Saturday, December 20, 2014

Projecting the Sixers 2014-15 starting lineup

Much of the conversation surrounding the Sixers over the past week has been about off-court issues, While the Sixers' stance on the NBA's proposed lottery changes is intriguing, let's shift the focus back to the on-court action for a moment.

Projecting the Sixers 2014-15 starting lineup

From left to right, Philadelphia 76ers´ Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims celebrate in the final seconds of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 123-98, breaking a 26-game losing streak. (Matt Slocum/AP)
From left to right, Philadelphia 76ers' Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims celebrate in the final seconds of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 123-98, breaking a 26-game losing streak. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Much of the conversation surrounding the Sixers over the past week has been about off-court issues, While the Sixers' stance on the NBA's proposed lottery changes is intriguing, let's shift the focus back to the on-court action for a moment. 

Last week I attempted to project the Sixers' complete 15-man opening night roster. This week, I take a stab at the starters. 

1. Point guard: Michael Carter-Williams: It is safe to assume that the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year will be back starting at the point guard position this season for the Sixers. Despite some expected struggles, Carter-Williams’ play was promising last season, as he demonstrated an ability to operate an offense, create opportunities for others, push the pace, and even secure some steals.

Improvements need to be made to his game if he is going to hold down the point guard position for the franchise going forward, especially to his shooting and on-ball defense. But, Carter-Williams will be given every opportunity to improve this season, as he projects to get ample playing time with the ball in his hands, just as he did last season.

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2.Shooting guard: Hollis Thompson: The wing spots are the biggest question marks for the Sixers heading into the season. James Anderson, who started 62 games for the team last season is gone, and with so much young talent to develop, it doesn’t make much sense to hand 52-year old Jason Richardson a starting spot.

Jordan McRae is another option here, especially after his impressive Summer League performance, but as an NBA player he still has a lot to learn. He will likely be better suited as an offensive option off of the bench, at least to start the season.

Thompson started 41 games for the Sixers last season, and although he is not naturally a shooting guard, starting him there makes some sense for the Sixers. Thompson is one of the few players on the roster as it is currently constructed with the ability to stretch the floor and consistently know down an outside shot, which makes him very valuable on the offensive end. While his handle needs to be improved, especially if he were slotted at shooting guard where he would need to share some of the ball-handling duties, Thompson showed an improved ability to beat a defender off of the dribble and take the ball to the basket in Orlando this summer. His point production was not coming off just outside shooting as it did for much of last season, but also through lane drives and trips to the basket. It is this kind of development that the Sixers want to see from the 23- year old. I would expect to see him in the starting spot come October.

3. Small forward: K.J. McDaniels: McDaniels has a bright future in the league, and more specifically with the Sixers. He was a first-round talent who happened to slip to the Sixers in the second round, and it could prove to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. McDaniels is long and athletic, and should fit in nicely with the Sixers’ scheme. He is dedicated defensively, and is excellent at getting out in transition, an area the Sixers emphasize. He showed some signs of a stroke during Summer League, and if he can hit outside shots with some consistency, he will quickly become very valuable to the Sixers.

While McDaniels’ starting spot is far from solidified, he may be the front-runner and this point, and in another season without expectation, it only makes sense to give the kid ample opportunity, see what he can do, and allow him to develop through on-court action.

4. Power forward: Thaddeus Young: Assuming Young is still with the Sixers to start the season, he will again hold down the starting spot at power forward. Young is a multi-faceted forward that could technically play several positions on the floor. The biggest question surrounding Young at this point is when, and where, he will be moved, which is unfortunate, considering how good of a guy he is on, and off the court. As long as he stays a Sixer however, he should remain in the starting rotation.

5. Center: Nerlens Noel: And now, starting for the Sixers at Center, from the University of Kentucky, number four.. NERLENSS NOOELLL.

After a season on the shelf, Noel projects to start at center for the Sixers this season. It is yet to be seen what position Noel will play when Joel Embiid eventually hits the hardwood, but in the absence of many other options, Noel will likely start at center this season. He may play alongside Henry Sims for some stretches to get him acclimated to playing the power forward position at the NBA-level as well.

The Sixers will likely monitor his minutes as he gets back to basketball. Around 25-30 minutes a night seems like a realistic minute per game expectation for the ultra-athletic Noel. While that might not be enough exposure for Noel to take home hardware like Carter-Williams did after his rookie season, he will have ample opportunity to show his stuff.

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