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Friday, 13 October 2017 05:57

Sixers vs. Celtics season preview

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The Sixers and Celtics will do battle atop the Atlantic Division throughout the 2017-18 season.

The Sixers 2016-17 season (as well as the NBA in general) can be separated into two categories; with-Embiid and without-Embiid. Before Embiid's season-ending knee injury, the Sixers were 17-27, but had won nine of 12 in in January. Embiid, Robert Covington, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor all missed games from January on. That did allow Dario Saric, Covington and Richaun Holmes to develop even further.

The Sixers-Celtics season was 3-1 in favor of the Celtics, but Embiid played in one of those four games and three were decided by less than six points. With a chance at the playoffs gone, the Sixers lost the final eight games of the season, including seven against playoff teams. That stretch put them in better lottery position and take advantage of former GM Sam Hinkie's heist of the Kings that included the pick swap from No. 5 to No. 3 and eventually led to the Markelle Fultz trade.

With 50-plus million in cap room, Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo signed J.J. Redick and former Celtic Amir Johnson to one-year deals to retain cap flexibility. Redick is from Virginia, lives in New York and wanted to return to the East Coast. Johnson was purely a veteran/depth move. He should play on the second unit alongside Okafor or Holmes.

The two biggest additions are back-to-back No. 1 overall picks Ben Simmons and Fultz. Simmons is widely regarded as the best prospect since LeBron James, and I fully expect him to win Rookie of the Year. Simmons is expected to take over at point guard and Fultz off the ball, as he did during summer league.

The Fultz trade was the big one. He should fit very well with Simmons, Redick and Embiid. Fultz can do everything offensively and should have a huge, immediate impact.

Colangelo did exactly what he needed to--he didn't screw anything up. He didn't sign anyone to a bad, long-term deal or get rid of any promising, young talent. He benefitted greatly from all Hinkie's work. He used the Lakers' pick, acquired by Hinkie in the Michael Carter-Williams/Brandon Knight deal and the pick that swapped with the Kings to get Fultz.

The biggest question heading into the preseason is how the starting line up will fit. Three of the five projected starters (Simmons, Redick and Fultz) didn't play on the team last year. Whether Simmons can play a traditional point guard or more of a Draymond Green/Blake Griffin type point-forward is my biggest question. Simmons and coach Brett Brown have both been advocating for Simmons to play point guard since he was drafted. I'm interested to if he struggles early on, how long a leash Brown gives him or if he slides Fultz over.

Through two preseason games, Simmons has picked up right where he left off last summer. He looks a lot like the man he's been compared to for the last five years, LeBron James. He is certainly not the "bad rookie" ESPN's Zach Lowe has called him (without watching him play). I expect Simmons to run the show and get open shots for Redick, Covington, Fultz and Dario Saric.

This is going to be a deadly offense.

As far as trades, I could see Jerryd Bayless or Okafor possibly being dealt. I'd say it's probably about a five percent chance for each though.

Embiid and Simmons are very difficult  to guard, so I would expect anyone to have trouble. If Embiid and Simmons are on the floor together, that is potentially the best duo in the East.

The Sixers have the brightest future outside of Golden State, due to the position Hinkie put the team in to get Simmons and Fultz. They will win the East within the next three seasons.

I see the Sixers finishing 50-32, good enough for No. 4 seed in the East. Vegas has had the over-under between 42.5 and 44.5. I see them between 45-50 wins, I'll go to the high end of that.

 

Vince Rodemer

CLNS contributor. Former sports reporter for the Lewistown Sentinel in Pennsylvania.

Currently a design editor at North of Boston Media Group and freelance sports reporter for several publications including the Nashua Telegraph.

Fan of baseball, basketball, football, golf and MMA.\

TTP.

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