This season for the Philadelphia 76ers may be one of their most unpredictable in recent memory.
For one, there is no season, as of now.
As a team full of young players trying to establish themselves in the NBA while also building up a chemistry that could last for seasons to come, a missed season would not be beneficial for the Sixers.
But the players are not the only ones trying to prove themselves.
From new owner Joshua Harris, to second year coach Doug Collins, the entire 76ers franchise is looking to reestablish their reputation as a contender, after enduring nearly a decade of mediocrity.
And, after last season, the team has every right to feel confident heading into this season.
However, for the Sixers to take another step towards success, and away from their days of remaining in the middle of the pack, a number of different scenarios must take place.
While these scenarios are not out of the realm of possibility, they are also far from a sure bet, as the Sixers look to have their first winning season in nearly 12 years.
But, if this season goes the way the team envisions, these best case scenarios, as well as many other accomplishments, may be headed the Sixers way.
Evan Turner has a lot more riding on this season than simply trying to avoid hearing his name and ‘bust’ mentioned in the same sentence.
With an average age of 27-years-old, the Sixers are one of the league’s youngest teams, as well as one of the most promising.
And no player has a larger role in helping the team fulfill this promise.
Turner averaged 7.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 2 apg in 78 appearances last season, including 14 starts.
While these numbers are not terrible for a rookie, they are far off from the 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and six assists a night that Turner averaged during his junior year at Ohio State University.
But the biggest question surrounding Turner heading into this season involves the amount of time that he will be on the court.
Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, and Andre Iguodala all saw more minutes than Turner last season.
All three had better scoring marks than Turner, as well.
However, it’s Turner who, along with point guard Jrue Holiday, gives the Sixers potentially one of the most talented young backcourts in the NBA.
But if Turner’s growth does not continue this season, it could be difficult to find minutes for him.
For a team that is cash-strapped for at least the next two seasons, signing a big name free agent could be a difficult task.
An improved Turner could make the Sixers more comfortable when it comes to trading Iguodala, and acquiring both salary cap space and potential draft picks.
The more success that Turner finds on the court, along with the chemistry he develops with Holiday, could go a long way in turning the Sixers into an appealing destination for future free agents.
This season will determine whether the Sixers are ready to build off of their success from last season, or take a step back towards their previous string of mediocrity.
Either way, Turner will have played a large role.
Doug Collins has done a little bit of everything with the 76ers.
He was the number one overall draft choice by the team in 1973.
He played in eight seasons with team, averaging 17.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists a night, while posting a field goal percentage of 50.1%.
He made four consecutive All Star teams from 1975 through 1979.
And now he’s the head coach of the team, who hasn’t had a winning season since 2004-2005, and hasn’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2002-2003.
However, if last season was any indication, Collins may be headed for more success with the Sixers.
In his first year as a head coach since 2003, Collins led the Sixers to a 14-win improvement, while guiding the team to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For all of his work, Collins finished second in the NBA’s Coach of the Year voting to Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls.
Thibodeau had the league’s MVP in Derrick Rose on his team.
Collins is still trying to sort out the best ways for maximizing his young talent.
If the Sixers are going to improve from last season, it will be in large part due to the work Collins has done with the team.
And this work could win Collins the Coach of the Year award next season.
The Sixers were one of 12 teams last season that did not have a player average at least 20 ppg.
Brand was also one of just two members of the Sixers frontcourt to post a double-digit scoring mark on the season.
Brand’s 15 ppg ranked as the 49th highest average in the league.
As a team, the Sixers ranked 18th in the NBA in scoring last season, by averaging 99 ppg.
Only five playoff teams from a year ago finished with a lower point per game average on the season.
If the Sixers want to improve their scoring mark this season, they could benefit from a player stepping up and averaging 20 points a night.
The team has five candidates who have the potential to lead the team in scoring this season, and even years from now.
Brand, Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young (as long as he is resigned) are all capable of averaging at least 20 ppg.
While the team is counting on Brand to continue his resurgence, the Sixers would be just as glad to see Iguodala post a scoring mark less reminiscent of last season, and more along the lines of his 2008-2009 campaign.
Of course, the Sixers must first decide if Iguodala will even be a member of this year’s team.
Holiday is another player who the Sixers are counting on to continue his development. Holiday almost doubled his scoring average from a year ago, while also improving his rebounding and assists numbers.
Although his scoring mark dropped for the second consecutive season, Young still has the potential to lead the team in scoring, especially if an opportunity for more minutes presents itself.
And, while this season may be a bit too soon, Turner has the talent to one day be the team’s leading scorer.
No matter who steps up, the Sixers have a number of players who can not only average 20 ppg and lead the team, but also improve their standing among the league’s best.
The Sixers have a lot riding on young scorers next season.
From hoping to see improvement out of Turner, to witnessing Holiday’s evolution into one of the league’s best point guards, to finding a 20 ppg presence, the Sixers have their fair share of uncertainty going into this season.
However, their work on the defensive end is far from a finished project, as well.
Although it was a key component for the Sixers return to the playoffs last season, the team still has the potential to establish its defense as one of the league’s best.
While the team saw a + 1.5 points per game differential last season, only four other playoff teams had a rebounding percentage under 50%.
The Sixers finished 13th in the NBA in total rebounds per game last season, with 41.8 a night.
Elton Brand again led the team with 8.3 boards a game.
However, two of the players next in line were Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, whose statuses with the team going into this season are uncertain.
Spencer Hawes, a restricted free agent, grabbed 5.7 rebounds during the regular season, but saw his totals dip to 3.8 during the postseason.
The Sixers playoff series against the Miami Heat exposed the team’s weakness on the glass.
Besides the Sixers win in game four, the Heat had the leading rebounder in every game of the series.
In total, the Heat out-rebounded the Sixers 236-203.
Nonetheless, the Sixers rebounding is an aspect of the team’s game that, with slight improvement, could find itself among the best in the league.
With the drafting of Nikola Vucevic, and the potential for adding another presence down low in free agency, the Sixers can establish themselves as a top-three rebounding team in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers 41-41 record last season was good enough for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
If not for losing five out of seven games in April, the Sixers could have held on for the sixth seed, which went to the New York Knicks (who won five out of their seven games in April).
Despite a rough final month of the regular season, the Sixers still finished just three games back from the Atlanta Hawks and the fifth seed; one spot away from gaining home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The only problem is that the leap from the fifth seed to the fourth seed is much larger than the jump from seven to five.
But the Sixers might just be ready.
The Sixers won their season series versus the Chicago Bulls last year, and split their season series with Atlanta and New York. All three of these teams finished with better records than the Sixers.
The Sixers also lost three games to the Boston Celtics by four points or less.
However, the team went a combined 1-6 against the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. They also do not have a large cushion between themselves and the rest of the borderline playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference.
With Chicago, Miami, Boston, and Orlando seemingly having locks on the top four seeds, the Sixers will need to show that they have grown as a team and improved upon their success from last season.
A lot would have to take place in order for the Sixers to finish as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and gain home-court advantage for the first round.
But, just because a lot has to happen, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.