ESPN writer Kevin Pelton recently projected the win totals for each NBA team and he had an interesting take on the 76ers.
Pelton made the projection using ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM). This metric isolates the unique plus-minus impact of each NBA player by adjusting for the effects of each teammate and opposing player.
Based on this method, the 76ers, who went 28-54 last season, are projected to win 33.2 games.
The first reaction of Sixers followers was that this was probably a low win total and Pelton shared that assessment.
“I’ll take the over on 33 wins,” he wrote.
So would just about anybody else on one condition – that Joel Embiid is healthy.
His injury history through three years is well documented. Embiid missed his first two seasons due to foot surgeries and appeared in just 31 games last season. His final game was January 28 before a torn meniscus sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The Sixers, if healthy, and based on their recent history, that is not something that can be taken for granted, should challenge for a playoff spot.
The ESPN projection has the Sixers finishing ninth, one spot out of a postseason berth. The Sixers have gone five straight seasons without making the playoffs.
If health prevails, the Sixers will have a new backcourt with 6-10 Ben Simmons and 6-4 rookie Markelle Fultz. It’s basically two point guards in one backcourt, but Fultz was a 41.3 percent three-point shooter at the University of Washington and he can play off the ball. Plus when Simmons isn’t in the game, he can take over the point.
Like Embiid, Simmons has to prove he can stay healthy after missing all last season following foot surgery.
If that is the case, one would think that this new backcourt can be worth more than five more wins from last year’s total.
Plus free agent J.J. Reddick shot 42.9 percent from three-point range for the Los Angeles Clippers, which was sixth in the NBA.
Power forward Amir Johnson, a free agent from Boston, should bring veteran savvy.
The Sixers figure that Dario Saric, who played in 81 games as a rookie, will show the improvement that he displayed once Embiid went down with injury.
Robert Covington is a streaky shooter, but a tough defender and he should remain a key part of the team.
So there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the Sixers.
Fifth-year coach Brett Brown finally has a team that should challenge for a playoff spot. Whether they earn a postseason berth or not, the key this season is for the young players to develop.
The Sixers will also have a little chip on their shoulder. The players, including Fultz, have talked about being a playoff team this season. They will use the ESPN projection as motivation, as if they need any more.
The way fans are geared for this team, the Sixers have improved so much in their eyes, that it would be a disappointment if the season wasn’t extended this season.