This past off-season fans around the NBA hyped themselves up for something that would have been hard to believe even just five years ago: the Philadelphia 76ers. With one of the most tank-heavy approaches to rebuilding in NBA history, Philadelphia finally had enough pieces to put together a real run at the postseason. Joel Embiied, Ben Simmons and top pick Markelle Fultz were supposed to become the next Big 3 to challenge Golden State’s dominance. Of course, those three players might still become the next Big Thing in the NBA — but their time isn’t here, not yet. Through the first handful of games in the NBA season Philadelphia has looked over-matched and bereft of chemistry. What needs to happen for things to change?
In order to really address the future for Philadelphia, you have to take honest stock of the roster that they currently have constructed. Lotto picks Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid look like they could be great for a decade together thanks to their wide range of talent and ability to fill up the box score. Ben Simmons currently leads the NBA in points + assists + rebounds and he’ll be continually leaned upon to lead Philly forward. Embiid is playing with heavy minute restrictions and is routinely held out of games in order to prevent further injuries to what has already been a banged-up career. If these two guys can stay healthy then Philly might have a path to excellence, but the truth is that they’ll need something from #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz.
Fultz is going to be the most defining pick made by the Philadelphia 76ers in recent years. Missing on your #1 overall pick can be absolutely decimating to your franchise. Missing at #1 with Fultz while #2 overall pick Lonzo Ball sets NBA records can feel particularly devastating. Fultz has been a ghost through the first month of the season with re-occurring shoulder injuries that nobody seems to quite be able to figure out. Philadelphia is correct to take it slow with Fultz, as they did with both Embiid and Simmons, but seeing guys like Ball take off and flourish can be a hard pill to swallow for such a patient franchise that was finally promised some sort of change this season.
Philadelphia is going to figure things out sooner than later and fans have to continue being patient. However, it’s not wrong to say that Philly is probably still another year or two before they are ready to be heralded.