The Philadelphia 76ers remain the bane of the NBA's existence because they have dared to construct a long-term plan to build a championship team that included tearing down a team consisting of Evan Turner, Arnett Moultrie, and Spencer Hawes, and perennial decade-long NBA laughing stock Kwame Brown. Daring, I know, but many people deride them for taking the tanking strategy "too far" and "too long" even though the Sixers are a unique case that don't fully compare with any other team in history. There are similarities to be sure, but to say the Sixers are a cloning any team's strategy at this point seems like a reach. The Sixers are new, and people still don't know what to do with them.
That being said, for the third consecutive season, everyone assumes the Sixers will miss the playoffs because LOLSIXERS and everything. But maybe not dear friends, for I can envision a path in that can see the Sixers competing for the playoffs in the 2015-16. Granted, a lot of things would have to happen, actually it may even have to be a lot of a lot*, but it is within the realm of possibilities. The probabilities may be unlikely, perhaps drastically so, but I'm telling you there's a chance. So what exactly needs to happen for the Sixers to playoff contend this very season?
*If people are going to use cliches, they should use this one more often. "A lot of a lot" is underused imo.
- Jahlil Okafor plays up to his offensive expectations while showing improvement on the defensive end.
- Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel team-up to form a dynamic frontcourt Sixers fans have been dreaming for since the KWAMEHAWES nightmare.
- Someone, anyone plays point guard for the Sixers and performs at a higher level than Michael Carter-Williams did.
- Robert Covington develops an off-the-dribble game while sustaining his shooting production from beyond the arc.
- Nik Stauskas adjusts well after escaping the hellhole that is the Sacramento Kings organization and produces closer to expectations of the #8 overall pick in the loaded 2014 class.
- Brett Brown continues his evolution as a head coach now that he has a lot of actual, albeit young, NBA talent on his team.
- Sam Hinkie's deadline dealings become less about acquiring future assets in the form of draft picks and more about current players that can step in and improve the team immediately.
- After a rough off-season and pre-season, the Sixers get lucky with the injury bug and do not lose a lot of player games during the course of the season.
- Surprise Joel Embiid return, anyone?
- Sam Hinkie's latest depth signings continue to have a tangible, positive impact on the team.
- You've all seen the quality of middling 7-seed and 8-seed teams in the Eastern Conference these past few years, right?
Maybe almost none of these things happen and the Sixers are once again "competing" for the top overall draft pick independent of their 2016 pick swap with the Kings. It would be a let down, but there are worse fates than having a 25% of finally landing a #1 overall pick in the draft (likely Ben Simmons). However, the trend has to be progress and given the foundation Hinkie and Brown have begun to establish the potential is there to lift the Sixers to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in 2016.
Of course it is presumptuous to believe that all of these things will happen. They probably won't, and the Sixers will probably end up in the lottery again. But if all of most of these events do occur, it is possible the Sixers make the playoffs. It took 38 wins in each of the past three seasons to qualify for the playoffs. If the above happens, a record of 38-44 feels like it is something that could be achieved from this Sixers team if all goes well, and as long as the Eastern Conference does not experience a sudden boon in quality out of nowhere, the Sixers could find themselves playing meaningful basketball in April. Even if the end-result is the Cavs sweeping them in the conference quarterfinals, how fun would that be?