The Sixers are so bad, in fact, they couldn't even hang with an NCAA All-Star team right now.
That should be a preposterous statement. NCAA talent should never be able to knock off NBA players.
But it's getting harder to think of these Sixers as such, even if that's how their resumes read. First-year coach Brett Brown said at training camp he had just "six NBA players" on his roster, via Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Three of the six (Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen) were cut loose during general manager Sam Hinkie's midseason roster purge.
The flotsam left in Philly (plus Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter-Williams) is now making the worst kind of history. Thursday's 120-98 drubbing at the hands of the Houston Rockets was the 76ers' 26th consecutive defeat, matching the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for the league's longest losing streak of all time.
Things couldn't possibly get any worse, right?
If the Sixers were forced into this hypothetical hardwood tilt, we'd find out just how far they are from being an actual NBA team.
Sizing Up the Starting Fives
Before we can get the comparisons underway, we first have to build the NCAA All-Star roster.
Now, contrary to the title, this won't necessarily be built with the best players in college basketball. Since there's an NBA team on the schedule, it makes more sense to grab the college stars generating the biggest NBA buzz. Let's face it—some college athletes (cough, Adam Morrison, cough) just aren't built for the pro game.
This starting five oozes NBA potential. In fact, every player ranks inside the top 11 of B/R draft guru Jonathan Wasserman's big board: point guard Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), shooting guard Gary Harris (Michigan State), small forward Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), combo forward Jabari Parker (Duke) and center Joel Embiid (Kansas).
These players are a big reason why teams, like the Sixers, have been embracing the loss column. They're also better than the ragtag bunch Brown has used to open his games.
A straight statistical comparison of 2013-14 production wouldn't be fair to Philly. This team has literally been playing out of its league.
But if you even the playing field and turn back the clock to the Sixers' college days, it's still advantage youngsters.
|NCAA All-Stars||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Marcus Smart (16.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.5 APG)||Michael Carter-Williams (8.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.6 RPG)|
|Gary Harris (14.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG)||James Anderson (17.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG)|
|Andrew Wiggins (17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG)||Hollis Thompson (8.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG)|
|Jabari Parker (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG)||Thaddeus Young (14.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG)|
|Joel Embiid (11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG)||Henry Sims (4.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.8 BPG)|
Obviously, there's no guarantee those numbers will surface in this game.
However, if they resemble anything remotely similar, that's terrible news for the Sixers. If the stat sheets did hold perfectly true, the college all-stars would already be looking at a 78.9-54.1 scoring advantage and a 31.9-20.9 edge on the glass.
The Sixers love to run (league-high 101.99 possessions per 48 minutes), but they're not very good at it (30th in offensive efficiency, 27th at the opposite end). The All-Star team, though, is littered with next-level athletes. They could finish around, through or even above the Philly defenders.
Philly is short on shooters (only Thompson has shot above 32.1 percent from three this season), scorers (Young and Carter-Williams are the only ones averaging better than 10.4 points) and finishers (Young leads the group with 48 dunks).
Parker, Wiggins and Harris have shown the ability to do all three, and Smart is about as good as gets when it comes to the last two.
There would be no battle on the interior—just a one-sided massacre.
Embiid has been drawing comparisons with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Justifiable ones at that, according to Wasserman.
Henry Sims' comparisons before going undrafted in 2012? A Brad Miller ceiling, an Andris Biedrins basement and a Samuel Dalembert projection. And guess what? Sims has yet to hit any of those targets.
Somehow, this actually gets worse for the Sixers when the second team takes the floor.
Battle of the Benches
Media guides are helpless for these Sixers. With their revolving door roster (22 different players have suited up for them this season), it would be impossible to keep a print version up to date.
Internet access is a must when watching this team. You don't always know what you're going to see—even as you're seeing it:
Knicks writer seated behind me, about the Sixers' lineup: "Seriously, who are these people? What's a Nunnally?"— Christopher A. Vito (@ChrisVito) March 21, 2014
If the franchise isn't raffling roster spots by the end of the season, it should at least hold an Invincible-style open tryout.
Until that day comes, though, this team will be left with the pieces it currently has in place. Thanks to Sixers.com, we know what those pieces are (although, it feels like a good idea to put in a *subject to change* qualifier here).
Again, there's no need to punish this collection of (largely) D-League talent by putting up their unsightly NBA numbers. Instead, let's see how their college careers stack up against this NCAA All-Star bench mob.
|NCAA All-Stars||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Tyler Ennis (12.9 PPG, 5.5 APG)||Casper Ware (14.1 PPG, 4.2 APG)|
|Nik Stauskas (14.0 PPG, 44.5 3PT%)||Tony Wroten (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG)|
|Kyle Anderson (12.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.0 APG)||Elliot Williams (11.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG)|
|Doug McDermott (21.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG)||Jason Richardson (9.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG)|
|T.J. Warren (18.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG)||James Nunnally (13.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG|
|Julius Randle (15.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG)||Brandon Davies (12.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG)|
|Noah Vonleh (11.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG)||Arnett Moultrie (11.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG)|
|Adreian Payne (8.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG)||Byron Mullens (8.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG)|
|Willie Cauley-Stein (7.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG)||Jarvis Varnado (10.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.0 BPG)|
What do these stats mean? Nothing perhaps. But for the sake of reference, the collegiate crew has a 122.1-107.1 scoring advantage.
Both of these are dartboard benches. There are versatile players on either side and limitless lineup options.
But the final product after those darts are thrown couldn't be more different.
It's hard to pick the top option on the NCAA side because of an abundance of talent. It's hard to call anyone on the Sixers' sideline a No. 1 option with a straight face.
The college side is overwhelming on offense. Other than the defensive-minded Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Michigan State's Adreian Payne finds himself at the bottom of his team's scoring list. Yes, the same Adreian Payne who poured in 41 points in the Spartans' first win of the NCAA tournament.
Of course, this group is pretty strong at the top of the list.
In T.J. Warren's last 10 games with North Carolina State, the sophomore never scored fewer than 20 points, went for 25 or more seven different times and twice cracked the 40-point mark. Doug McDermott left Creighton with the fifth-most points in NCAA history (3,150 for his career).
There's just a little of everything on the roster. A playmaking point guard (Syracuse's Tyler Ennis), a versatile shooter (Nik Stauskas, Michigan), a do-it-all swingman (Kyle Anderson, UCLA), a new-age athletic 4 (Kentucky's Julius Randle) and a garbage man with a growing low-post game (Noah Vonleh, Indiana).
"He knows how to play in the post. He knows how to score in the post," a scout said of Vonleh, via Zach Osterman of The Indianapolis Star. "He's got good footwork, and his upside, his potential, is unlimited."
Philly's reserves, on the other hand, are largely never-were prospects.
Other than the shell of Jason Richardson (out all season with a knee injury), none of these players entered the league to great fanfare. Tony Wroten might be the most exciting name of the bunch, and he's a 42 percent shooter for his career.
This is a major edge for the NCAA All-Stars, as if they needed any help.
How Bad Would It Be?
It wouldn't be quite as bad as the Sixers are used to, but that isn't saying much. Over this historic stretch of futility, Philadelphia has fallen by an average of 17.1 points per night.
You'd like to think its cohesion, however much can be formed in a rebuilding year, would help. After all, the all-stars might be lucky to get a practice or two together before this game would take place.
But you wonder if that's even the case. The Sixers know each other—but they know themselves as losers.
"During the game a couple of guys had long faces...and I found myself a little bit down," Carter-Williams said after Philly's latest loss, via Kristie Rieken of The Associated Press. "I just don't want anyone in this locker room feeling bad for themselves."
You love hearing that sentiment in the face of adversity and seeing that kind of leadership from a rookie.
But it might be in one ear and out the other inside the locker room. These players understand their time together is winding down, and many of them will be washed out in the next round of house cleaning.
So, is a tumultuous shared history really any better than the lack of established relationships? Could it even be worse?
It's hard to answer either of those questions. But with a talent edge already favoring the NCAA All-Stars here, it seems safe to say that the Sixers wouldn't be closing much (if any) of that gap in the chemistry department.
Maybe it's a good thing this matchup only resides in our minds. If someone put this into action, the Sixers might be shattered—even worse than they already are.
Prediction Time: Which team would win this hypothetical matchup?
Luckily, this isn't a permanent break. Help is coming at some point.
The Sixers could have two lottery picks (theirs and a top-five-protected selection from the New Orleans Pelicans) and five second-round choices in the upcoming draft. The artillery is there to pluck several young pieces to the puzzle, perhaps some of the same ones pitted against them here.
Rookie Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 pick in 2013, has been out since last February with a torn ACL. A potential game-changer at the defensive end, he’ll join the fold at some point.
This gross lack of talent has also treated Philly’s financial books well. Even if all player options are picked up and unguaranteed contracts remain, the Sixers would still have just $30.4 million committed to their 2014-15 payroll, via ShamSports.com.
As awful as things have gotten, they won’t stay that way forever.
For now, though, just keep following your emergency plans until you hear this storm has passed. Things could get a lot worse before they get any better.