Why The Sixers Can Make The Playoffs Next Season

Posted by Michael Kelly on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 with No comments






The Philadelphia 76ers are two days removed from a loss to the Indiana Pacers, which set a franchise record of 21 consecutive losses. It is no secret that their plan was to tank this season, but the manner in which they have been losing has surprised people.

Things may look gloomy for basketball fans in Philadelphia in the present, but the future could see a quick turnaround if the players that they do have can tap in to their potential, and if the Front Office is able to make the right moves for the organization during the upcoming offseason. If the correct decisions are made, it could even be possible for the Sixers to make a quicker than expected return to the playoffs. Here are a few reasons why:

2014 Draft:

As things stand at this moment in time, the Sixers have the second-worst record in the league, with the Milwaukee Bucks just two games behind. The Sixers have been planning to land the top pick in this year’s draft all year long, made evident by the moves they have made in order to tank, trading good players for nothing more than draft picks and a player ruled out for the season through injury.

The Sixers potential 2014 draft pick:
Andrew Wiggins
A report has surfaced over the last few days that, should Philadelphia land the first pick, their primary target is Andrew Wiggins, the 6’8” small forward currently playing in college for Kansas. Wiggins would be a perfect fit for the Sixers, especially as their current small forward position is completely lacking in talent at the present time. Wiggins could immediately slot into the starting position and add to what is already a young and athletic team.

Also, we must not forget that the Sixers have the Pelicans’ first round pick in this year’s draft as well, providing that it does not fall in the top five. As things stand, the Pelicans’ pick would currently sit in 7th place in the draft, providing the lottery does not throw out any surprises, so the 76ers can almost certainly expect to get another good player in what has been tipped as a strong draft class.

The 76ers have struggles despite MCW's
excellent start to his NBA career
A young, talented core:

At an average age of just 27.3 years old, the 76ers have the youngest roster in the league. Despite this youthfulness, there is plenty of talent for the Sixers to build around next season.

Michael Carter-Williams has been one of the few bright sparks for Philadelphia this season, and could well be on his way to winning the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award, with his averages of 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists through 67 games, with a couple of triple-double performances already under his belt.

The Sixers will also be able to welcome Nerlens Noel into the line-up next season, after a horrible ACL injury he suffered while playing for Kentucky has forced him to miss his entire rookie season thus far. Noel had hoped to return this season, sending out a tweet which read “04-04-14”, however, his coaching staff was quick to reject any notion of Noel playing this season.

Thaddeus Young had seen himself talked about in trade rumors constantly throughout the season, but remained in a Sixers uniform as the trade deadline came and went, as his consistent and impressive performances have proved him to be a valuable asset going forward.

Even if Philadelphia were to eventually trade him next season, they could command a good player in return, but if they do keep him, he would be an excellent on-court leader for a young team, even though he will only turn 26 years of age himself this summer.
Nerlens Noel was traded for Jrue Holiday
on draft night

Cap space:

Having traded away Jrue Holliday, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Evan Turner this season, while only receiving draft picks and Danny Granger, who they later bought out of his contract, the 76ers have been able to clear around $26.3 million from their payroll, leaving the Sixers with the following contracts on their books for next season:

Guaranteed contracts:

Thaddeus Young: $9.4 million
Jason Richardson: $6.6 million
Nerlens Noel: $3.3 million
Michael Carter-Williams: $2.3 million
Tony Wroten: $1.2 million
Arnett Moultrie: $1.1 million

Player options:

Byron Mullens: $1.0 million

Total: $26.8 million

Assuming that Mullens picks up his option and factoring in how much the Sixers will have to pay their future draft picks, Philadelphia will have around $30 million to spend during free agency.

With a number of All-Stars and other high quality players potentially becoming available via free agency this summer, the Sixers have a lot of financial flexibility to splash the cash on a top player, or if they prefer they could spread the money to buy a number of players.

Weak Eastern Conference:

This season’s Eastern Conference has been the weakest in recent memory. Before the All-Star break, there were only four teams in the East who had a record above .500. As well as this, the three teams with the worst records in the league are all situated in the East, while the Atlanta Hawks, who occupy the final playoff spot with a 31-35 record at the time of writing, would be sat in 11th if they were a Western Conference team.

If Eastern Conference teams are not able to strengthen for next season, either via trade, free agency or the draft, this will give Philadelphia a huge window of opportunity to soar up the standings and contend for a playoff place. This would be nothing more than the loyal fans of Philadelphia as well as the current players deserve for what has been a very tough season.  With that being said, if the upcoming offseason goes as planned, the toil of the 2013-2014 season will have all been worth it to bring the 76ers back in to the playoffs, and in to the headlines for the right reasons too.