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12 Days Until Sixers: How Bad Can It Possibly Be?

I don't get the pessimism about the Sixers' 2014-15 outlook.

Shved's dead, baby.
Shved's dead, baby.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Now, nobody likes hyperbole more than I do...


...come on, guys, that was hilarious.

No, but seriously, I'm a big fan of hyperbole, but all this malarkey about how the Sixers are going to win somewhere in the low teens' worth of games is just that. Deadspin ran a funny and well-deserved sendup of the Sixers' camp roster of nobodies, and I'm sympathetic, because I know next to nothing about half these guys too. Most of them are lottery tickets or camp filler anyway.

The current Bovada over-under on the Sixers' win total is 16, and if I gambled, I'd put money on them hitting the over. Last year, after the trade of Jrue Holiday and amid similar Chicken Littleism to what we're hearing now. Last year, the line was 16.5, and I very nearly bet an Andrew Bynum tattoo with Mike Levin on the over. I wish I had, because the Sixers beat it with room to spare.

Here's a partial list of the things the Sixers did last year: Their best players, on paper, were veterans Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Jason Richardson, plus lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. Richardson and Noel combined to play zero minutes, while Hawes and Turner were traded midseason. James Anderson, whose appeal as an NBA player of any stripe eludes me to this day, started 62 games and played the third-most minutes on the team. I don't live in or near an NBA city anymore, so I only got to one game in person, but when I did, Byron Mullens played 12 minutes and Trevor Ariza--Trevor Fucking Ariza--dropped 40 on the Sixers. At one point they lost 26 games in a row, tying the NBA record. They finished dead last in offensive efficiency and second-to-last in defensive efficiency. I don't think I've ever seen an NBA team look as consistently outclassed as last year's Sixers. They were nearly unwatchable and nearly unplayable.

And they still won 19 games. So let's not shit ourselves, people.

I mean...actually, is it a bad idea to say "How bad can it be?" Is that tempting fate?

Fuck it.

How bad can it be?

I'm serious. Losing Thad Young is a huge obstacle, and the Sixers are going to struggle without MCW for however long he winds up being out. But they've also effectively added Nerlens Noel. K.J. McDaniels is supposed to be a good wing defender--the Sixers' first since they traded Andre Iguodala. I don't think Luc Mbah a Moute's, like, great, or anything, but he's a legitimate NBA forward. Why is Henry Sims going to be a huge step down from Lavoy Allen and Byron Mullens draggin' ass up and down the floor all year? To say nothing of the advantage to having a team that's overwhelmingly young, athletic and raw is that the whole point of getting players like that is that they improve over time.

The panic over how bad the Sixers' roster reminds me of the tanking panic in how short its memory is--you think losing Spencer Hawes and Thad Young is going to put this team in the toilet? Son, if Spencer Hawes and Thad Young are your best players, your team's already in the toilet.

The last reason to bet the over is that the Sixers actually play--or try to play--an efficient game. Contrast that to, say, the Lakers, who are a team of fossils coached by a crank and will feed the rock 40 times a game to Kobe Bryant for an 18-footer, because I don't care if his joints have deteriorated past the point where you'd probably be better playing Nick Young, that guy's scary as hell--I'm not going to tell him that he's the 45-year-old hitting on the undergraduate women at the bar and that it's time for him to go home or die or both.

The Sixers, on the other hand, played the fastest pace in the league last year. Despite being the worst three-point shooting team last year, they attempted the 13th-most threes. Despite being the second-worst defensive team overall, they forced the fourth-highest turnover percentage. This is going to be an awful team, but it's going to be a team with good tactics executed by young players who try hard because they're fighting for their NBA lives.

I'm not saying they won't be unwatchable, but 16 wins is an awfully low bar to clear--one that all but 25 teams in NBA history--assuming an 82-game schedule--have managed to overcome. So let's dispense with the panic and the concern trolling, people, because it can't get that much worse.

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