Hot Start Aside, Philadelphia 76ers Remain Among NBA's Basement Dwellers

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 2, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 2: Michael Carter-Williams #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers smiles after the game against the Chicago Bulls at the Wells Fargo Center on November 2, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Enjoy it while it lasts, Philadelphia 76ers fans. 

Although the hot start to the 2013-14 season has given the Sixers more satisfaction than Andrew Bynum ever did, it's eventually going to come to a screeching halt. So live it up. Throw a few parties and celebrate the fact that Michael Carter-Williams looks like a future MVP. 

The team we're talking about was one that many expected to challenge the Charlotte Bobcats for the worst record of all time. It was almost universally panned, and head coach Brett Brown even went on the record as saying that his roster featured six NBA players. 

Going into the season and following the Marcin Gortat trade, Dan Favale wrote for The Hoop Doctors that "the Suns haven’t stolen your [the Sixers'] tanking crown just yet." And was he alone? Absolutely not, as yours truly may have referred to this squad as a D-League team multiple times over the offseason. 

Now, in just three games, the Sixers have three wins. They've taken down the Miami Heat, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls without dropping a single contest. At times, they've looked—dare I say it?—elite. 

Oct 30, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) dunks over Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

But it's all a mirage. 

Philadelphia may have too much pride to win fewer than 10 games in 2013-14, but the Sixers aren't going to maintain this center-of-the-sun-hot play. They've been so en fuego that they should switch nicknames with Miami. 

Are the Sixers going to shoot 51.2 percent from the field for much longer? Probably not, especially because the top field-goal percentage in the NBA last year belonged to the Heat, who "only" shot 49.6 percent. 

Will they keep making 37.9 percent of their three-point attempts, as they've done through the first three contests of the season? That's a mark that would have placed them at No. 3 in the league last year, trailing only Miami and the Golden State Warriors.

While the first number is unsustainable, the second is laughably unsustainable. 

There isn't a single established three-point shooter on the roster, and expecting Tony Wroten and MCW to keep bombing away is foolhardy. Both players showed off very broken jumpers throughout the preseason, so this is more of a small-sample-size-created mirage than anything else. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 2: Michael Carter-Williams #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers defends against  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls at the Wells Fargo Center on November 2, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

I have to admit that I found myself glued to the television screen as Carter-Williams sparked the sensational comeback against Derrick Rose and the Bulls. He didn't just look like he was holding his own against the former MVP; he looked better than Rose. 

While he flew around the court, wreaking havoc with his long arms and aggressive instincts, I found myself cheering for the Sixers without any reservations.

Who doesn't love a great story? Besides Bulls, Heat and Wizards fans right now, of course.

When Spencer Hawes hit that mid-range shot to go up by three in the waning seconds, I may have yelled loudly enough that I startled my neighbor's dog. And I'm sure that I wasn't the only one experiencing these types of feelings. The Sixers are young and fun. 

But that doesn't mean that a lack of realism is allowed to enter into the evaluation.

Right now, Philadelphia is living off pure, unadulterated emotion.

Nov 1, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia 76ers small forward Evan Turner (12) dribbles the ball between Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) and Wizards small forward Martell Webster (9) in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The 76ers won 1
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The team features a first-year head coach who gets fired up on the sidelines and doesn't care that tanking might be in the best interest for his long-term success. As for the roster, it's comprised of a ton of young players who are fighting for their NBA lives.

Thaddeus Young is showing off what he can do as a team's best player, Evan Turner is auditioning for a big contract and almost everyone else is attempting to prove that they belong on a professional roster. 

Heart can win games, but it can't win championships when there's a paucity of established upper-tier talent. 

So far, it's been enough to catch Miami by surprise. Well, at least a Heat team that took the game so lightly that Dwyane Wade wasn't in uniform and everyone else looked remarkably unenthused.

It was enough to beat a Washington Wizards team that was by no means at full strength. Not only was Nene out of action, but Gortat was clearly uncomfortable with both the offensive sets and the defensive rotations that he was asked to employ. 

Most recently, it was enough to shock a Chicago Bulls team that insists on relying far too much on a less-than-effective D-Rose. 

But there are no more surprises anymore, and that's going to be a scary combination when the shooting percentages and MCW come crashing back down to earth.

Even if the lanky point guard continues earning a unanimous Rookie of the Year Award, he isn't going to average 20.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 4.3 steals per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from downtown. Not even the biggest Sixers homer in the world believes he can sustain that level of play.

Hell, Carter-Williams' parents probably expect him to decline over the next handful of games. 

If you're a Philadelphia fan, I promise I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer. I'd like to hand you an umbrella so that I don't rain on your parade too much. 

But I can't help being a realist.