Basketball is an unfair game. The better the players are, the more unfair it is.
Never is this more evident than when you watch this early-season version of the Philadelphia 76ers. Sure, they missed reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams for a stretch but, let’s be fair, this isn’t exactly a crack squad with, or without him.
None of that is news, I realize. The Sixers have a plan, and to the delight of the league and their fans, they’re sticking to it. They’re going to stink, quite aggressively, and accumulate as many high picks as they can in the hopes of landing as many cheap, young superstars to kickstart Philly basketball once more.
Frankly, not much is different in theory this year from last. It’s not as if Sam Hinkie and the boys put forth a real effort in rostering last year’s squad. However, having watched a few Sixers games this year already, it’s clear there’s a big difference.
You see, as I alluded to earlier, there are some things about the NBA that are absolute and, as a result, unfair.
Let’s take their game against the Rockets a few weeks ago. In that game, Dwight Howard will always be taller and quicker than Henry Sims or Brandon Davies. James Harden will always be stronger and quicker than Hollis Thompson. I could go on and on with this Sixers roster, but I think you get my point: there is a base level of talent (mainly, speed/heigh/strength) that’s needed to compete on a night-in, night-out basis in the NBA. This Sixers team doesn’t have it.
In watching that very game, the Sixers were actually in it for a good stretch towards the end, down by as little as four points. But, as I watched, it occurred to me that they simply do not have the manpower or ability to score or defend enough to win games. That’s hilariously simplistic, but it’s true. The people they employ, by and large, simply aren’t NBA players.
One of them looks like he won a fan contest to be on the team. Another one has JK right in his name as if he’s in on the joke. Another one has a name so simple there’s no way he’s anything but a made-up video game character from the NBA 2K world. There’s even two guys on the team who seem like the TJ Maxx, bootleg version of actual NBA players (him and him)
Let’s be fair: last year, despite the organization’s intentions, there were at least 4 actual NBA players on the team. Say what you will about them specifically, but Thad Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and MCW are at the least guys that you could put on other NBA teams and feel confident that they could at least play. Like, actually play.
This year? You’ve got Carter-Williams, a rookie in Nerlens Noel (who I’ll count to be fair) and Tony Wroten. That’s three guys and only one shorter than last year’s total… but not one of those guys has played more than one NBA season. And the rest of the roster, honestly, would be fucking thrilled to be 8th men on any other team. Some of these guys (I’m looking at you JaKarr Sampson) aren’t actually rosterable players on real NBA teams.
I write about this now because at the beginning of the year, the Sixers over/under went off at 15.5 games. At the time I thought, for sure, there’s no way they can’t win 16 games. A few schedule favors, some hot play from this guy or that guy… boom. But, having watched them, I get the sense that if the league privately told every other team to really give Philly their best shot every time to prove the point that tanking wasn’t acceptable (as seemed to be the case when San Antonio and Dallas beat them by a combined 78 points), the Sixers wouldn’t win a game. Seriously, not one.
Even Krusty the Clown wouldn’t bet on these guys. And you know what, I wouldn’t blame him.