The 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers: Just How Bad Is The NBA’s Worst Team?
Winless in its first 17 games of the season and only one win shy of tying the longest losing streak to begin a season in NBA history — the Nets lost 18 straight to open the year in 2009 — the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers will likely go down as one of the worst teams in NBA history. And that, as any NBA fan knows, is no accident.
Philadelphia General Manager Sam Hinkie is in the midst of rebuilding the team. It appears that his plan to create a sustained contender, and jumpstart a potential dynasty in the best-case scenario, starts by guaranteeing his team will receive the maximum amount of ping pong balls in the draft lottery. And to do that his team will lose more games than anyone team in the league and possibly any in NBA history. It’s a bold strategy, which could alienate fans, and the fate of his job depends on it working.
Hinkie left his head coach Brett Brown with a team bereft of talent or veterans. In the team’s most recent loss, a 109-103 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs, only one 76er who saw action in the game (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) had more than three years of NBA experience.
Last season, the 76ers had the second worst record in the league and selected Kansas center Joel Embiid with the third pick in the draft. Embiid, however, will likely miss the season rehabbing from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. Later in the lottery, with the 10th pick, Hinkie traded down from 10 to 12 with the Magic and nabbed Dario Saric, a 20-year-old Croatian who is playing professionally in Turkey and thriving. He was just named the Euroleague MVP for the month of November. Saric he signed a three-year contract with his Turkish team, which makes it unlikely he will come to the aid of the team for at least two years. Still, he’s a 6’10” power forward with a lot of potential and told the team that “he will play in Philadelphia,” after the draft, according to a NJ.com article. In the deal, Hinkie shrewdly netted Phily a 2015 second-round pick from the Magic and most importantly a future first round pick the team traded in the Dwight Howard deal.
The 76ers have played a few close games this season, losing by two to Orlando on Nov. 5, three to Chicago on Nov. 7 and by a point to the Rockets in Houston on Nov. 14. However, Philly was embarrassed in Dallas in a 120-73 loss on Nov. 13 and the team’s average margin of defeat is 14.41 points per game.
It will take a few years to determine if the losing strategy pays off. Philadelphia does have several promising young players, notably 2014 Offensive rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, whose first game back from shoulder surgery was the 53-point loss to the Mavs, 2014 second-round pick K.J. McDaniels, the sixth pick in 2013 in Nerlens Noel and Embiid when he returns from injury. The 76ers also have the rights to Saric.
Hinkie’s blow-it-up in order to build it back up approach clearly has the support of ownership, otherwise he would’ve spent a bit more than $45 million on the team’s salary, which is below the NBA salary floor.
Will 76ers fans stick with the team that will likely set records for futility? If Hinkie’s plan works and Philly becomes a legitimate, sustained contender in the East, then fans will be overjoyed. They probably won’t mind that they put up with one of the worst teams in NBA history and Hinkie will be hailed as a hero.