For two-plus years the slogan in Philadelphia was “trust the process,” with then-general manager Sam Hinkie looking to rebuild a struggling franchise by loading the roster with young talent that could possibly turn into something down the line. While Hinkie is no longer with the franchise, with Brian Colangelo replacing him, it’s too early to rush to label Hinkie’s plan a failure. Joel Embiid, drafted in 2014, has yet to play in an NBA game and the same can be said of Dario Saric. Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown has some decisions to make with the rotation, especially in the aftermath of top overall pick Ben Simmons breaking the fifth metatarsal in his right foot Friday.
Here’s a look at the roster:
76ers Projected Starting Lineup
G: T.J. McConnell (6.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.5 apg) Not drafted out of Arizona, McConnell surprised some simply by making the Sixers’ opening night roster. He ended up playing in 81 games, making 17 starts, and doing some of the things that made him such a highly regarded point guard at the college level. McConnell is a highly competitive point guard who can run a team, but with Rodriguez’s signing it’s likely that his minutes will decrease.
G: Gerald Henderson (8.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg) Henderson joins the Sixers after spending last season with the Trail Blazers, where he was a valuable reserve on a team that reached the second round of the playoffs. With the number of big men Philadelphia has on their roster, adding some wing/perimeter scorers to the mix was something that needed to occur. While not a prolific perimeter shooter, Henderson has the potential to help in this regard.
F: Robert Covington (12.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) Covington, who was Philadelphia’s third-leading scorer last season, begins camp without a guaranteed contract. The good news for him is that they have four open slots, leaving room for Covington to earn a spot on the opening night roster. Last season Covington shot just 38.5 percent from the field, with more than seven of his 10.6 attempts per game being three-pointers (35.3 percent)
F: Dario Saric (Rookie) Since being drafted by the Sixers in 2013, Saric has been the subject of vigorous “when’s he coming over” chatter. Well the time is now for Saric, who averaged 11.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game with Anadolu Efes of Turkey in EuroLeague competition last season. At 6-foot-10 the Croatian forward has good size, and last season he shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. And with Simmons out indefinitely after breaking a bone in his right foot, Saric could be the replacement in the lineup as he fits better with Embiid than either Okafor or Noel would.
C: Joel Embiid (Rookie) Picked third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid has yet to play in an NBA game for the 76ers. Embiid underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in the navicular bone of his right foot in June 2014, and last summer he underwent a second procedure to address a recurrence of the issue. If Embiid is healthy, the Philadelphia front court gets even more crowded and someone likely has to be moved. But given Embiid’s medical history, the team is being cautious with his return to the court.
76ers Projected Bench
G: Jerryd Bayless (10.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.1 apg) The Sixers, who desperately needed to add backcourt help this offseason, signed Bayless to a three-year, $27 million deal in July. Primarily a reserve guard asked to put points on the board and distribute the basketball throughout his career, Bayless was set to be the Sixers’ starting point guard when the season begins. However he’s expected to miss four weeks with a wrist injury, opening the door for T.J. McConnell to run the show in Bayless’ absence.
G: Sergio Rodriguez (11.6 ppg, 6.1 apg) Rodriguez hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010 but that didn’t keep the Sixers, in dire need of backcourt help, from giving him a one-year, $8 million deal this offseason. Rodriguez has played the last six years of his career at Real Madrid, which won both the Spanish ACB and Spanish Cup last season.
G/F: Timothe Luwawu (Rookie) Luwawu was taken with the 24th pick in the draft this summer, giving the 76ers a prospect who could eventually develop into a player capable of filling the “three and D” role many teams are looking for on the wing. Luwawu averaged nearly 15 points per game with Serbian club Mega Leks in the Adriatic Basketball Association last season.
G: Nik Stauskas (8.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg) Nicknamed “Sauce Castillo” during his time with the Kings, Stauskas has struggled to live up to the reason why he was a first round pick in 2014. Last season Stauskas shot just 32.6 percent from three, a number that needs to see increase if he’s going to see playing time.
F: Jahlil Okafor (17.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) Okafor was Philadelphia’s leading scorer last season, shooting 50.8 percent from the field in scoring his 17.5 points per contest. He had to deal with some off-court controversy as a rookie (street fights are a bad idea), and there’s still work to be done on the defensive end of the floor. But Okafor should be one of the Sixers’ first options off the bench this season if he isn’t in the starting lineup.
F: Ben Simmons (Rookie) For all the nitpicking over his game last season at LSU, and the argument of some that Brandon Ingram should be the top pick, there was no drama on draft night for the Sixers or Ben Simmons. He was their guy, and he’ll be a player they look to rebuild the franchise around. Simmons isn’t much of a perimeter shooter but he can do just about everything else on the floor offensively, as he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game at LSU. Unfortunately for Philadelphia Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot Friday, and it’s unknown when he’ll be able to take the floor.
F/C: Nerlens Noel (11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) While Jahlil Okafor is also a returning starter, the addition of Simmons and his defensive issues lead to Noel getting the starting nod here. The question regarding Noel is how he fits into the Sixers’ long-term plans, especially if Joel Embiid is ready to contribute after sitting out each of the last two seasons with foot injuries. Noel is the team’s best interior defender heading into training camp, and he’s solid in defending ball screen actions as well.
Other Players in 76ers Training Camp
G Anthony Barber
G Brandon Paul
G/F Hollis Thompson
F James Webb III
F Jerami Grant
F Elton Brand
F Richaun Holmes
F Shawn Long
In total Philadelphia has nine players, counting Covington, competing for four guaranteed roster spots. Given the lack of perimeter options, adding a couple perimeter players would be expected. With Bayless, Rodriguez and McConnell all on guaranteed deals, Barber landing a spot appears to be a long shot but he could be a candidate to join the team’s D-League affiliate in Delaware. Paul, who played his college basketball at Illinois, averaged 13.2 points per game in Spain last season and is a solid perimeter scorer.
Thompson and Grant both played 77 games for the Sixers last season, with Thompson averaging 9.8 points per game and Grant 9.7. Holmes was also with the Sixers last year, averaging 5.6 points per game in 55 appearances. Brand didn’t see much playing time in Atlanta last season and that would likely be the case in Philadelphia if he were to make the cut, but he would be a good veteran influence for the Sixers’ young front court rotation. And in Long, Philadelphia has a promising rookie coming off of a productive career at Louisiana (formerly known as UL-Lafayette).
76ers Coaching Staff
Head coach: Brett Brown (Fourth season; 47-199 career record; 10-72 2015-16 record.)
Assistant coaches: Lloyd Pierce, Billy Lange, Eugene Burroughs, Will Weaver
UPDATE 9/30: This post now reflects the starting lineup Brown gave during a radio interview with 97.5 The Fanatic Friday.
UPDATE 10/1: The lineup now takes into account the foot injury suffered by Simmons during a team scrimmage Friday.
UPDATE (10/20): The 76ers waived forward Elton Brand, who will retire.
UPDATE (10/24): The 76ers waive guards Anthony Barber and Brandon Paul, and forwards James Webb III and Shawn Long.