Philadelphia 76ers flip the 2016 script

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Colin Kirkwood, Staff Writer

At this point last season, the Philadelphia 76ers boasted a record of 1-9.

Today, the script has been flipped and the record is a healthy 5-4. Ben Simmons has played in only nine regular season games and he’s posted a triple double in two of them.

Joel Embiid looks healthy, and can play over a minute restriction without backfire. Free agents Josh Redick and Amir Johnson willingly signed on. The tides are turning on Broad Street and the youth of the Sixers is beginning to show promise. Yes it’s slightly early to assume, but the Sixers look like a team that can contend for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern conference.  

This team boasts some flashy team stats such as 26.6 assists per game, which is good for second in the league, 46.8 rebounds per game, which clocks in at eighth best, and 107.7 points per game which is tied for 10th best.

The early season numbers stand for a large improvement even with crown jewel Markelle Fultz sidelined with a shoulder injury. All of this is a good thing, but what are the important matters that will sustain this success into spring?

As you continue to read, I’ll break down the three biggest things that the Sixers need to go right for them to end their five-year long playoff drought.  

The first and most important factor will be health.

If you mention the words “player health” around any Sixers fan, I guarantee shudders would be sent down their spine. The health of players has continued to damper the mood in the “City of Brotherly Love,” with the players like Embiid, Simmons and Fultz all missing time since their respective rookie seasons.

The current loss of Fultz doesn’t seem to faze this team. However, it leads me to believe that they could become scarier with his abilities. Most importantly, Embiid needs to stay in prime shape. The team seems to lose its identity when “Jojo” isn’t roaming the paint.

This season alone when he is on the court the team gives up 99.1 points per 100 possessions compared to 108.1 when he is off the floor. It will be important for the team to monitor his health and keep him in good shape as best as they can.  

The next thing this team will need is veteran leadership. This is something that the franchise has addressed swiftly. The additions of Johnson and Redick are huge, as well as last season’s edition of Jerryd Bayless.

All came to the team bearing the pointers and experience on how to make it through a whole season and what it takes to qualify for the postseason. Johnson has been to the playoffs with the Pistons, Raptors and Celtics in six seasons, while Redick has made the trip with the Magic, Bucks and Clippers.

Meanwhile, Bayless has qualified with Trailblazers, Grizzlies and the Bucks in four seasons.  The insight will go a long way in a locker room of youngsters where the top age behind the three of them is 26. 

Finally, the team just needs to have fun playing the game.

The expectations that come with this season can weigh heavily on a team and it extreme cases cause them to fall apart. The Sixers need to put the thoughts of postseason play and recharging the city’s love of basketball out of their minds and just play one game at a time.

This is the best way to keep cool and not let the outside distractions get in the way. One of the first tests begins this week with a 5-game West Coast swing, starting on Tuesday against the Jazz in Utah.

Following this the team heads to the “Golden State” of California for match-ups with the Kings, Warriors, Clippers and Lakers in that order. Where this team stands skill wise and mentally will be tested.

As someone who has been trusting the process since the beginning, I have the utmost faith in Sam Hinkie’s creation.