The other thing I must apologize for is ever doubting TJ McConnell. Immediately writing him off as a poor man’s Aaron Craft (I mean come on they even look alike), the thought process went: how could a lesser version of Aaron Craft make the team when the fully developed Aaron Craft could not (Seriously look at their stats side by side, you’ll get confused which is which). But the Sixers, never one to take the traditional path, took a flyer on McConnell and you know what, I think it was the right move to make. Even though Craft is the superior defender, McConnell is a superior passer and with Isaiah Canaan being the only other healthy “point guard” on the roster for at least the Sixers first month of games, the team needed someone who could pass the ball into the post. McConnell also has all the scrappiness of the prototypical white college point guard who runs through walls for his team and slaps the hardwood on defense. He’s got a heart that’s the size of his motor and you can only hope that his talents will one day catch up with his persistence.
Other noteworthy stories from camp/the preseason include Big Jah, averaging 10.4 points a game on 39% from the field and 4.5 rebounds in 5 games. The Flaptop aka Eraserhead averaged 12.2 points a game while grabbing 8.6 rebounds and perhaps most impressively got to the line 7 times per game in his 5 preseason games. Nerlens had a strong preseason, showing aggression while establishing himself on the offensive end, as well as showing a propensity to fight for rebounds. Jahlil struggled a bit with his positioning; starting his post ups too far away from the hoop to be efficient, but none the less showed that he can score on an NBA level. His rebounding will need work though.
The Sixers somewhat surprisingly cut Furkan Aldemir and ate the remaining 3 million guaranteed on his contract. With the release of the tall Turkish man, so went with him my long list of nicknames that I’d been working ever so diligently on. So you ask, who will be the big man I scream “FURK NOWITZKI” at after he nails a pick and pop three pointer? Well that role will have to be filled by Christian Wood (I concede the nickname mayyyy have to be reworked), whose play showed flashes of the potential that made him a likely first rounder leading up to the combine. The rest of the roster rounded out the way most saw it going with the team retaining veteran Carl Landry and wing defender JaKarr Sampson.
Now, onto tonight’s game at TD Garden in Boston and what to look for and forward to. First of all the 76ers/Celtics rivalry is one of the oldest and most historic in the sport. It’s died down in the past couple years but both teams are young and only getting better so you have to think sooner or later the rivalry will be rekindled in a big way. How the Nerlens/Jahlil pairing works will be huge for our future but perhaps just as big will be Brett Brown figuring out when to play just one of them at a time since ostensibly Nerlens will be the only one holding down back up center duties in addition to his role as the starting power forward. This is a game both big men should play well in, at least offensively speaking. Boston is a deep team but they don’t have much in the way of rim protecting.
Nik “Justin Bieber loving” Stauskas is believed to make his first appearance in the Sixers’ red white and blue tonight. I wouldn’t expect the world from him since this will be his first game back from the stress reaction in his right tibia and he’s sure to be on a minutes’ restriction. How much run the young bigs, Christian Wood and Richaun Holmes, should be interesting. Neither one of them is NBA playtiming ready but they better learn to be since the squad will be without 5 players due to injuries. This may not be something to look forward to, but how and if the point guard play holds against some good defenders in Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, could go a long way towards how well this team will fare in the first dozen or so games.
All in all I believe this will be a sloppy game for the Sixers. Some of it will be due to all the new pieces that will need time to gel, some of it will be because one of the Sixers biggest assets, pushing the ball, doesn’t always end up working in their favor against teams that are similarly young, and some of it due to my lack of faith in the point guard position. All of this is before even mentioning that the Sixers are missing one of their leading scorers in Robert Covington.
If I was a betting man, I’d take the Celtics at -11 ½. That being said, LETS GO SIXERS!