There is a huge difference between the ability to play basketball and being a great basketball player. That is the dilemma for the Sixers as they have begun to assemble some intriguing young talent.
Joel Embiid looks like an absolute killer in those videos. Let’s just say for the sake of the city’s collective hoops sanity, he is able to play this year injury-free. You can hope that means a much better bottom line, but, really, nobody knows. Embiid may be a great talent, a potential difference maker. Even if he is that and that is hardly a guarantee given how little actual basketball he has played, will he become a great player?
I am not quite sure what to make of Ben Simmons’ game yet. Anybody with eyes knows he is a game-changing passer, but will he have the all-around game to emerge as a great player? Can he guard anybody? Can he score enough to make his passing even more effective?
There is genuine excitement around the Sixers and there should be. At the very least, this team is going to be interesting to watch.
At the risk of being labeled pragmatic, I would caution everyone not to expect too much too soon. Unless LeBron James comes to your team, you don’t go from the worst team in the league to one of the best overnight.
I am concerned that the expectations are too high even long term. The NBA is really an unforgiving league. It is natural that everybody focuses on the home team, but, while the Sixers have been getting high draft choices with potential, the rest of the league has not been idle.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are among the best young players in the world. If Minnesota makes the playoffs this year, it will be a great year. That is how hard it is to move up.
To win a championship, your team definitely has to have one of the 10 best players in the league and probably two. I always understood that was the basis of the Sam Hinkie plan, but, without going over old arguments, I always thought the plan relied too much on luck. Regardless, the reality has not changed.
Making a list of the NBA’s 10 best players obviously is subjective once you get beyond the obvious names -- LeBron, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant. The rest of my list is: Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
No James Harden because I want two-way players who impact winning and losing. Al Horford will never dazzle, but watch him in Boston this year. He will make a difference because he plays the whole game.
Players who can impact the game are what the Sixers hope they have on the roster. Right, now, they are all just young players with possibilities -- Embiid, Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric. They need one of them at least to become a top 10 player over time, but take a long look at my list. That is very tough territory to crash and my group is still relatively young, older than the Sixers group for sure, but already proven difference makers.