The 76ers have undertaken the most extreme rebuilding project in the NBA in the last few season. They’ve heard some criticism about failing to put a competitive product on the floor (they’ve last their last 18 dating back to last season), but GM Sam Hinkie remains committed to the rebuild. Michael Carter-Williams, a player who seemed to be a part of Philadelphia’s bright future was traded to the Bucks last season. Promising and talented but injury-plagued Joel Embiid remains sidelined for the foreseeable future. Nerlens Noel has shown glimpses of what he may become today, but he still isn’t consistent enough to be a first option.
Jahlil Okafor, however, may prove to be a superstar. Though the 76ers have yet to win a game, Okafor has been a bright spot for Philly. The 6-11 Duke product has impressed so far: 20.6 points per game and just short of seven rebounds on 59% shooting. Against the Raptors on Wednesday he scored 26 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks. He’s gifted on the low block, and his footwork is excellent for a 19 year old. The verdict is still out of his defense, but he certainly cannot be considered an elite post defender yet.
Another player who has impressed is undrafted Arizona rookie T.J. McConnell. He ranks fifth in assists in the NBA at 8.3 per game. He takes care of the ball well too: his assist to turnover ratio is 3.47. He and Okafor have been quick to develop some chemistry together. He’s a pass-first point guard, a pure point in a league of combo guards. He isn’t ultra athletic, but he’s made due with his court vision and decision-making. The 76ers seem to have found a gem
Rebuilding? Yes. Hopeless? Not at all. The 76ers hit a homerun on their lottery pick Okafor, and did their due diligence to score McConnell on a non-guaranteed deal. With Kevin Durant out, the 76ers may have a chance against the Thunder, but expectations need to be measured for Philly. They’re still a young team with few proven players, but they seem to be on the right path.