The light at the end of the tunnel is finally starting to shine its beacon in Philadelphia.
After four years of darkness, the Sixers have stacked their roster with top 3 picks and with a core of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid expected to turn things around in the Wells Fargo Center, more than 14,000 season tickets have been sold for the upcoming season.
Las Vegas shares the Philly faithful's optimism. Two years after posting a franchise worst 10-72 record (last year they won 28 games) the Sixers are favored to make the playoffs, with the betting line at -125. They also have the seventh best chance of winning an NBA title next year, according to sports books, but 100-1 odds are still long — especially considering the Warriors are still in the midst of ther reign.
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Making the playoffs as a low seed would be a great accomplishment for the rebuilding Sixers, looking to finally shed that label. But injury woes and minutes restrictions could also be labels the team deals with in 2017-18.
Last season, Ben Simmons missed all 82 games after preseason foot surgery. Joel Embiid played in 31 games — posting nearly All-Star caliber stats — but was eventually shut down after a knee injury and more surgery ended his campaign for Rookie of the Year. He played just around 28 minutes per game due to restrictions on his game action. Will Embiid have similar restrictions next season? Will Simmons be limited too?
"If that’s what the training and medical staff tells us, then that’s going to be the case," Sixers' GM Bryan Colangelo said after the Sixers wrapped up the 2017 NBA draft last weekend. "I think both Ben and Joel are on course for recovery. I’d throw Robert Covington into that mix too, who’s overcoming a surgery that I believe was in May. But the bottom line is that we anticipate a full, healthy roster and we’re going to Summer League to try to look and see how the young players are developing and what their health statuses are. But yes, we look to have a full roster, and once again, if the health and medical performance staff tells us that we’re ready to go, then we’ll go."
Keeping the team healthy is one thing. But if the Sixers have the chance at landing a playoff spot, it will be interesting to see how the medical staff, the coaches and the front office decide to manage Simmons and Embiid during the dog days of March and April as the playoff races heat up. The Sixers want to be relevant next season — but also are committed to competing for championships in the next three to five seasons.
"The decisions we are making with respect to contracts and extensions and free-agent moves and trades, everything is designed with a championship in mind," Colangelo said. "But it’s about building it the right way and doing it organically. We want to look at this group, we have a young core of talent that we feel is very capable of becoming that group. But it doesn't happen overnight."