As the NBA inches closer to a return, the league's top teams are preparing for some sort of playoff format. The not-so-good teams? They're preparing for the ensuing offseason.
The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves straddling the two categories. They currently hold a 30-26 record, good for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. However, they're not exactly shaping up to be title contenders.
Philadelphia has been a fine defensive squad, but their offense has left something to be desired. As a team, Philly ranks 21st with an average of 109.6 points per game. Tobias Harris is the team's leading scorer with 19.4 per game.
The main problem for the 76ers is that they appear to be on the downswing after reaching the conference semifinals in each of the past two seasons. Getting to the second round this season could prove difficult—though Philadelphia is 3-1 against their likely playoff opponent, the Boston Celtics, this season.
Barring a surprise title run, it's fair to say that the process hasn't quite worked out as desired in Philadelphia thus far.
According to The Athletic's John Hollinger, coach Brett Brown could pay the price:
"The league-wide scuttlebutt is that Brown is unlikely to return after this season. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, maybe it's time for these guys to hear a different voice. Seven years is a long time for an NBA coach in one place. On the other hand, you can't help thinking that he's the fall guy for other mistakes that were made over the past two seasons and one bad bounce in Toronto."
While placing the blame on Brown may not be fair, a lack of results usually precipitates change. There's a reasonable chance that the 76ers decide to make that change at the coaching spot rather than give up on their player core of Harris, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Ball Not the Clear-Cut Top Prospect
While the 76ers can at least focus on the postseason for now, teams like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are looking entirely at the coming offseason. That includes the draft, where fresh, young and cheap talent can be acquired.
Unfortunately, while young and cheap talent is nice, elite talent is better, and this year's draft doesn't feature a truly elite prospect. NBL star LaMelo Ball is the most recognizable prospect in the class, but he isn't a transcendent talent, like Zion Williamson was last year.
Whichever team winds up with the No. 1 pick will have a decision to make. According to NBA insider Chad Ford (h/t HoopsHype), Georgia guard Anthony Edwards is in the mix to be the first player off the board.
"Lot of teams that I've spoken with, they don't have LaMelo No. 1. Edwards is the guy that is often the other guy that you hear at No. 1, his range was exactly the same as LaMelo's. I heard him as high as one never heard him lower than five," Ford said on his NBA Big Board podcast.
Edwards is an intriguing athletic prospect, but he's also in the mix to go No. 1 because teams simply aren't sold on Ball.
"Plenty of concerns from NBA teams about him," Ford said. "He's not an explosive athlete. He's been a really streaky shooter with poor form on a shot. He struggled as an on-the-ball defender and he carries some of that baggage of the Ball name with him as well. And that certainly is working against him."
While Ball may be the more polished of the two players, Edwards carries more upside and less baggage. That could be enough for a team to make him the first pick in the 2020 draft.