Do you hear those sneakers squeaking in Stockton University’s gym? The echo of leather basketballs being pounded into the hardwood floor? I know you know it’s Sixers training camp time BABY! Which means we are less than a month away from seeing super fans such as Big Daddy jubilantly gyrate his behemoth belly in circular motions from behind the basket at the Wells Fargo Center, like he’s a human washing machine for stomach fat. Less than a month away from hearing Ms. Miss Its glass shattering shrill voice repeatedly and unwaveringly command opposing foul shooters to “miss it, miss it, misssssss it.” Whether you're watching from home, have a front row seat or are in the nose bleeds, you can't miss it. It's Sixers' time! Finally the year has come for the Sixers to return to relevance and take over the Atlantic Di…
All that aside, there are a lot of things to be excited about. The Sixers just put out a revolutionary themed hype video, complete with drums, horses, the Sixers of old and Nerlens attempting the AI crossover. I was mildly hyped, although not quite as on board with comparing the revolutionary strategy of purposefully losing games to winning the revolutionary war. Maybe save that for when we actually expect to make the playoffs and win a little.
I believe this is the year we will finally get to see some semblance of how the half-court offense will work moving forward. I’m expecting the Sixers to continue to push the ball and tempo but to also play a lot of inside and outside in the half court with the big men commanding defenders in the paint while the perimeter shooters wait beyond the arc for their defenders to start to cheat off them. The Sixers also FINALLY have a go to scorer and centerpiece that isn’t named Michael Carter Williams, for the first time in the rebuild. Nothing against MCW, I just get nauseated reminiscing on the viewing experience of watching a point guard who can’t score outside of 3 feet being your only option offensively.
Hmm, what else is there to get excited about? Oh! Furkan Aldemir has not only been working on his shot but also a batman impression which he showcased at media day. It was hardly the impression batman deserved but one I felt I needed to hear (how can you not root for the Turk Furk/the Turkan Furkan/ the Turkey Gobbler of Rebounds? <--- all nicknames are works in progress). Jerami Grant, who impressed in flashes but needs to find some consistency, seems to have added muscle to his frame. And the Sixers play their first preseason game against the Wizards in 4 days on October 6th at 7pm. The Wizards are an interesting matchup for the Sixers as they’re a real contender in the east and also have some intriguing young players in Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter and Bradley Beal who should test some of our youngsters. Also let’s not forget the Wizard’s signed everyone’s favorite journeyman Ish Smith to a training camp deal. Ish was crucial in Nerlens offensive development in the latter parts of last season, as he was able to get the big man the ball in and around the paint, in favorable situations.
But before we get into preseason action, let’s talk about the roster. After having waived Gerald Wallace, the Sixers training camp roster sits at 20 players competing for 15 spots. This should make for quite a battle. At point guard alone, you have 6 players, Brett Brown stating that 3 of whom will make the final cut. Two of those point guards seem to be locks to make the team in Wroten and Marshall, leaving Scottie Wilbekin, Pierre Jackson, Isaiah Canaan, and TJ McConnell all competing for one spot.
Canaan is probably the slight favorite to make the cut at point guard as he played the final quarter of the season with the Sixers. Canaan shot well from behind the arc although not nearly as well inside it and was occasionally able to put up big scoring games. However, he isn’t a true point guard in the sense that he gets a lot of assists or can run a half court set. He stands at just 6’1 and isn’t much of an athlete so offensively he isn’t great at exploiting mismatches created by the pick n roll and he struggles defensively. Jackson is probably the next likeliest candidate for the spot. He is known for being explosive, speedy and a high jumping athlete (although he’s coming off an ACL tear so the Sixers will surely monitor if that explosiveness has been diminished) which theoretically he will use to finish around the tall trees in the paint. He, like Wilbekin and McConnell, has yet to get any NBA regular season experience. His range is similar to Canaan and like Canaan he’s undersized for his position, except more so. Pierre is listed generously at 5’10, and he’ll have problems against taller players and any point guard that can post up. Next in line is Scottie Wilbekin who was impressive from 3 in the summer league which is vital for a team with an excess of bigs. He did however played off the ball for the majority of his summer league time, and will need to prove he can facilitate an offense if he has a chance of making the final roster. Lastly is TJ McConnell who is a good facilitator and defender but isn’t likely to make the team due to his lack of athleticism and shot. He gets no respect from beyond the arc.
I think the Sixers will end up going with Pierre Jackson as he is the only one in the bunch who can play the facilitator, although certainly not his strength, and score with the ball in his hands in a half court setting. This leaves the remaining 14 players competing for 12 spots. Of those remaining, 8 are locks in Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Richaun Holmes, Jerami Grant, Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, and Nik Stauskas. Of the remaining 6, I’d be surprised if Furkan Aldemir and Jakarr Sampson (RIP JaKarr’s hair) were let go. That leaves us with 2 spots and 4 players left.
Christian Wood will get one of the spots as his ceiling is first round high, which is where he would have gone had he been in shape for pre-draft workouts and not played so selfishly at UNLV. He’s a 6’11 stretch four who can jump out of the building, block shots, rebound, and has the capability to shoot but showed a lack of understanding for the game and failed to give his all on every play in college. He’ll get a spot but he’ll be inactive most of the year as he tries to get in game shape and hone his unique skillset (15 players make the roster but only 13 can suit up for games, leaving two inactives: Joel Embiid and presumably Wood).
The last roster spot is a toss-up. I can see the Sixers keeping Carl Landry for his veteran presence and to strengthen a young front court. His mid-range jay is useful for spacing purposes with Jah and Noel, when Noel steps in to play the 5. Jordan McRae on the other hand played well for his Australian team as well as during his stint in the D-League last year. He however underperformed during the summer league, something that severly hurt his chances. He does clearly have one bonafide NBA ready skill in his ability to get to the free throw line. I can also see JP Tokoto getting the nod although he seems the least likely. The Sixers obviously like him or they wouldn’t have selected him in the second round of this year’s draft. I’m sure however that they expected to stash Tokoto overseas for some time as his game is incredible raw outside of his undeniable athleticism. Although McRae is easily the best of the group in creating shots which is something the Sixers have lacked for a while, I think they’ll end up retaining Landry to shore up their young front court and keep a guy who’s been around the block (literally, the man is on his 6th team).
These are just my predictions though and this roster can realistically shake out many different ways including the Sixers picking up players that other teams eventually drop. Sixers' players can't feel safe even if they make it to final 15. Everything’s on the line for these young men (and Carl), this camp should be more cut throat than any other training camp around the NBA. Almost half the roster is fighting to live out their dreams of playing for an NBA team. Time to let your game do the talking boys.
By: Leo Porth
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