So much for all that tanking nonsense.
The Philadelphia 76ers were expected to flop, roll over and become the laughingstock of the NBA with hopes of landing a star like Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft. After they dealt Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-rounder, Philly seemed destined to become the ultimate tank machine.
But through just about the first quarter of the season, the Sixers have won twice as many home games as the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets combined. And they even smacked around the reigning champions Miami Heat in the home opener.
The 76ers aren’t going to win a title with this crew, but they have a lot more talent than expected. Next season, once they get a pair of studs in the draft and Noel returns from his ACL injury, the Sixers are going to be a dangerous team.
This year, Philly has been carried by three young studs who will only continue to grow in 2013-14 and beyond.
The former Syracuse standout has dropped more than 17 points and seven assists per game, became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal to begin his career with NBA Player of the Week honors and made history with Victor Oladipo by becoming the first pair of rookies in NBA history to put up a triple-double in the same game.
He has not been shy about his breakout performance, going as far as saying that he should have been the first pick of the draft. He told Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears: "Every game I try to prove that I could've been the No. 1 pick. I have confidence in myself that I should've been."
At a lanky 6’6”, Carter-Williams has shown that he possesses both the physical tools and extraordinary playmaking ability to dominate in the NBA. He’s the centerpiece of Philly’s future in the backcourt.
Coming into the season, Evan Turner was Philadelphia’s premier offensive threat. But no one had any idea that he’d be an absolute monster.
Through the first 19 games of the season, he leads the 76ers with more than 21 points, seven boards and close to four assists a night.
As of December 5, the former second overall pick in 2010 had dropped 20 or more points in 13 different games, a feat that he accomplished just 16 times all of last season.
Even at the age of 25, the former Ohio State Buckeye is a veteran in Philadelphia. The average age of the fledgling team is a smidgen over 23, and not one player is older than Turner.
In his fourth year in the league, he has flexed his entire offensive arsenal. He’s been hitting shots from the field at a rate of about 47 percent, and according to Synergy Sports, No. 12 has been unstoppable in transition at 51 percent.
Just ask LeBron James.
As always, there is relentless talk of trading Turner, as reported by USA Today and Fox Sports, but it’s clear that Philadelphia has a special player on its hands. Letting him go, after seeing the type of star that he could become, would be outrageous.
Tony Wroten doesn’t believe in sophomore slumps. He's more of a second-season explosion kind of guy.
After getting water-boy treatment from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012-13, the second-year guard has proved his worth with the Sixers.
In just over a month in Philly, the former Washington University star has already exceeded his point, rebound, assist, field-goal, steal and minute totals from a rookie season when he played 35 games. He has put up 12-plus points, three rebounds and three dimes a night in 2013-14.
The 76ers swapped a 2014 second-rounder to Memphis for Wroten’s services in the offseason, and that has proved to be a shrewd move thus far for Philly.
The 20-year-old has thrived coming off the bench in relief of Carter-Williams at the point guard spot, displaying the electric athleticism that he showcased in college. Derrick Rose can vouch for that.
Wroten has the potential to be a south-pawed Nate Robinson, energizing the team off the bench and igniting the offense. In just the small sample of 19 games, he appears to be a key piece in the future of the 76ers.
What does the future hold?
Nobody gave Philadelphia any love when projecting how the 2014 campaign would pan out, including the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, as reported by The Associated Press.
As the NBA season tips off, the over-under for total wins for the 76ers this year is 16.5, the lowest of any team and the lowest that LVH sports book oddsmaker Jeff Sherman can remember putting up on any NBA team in the last decade or so.
It gets even better for true believers. They can get astronomical odds of 9,999-1 if they want to wager at the LVH on the 76ers winning the NBA title.
"It was the highest number our computers would let us put in," Sherman said.
Ouch. While those odds are pretty wild, it's true that the 76ers aren’t going to win a championship. But with the Eastern Conference looking like the D-League, a playoff berth is a distant possibility.
In about a month, Carter-Williams, Turner and Wroten have already rattled off more than of half of Bleacher Report’s projected 13-win total. And in order for the team to finish under Vegas’ 16-win total, Philly would have to go 9-54 the rest of the season.
Sure, the losing streaks and growing pains are coming—it's not all going to be triple-doubles and highlight dunks. But the 76ers are still a million times better than they were supposed to be.
And as crazy as it sounds, they could find themselves as a top-five team in the East next season.
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