5 Areas Philadelphia 76ers Must Upgrade This Offseason
We could write a 20-page college essay discussing what the Philadelphia 76ers must improve on before the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. We'll keep it a little more concise for the sake of time and patience, though.
Philly ended the 2013-14 year with a 19-63 record. Not exactly as horrible as some were hoping, but still bad enough to finish as the second-worst team in the league in front of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The real question concerning next year has to do with what the team's true goal is. If it has a successful draft then would attempting to make a playoff push be a smart idea, or should it remain in rebuild mode? The correct answer will likely be forced upon the Sixers as it's unlikely they'll be good enough to make a run at the postseason, but there's always a sense of hope as a new season begins.
With that said, let's take a look at what five key areas Philadelphia needs to improve upon over the offseason.
There's no need to dance around the subject. The biggest priority in the 2014 NBA draft is getting a better wing player, and two guys are the clear picks if available.
Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.
Either player would be an immediate upgrade over any of Philadelphia's current wings, as they each bring something new to the table.
Parker is possibly the most NBA-ready player in the draft and thrives on the offensive end of the floor. His shooting stroke is silky, and he easily has range to the three-point line. What was most impressive about his freshman year at Duke, though, was his athleticism and explosiveness. He was able to use his strength and quickness in the post on top of his vertical to become a legitimate alley-oop threat. The question surrounding Parker is can he play defense at the next level?
Wiggins is almost the polar opposite of Parker.
Wiggins thrives on athleticism and could be the best defender in the draft. He can guard point guards through small forwards and doesn't seem to have a weakness while defending apart from his strength. The problem is his offense is incredibly raw. He can make his head touch the top of the arena, but it's not much of a tool if he's not able to always get to the rim. His biggest area of concern is if he has the killer instinct and skill set to take over and be "the guy" on a team.
Ending up with either player would be considered a success, but we won't know if they'll even get a chance until the draft lottery on May 20. Acquiring one of the top two picks in the draft will ensure the Sixers end up with one of these two players.
That is unless they threw a curveball and draft someone like Joel Embiid...
Cut Down on Turnovers
Philadelphia was sensational when it came to pace. Its up-and-down play led to 103.4 possessions per game and more importantly suited its roster. It didn't come without its problems, though.
The biggest of those problems was ball security and how often the Sixers turned the ball over. Philly finished with a league-worst 16.9 turnovers per game. Possessions come into play when you add in the fact they threw the ball away on 16.3 percent of their possessions.
That number is way too high for any team who wants to be successful.
Michael Carter-Williams' 3.5 turnovers per game immediately jump off the page as the biggest culprit. Only five other NBA players gave the ball up more than Carter-Williams. It's much more acceptable because he was a rookie, but he'll need to be more conscious of what he does when he has the ball in the future. The point guard has the most responsibility, so it'll be interesting to see how he responds to one of his biggest weaknesses.
The bottom line is that turning the ball over was only one of Philadelphia's numerous problems. It's also one they have quite a bit of control over, so taking care of this issue is not only important, but possible.
The Sixers ended the season with only one player over the age of 25.
That man was Jason Richardson, and he didn't suit up for any games during the 2013-14 season.
That's a young team.
Finding the right balance between youth and experience is crucial toward both succeeding and continuing that success. Young teams such as Philadelphia just don't have the talent to do too well, but older teams tend to only win for a season or two before falling off and running out of gas.
The effect of experience can be felt in a number of areas.
One of which—and maybe the most important—is how they impact a team's younger players. Veterans can change a young guy’s work ethic at the most crucial time of their careers. They might also affect and change a kid's off-the-court issues by being a mentor and person to go to.
Another important aspect to experience is how it helps a team's performance on the court. It's really pretty simple; older players have been through more and know how the game goes. They're much more comfortable with the length of an 82-game season and the ups and downs associated with it. There are times where experience simply leads to more wins.
Philadelphia definitely needs to look into adding more players who are closer to 30 years old rather than 20. The tanking experiment is over, and ending next year with only one player over the age of 25 would be a problem.
Let's start this slide off with some basic math. If one team makes a three-pointer and the other team makes a two-point layup, then which team currently has a higher point total?
Ding, ding, ding! That is correct; the squad who made the three-pointer has more points.
Now that we've completed our arithmetic, it's time to talk about how bad the Sixers are at making those three-pointers.
Philadelphia finished the year at No. 13 in three-point attempts per game with 22.5. Unfortunately, it also winded up with a league-worst percentage from beyond the arc at 31.2 percent. That number might not sound too terrible, but that number doesn't look too good when you consider 23 of the NBA's teams shot at least 35 percent from three.
The key here is the Sixers are taking a high amount of threes. Their percentage wouldn't mean too much if they weren't shooting a ton of threes, but it starts to really hurt when the number touches 22.5 attempts per game.
We don't have to stop at three-point shooting, as Philadelphia had the second-worst shooting percentage. Still though, we'll start from the outside and work our way in as the closer shots should be easier to correct.
Are you surprised it took so long for scoring defense to come up?
The Sixers did a great job of putting together a team that was bound to lose. That was evident by simply looking at the roster. What they did worse than anything, though, was giving up more points than their opposition could dream of.
Literally more than they could dream of.
Philadelphia allowed a staggering 109.9 point per game on top of letting their opponent shoot 47.1 percent from the field and 27.6 free-throws per game. If a team walks out of a stadium and they shot 47.1 percent while attempting 27 or 28 free-throws, then that squad would have felt like they had a pretty solid offensive night. The fact teams averaged these numbers against the Sixers over the course of 82 games is wild.
Being able to lower these numbers will have to come from a number of areas.
Philly's frantic pace leads to more offensive chances, but it's not one-sided as both teams are rewarded by the fast play. This leads to more shots per game and more opportunities. Another important factor is how the team plays defense. The addition of certain players such as Nerlens Noel and draft prospects—Wiggins perhaps—will play a big role in changing the team's mindset on the defensive end of the floor.
The Sixers weren't able to end up finding a loophole in the NBA rule book allowing six players on the court at once, and it showed by how many points they gave up on a consistent basis. If Philadelphia wants to try and surprise others by making a push at the postseason, then this will likely be the most necessary area of improvement.