It’s almost impossible to imagine a basketball team being worse than the Philadelphia 76ers. Could the 2016-17 Brooklyn Nets pull it off?
Since 2013 the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are two of the worst franchises in the NBA. The Nets made a franchise-crippling trade with the Boston Celtics and Sam Hinkie took over the Sixers and installed his infamous process. Until now the Sixers have been one of the few teams the Nets could look down on. That won’t be the case this season.
The Nets franchise is no stranger to embarrassment. The 16 game losing streak that started the 12-win 2009-10 season and the Jason Kidd-Lawrence Frank saga are just a couple of the lowlights. They can add to that list of failures this season by usurping the Sixers as the NBA’s worst team. A terrifying thought.
The 2015-16 Sixers lost their first 18 games. Combine that with a 10 game losing streak to end the prior season, and you get the historical level of intended failures the franchise has encountered in the past three years.
The Nets are this season’s most unremarkable team. They have, without question, the league’s least talented roster. That’s usually what happens with rebuilding teams. Spots are filled with vanilla names on small contracts like Luis Scola and Randy Foye in Brooklyn.
The fourth-highest salary on the Nets in 2016-17 belongs to Dallas Mavericks point guard Deron Williams. If the Nets had their way, this team would look a lot different right now, but after they had missed out on restricted free agents Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, the transformative offseason came to an abrupt halt. It isn’t all bad, though.
Jeremy Lin will provide some excitement from the point guard spot, and Brook Lopez will keep doing Brook Lopez things. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the guy fans should keep their eye on, though. Already the team’s best perimeter defender, RHJ’s offensive development will be key this season.
Philly on the other hand despite such low expectations is generating buzz around the league due to their plethora of young talent. Reigning No. 1 overall pick Ben Simons is naturally commanding plenty of attention, but it’s the Sixers’ trio of big men — Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, and Nerlens Noel — who’ve made the headlines even more.
The team needs to trade one or even two of the above three players because they have a logjam of young talent. That sounds like a good problem to have.
The Sixers didn’t remain dormant on the free agency market this summer. Under new management, they brought in a couple proven veterans — Gerald Henderson and Jerryd Bayless — in the hopes of instilling a winning culture.
Don’t expect the Sixers to light the world on fire but they will battle it out with the Nets all season long for a fourth-place finish in the Atlantic Division.
ESPN’s real plus-minus projected the Nets would finish better in 2016-17 but that the Sixers would vastly improve and finish better than the Los Angeles Lakers. Not bad.
Both teams have reached this point in different ways — Brooklyn by incompetence and Philly on purpose — and therefore face different circumstances in the upcoming season.
The Sixers are seasoned veterans in the excessive losing department, but the Nets new San Antonio Spurs inspired leadership is just getting warmed up. General manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson are prepared for a lot of losses in 2016-17.
The Sixers made a conscious choice to be a bad team three years ago. The Nets sunk their future into Danny Ainge’s pockets and unintentionally brought this horrific fate on themselves. After all the pain New York City’s number two team has already experienced, this will be the worst.
The brutal reality of the first season in a grueling rebuilding project will truly kick in for the Nets on Dec. 18, the first of four meetings with the Sixers. They won’t be looking down on their division rival on that day, but maybe even up in the standings.