By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Before we dive headlong into the offseason, let’s take one last look back at the year that was for the Philadelphia 76ers. Even in the middle of the dumpster fire that was the 10-72 Sixers season, there were some small glimmers of hope. For instance, a number of Sixers players were among the league leaders in certain statistical categories (with the main limiting criteria being that a player played at least 10 games). I’ve listed those stats below, with a brief evaluation of those player’s progress this past season and where they project going forward.
13th in the NBA in assists per game – 6.5
8th in the NBA in AST% (percent of teammate’s field goals that a player assisted) – 37.0%
25th in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio – 2.87
The man who saved the Sixers from being the worst team in NBA history certainly earned a substantial raise over the $1.1M he was making this past season. Smith was one of the top distributors in the NBA, while improving on his three-point and turnover rates from past seasons. One of the few guys (maybe the only guy) on the Sixers current roster capable of creating his own shot, Smith’s ability to penetrate the lane was a sorely missed element during the team’s 1-30 start. An unrestricted free agent, Bryan Colangelo will have to decide how much it would be worth to have Ish stick around in Philadelphia, if he is to remain at all.
13th in the NBA in steals per game – 1.8
17th in the NBA in blocks per game – 1.5
Here’s the full list of players in the NBA history who have put up the block and steal per game numbers that Nerlens Noel just did at age 21 or younger: Nerlens Noel. No one else. And he’s done it twice! Even while being forced to play out of position at power forward for a good chunk of the season, Noel provided more evidence that he can be an elite rim protector and the backbone of a defense. Unfortunately, his shot still hasn’t significantly improved and he often appears incapable of catching a ball below his shoulders. Whether or not to offer Noel an extension this summer or let the final season of his rookie contract play out is one of the biggest decisions Bryan Colangelo will have to make this offseason.
23rd in the NBA in steals per game – 1.6
It was an up-and-down season for RoCo amidst the knee injury that he needed to work back from at the beginning of the season, and the scary collision with Jerami Grant late in the year that hospitalized him. Still, Covington proved his value as a serviceable, high volume shooter, with the hope that percentages would improve slightly with more talented players around him affording him better looks. Defensively, Covington had easily the best rebounding rate of his career, and as noted above, continued to create turnovers at a high level. Covington’s approximate $1.0M salary over each of the next two seasons is one of the biggest steals in the league today.
13th in the NBA in blocks per game – 1.6
You have to love any guy who yells “Gimme that sh*t” with every swat of the opposition. Grant is on a fairly short list of guys 6’8″ or shorter in NBA history to average at least 1.6 blocks per game (Props to Elton Brand for getting it done so often). Defensively, Grant is more than just flashy blocks, forcing opponents to shoot 4.2% worse than usual when he is defending. If he could only ever get that shot worked out. Fortunately, the Sixers have two more seasons of Grant at around $1M to wait and see.
12th in the NBA in AST% – 36.0%
7th in the NBA in assist ratio – number of their assists per 100 of their possessions – 37.1
20th in the NBA in eFG% on pull-up jumpers – 50.0%
T.J. was definitely the feel-good story of the season, going from someone who seemed destined to be summer league fodder, to a legitimate NBA back-up point guard. From day one, McConnell showed great vision for setting up teammates, but did sort of laughably shy away from taking shots himself. As the year went along though, he grew more and more confident with his shot, to the point where the mid-range J became a very effective weapon for him, as evidenced but his outstanding shooting on pull-up jumpers. McConnell is an extremely valuable guy to have around for point guard depth at only around $1M for three more seasons.