cover the most likely Sixers first round draft picks next year. Here are two of my favorite players in the upcoming draft, with more to come next week:
First up is Julius Randle, a freshman power forward for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Standing at 6 feet, 10 inches and overflowing with athleticism, Randle would be an incredible asset for the Sixers to acquire. He already has an incredible ability to rebound and has a uniquely advantageous mixture of speed, agility, size and ball handling that seems like it would translate seamlessly to the NBA game. He also tends to finish after contact very well and gets to the foul line prolifically, averaging 10 free throw attempts per game. He would be a perfect candidate to replace Thaddeus Young when he inevitably gets traded right before the trade deadline this season.
Next up is Aaron Gordon, a power forward for the undefeated University of Arizona Wildcats. Admittedly, his offensive efficiency is not great, but he is very good at passing and still has potential on the offensive end. The most notable part of his game is his defense. The 6-foot-9-inch freshman allows opponents to shoot just 34 percent when he is defending against them on the ball. He also holds opponents to 40 percent shooting in the post. According to Ryan Feldman of ESPN.com, those numbers dwarf those of Blake Griffin in his freshman year of college.
On Jan. 15, the Sixers defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, 95-92, to break their four-game losing streak. Their next opponent is Jan. 17 at home against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.