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ESPN Predicts Sixers to Place Last in East Again

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ESPN's Kevin Pelton wrote his annual piece predicting the Win-Loss records of all 30 NBA teams. Despite the steps the Sixers took towards improvement this offseason, he still predicts them to finish last in the Eastern Conference.

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The Sixers have seen a lot of positive developments over the last 6 months. They won the lottery, adding the 2016 overall top pick, Ben Simmons, to their stable of talented young big men. Joel Embiid seems to be well on his way to recovery, with his Sixers debut likely to come during pre-season this Fall. Dario Saric made good on his word and finally came over from Turkey to bolster an already overstocked frontcourt. The Sixers even made some waves in free agency, landing a couple of veteran backcourt players in Gerald Henderson and Jerryd Bayless, plus the Spanish wizard Sergio Rodriguez from Real Madrid.

Given all these developments, it feels as though this may finally be the season that the Sixers' rebuild begins to turn around, and we might see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Before we lose ourselves too deep in Fantasyland, ESPN has a rude reminder that the Sixers are still, well, very bad. Kevin Pelton wrote his annual column this morning in which he projected each team's Win-Loss records based on ESPN's Real Plus Minus metric (Insider). As has been the case the last three years, the Sixers were projected to finish last in the Eastern Conference, and just (barely) ahead of the Lakers for the worst record in the league. Pelton projected the Sixers to finish with 24.5 wins, 0.2 wins better than the Lakers' projection, and a full 4.3 wins behind the Nets' projection of 28.8 wins. The Suns (29.2) and Mavericks (34.3) rounded out the bottom 5.

Pelton wrote:

Even with conservative projections for rookies Ben Simmons (minus-1.9) and Joel Embiid (minus-1.4), the Sixers figure to take a massive step forward this season despite still being projected for the East's worst record.

He's right. Even though he predicts the Sixers to be the worst in the league, a 14-win improvement over the 2015-16 campaign is no small feat. Moreover, rookies have largely been proven to be ineffective at improving team's win totals, regardless of their overall talent level. So while the additions of Simmons, Embiid, and Saric are likely to boost the Sixers' base talent and to enhance the team's future, they are unlikely to add many wins this season (as Pelton points out).

In my uneducated opinion, 24 wins sounds about right, if perhaps a bit generous this year. The Sixers likely underachieved last year to get to 10 wins, but there isn't a ton of talent on hand to enable the team to get far above 20 wins. The good news is that a 24 win season would again put the Sixers in the mix for a top draft selection, and in a class featuring the likes of Markelle Fultz, Joshua Jackson, and Dennis Smith, Colangelo and company have to be mighty happy with their current outlook.