Quick Links

NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: Are the Sixers ready for primetime with Markelle Fultz?

USA Today Sports Images

NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: Are the Sixers ready for primetime with Markelle Fultz?

NBC Sports Washington is looking around the league as we prepare for the 2017-18 NBA season. Today, we break down the Philadelphia 76ers' outlook...

2016-17 record: 28-54, 14th in East
Coach: Brett Brown
Key additions: PG Markelle Fultz, SG J.J. Redick, PF Amir Johnson
Key losses: SG Gerald Henderson
Projected lineup: PG Markelle Fultz, SG J.J. Redick, SF Ben Simmons, PF Dario Saric, C Joel Embiid

Biggest questions:

1. Can Embiid and Simmons stay healthy?

'The Process' has netted the Sixers some very intriguing young players but two of them - Embiid and Simmons - have major injury concerns. Embiid has played in just 31 games since he was drafted in 2014 due to various ailments involving his back, knee and feet. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in March. Simmons missed his entire rookie year because of foot surgery.

Both are crazy talented, but if the Sixers can count on them full-time isn't clear quite yet. Embiid was on a minutes restriction this past season and is coming off surgery. Simmons has yet to return and foot injuries can be tricky. Hopefully, for the game of basketball's sake, both can show what they're made of this season.


2. Is Fultz ready for an instant impact?

In addition to Embiid and Simmons, the Sixers have another blue chip prospect in Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in this summer's draft. They traded a lot to get him and hope he is the missing piece to complete an important stage of their rebuild. With Simmons, the Sixers will be adding the last two No. 1 picks to their lineup.

Fultz was a phenom in college. He adapted very quickly, averaging 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. That's impressive, but offers no guarantee he will find early success at the NBA level. There are a ton of good point guards out there and Fultz will find that out soon with John Wall and the Wizards awaiting him opening night in D.C.

3. Can they make a playoff push?

The Sixers pulled off one of the most blatant tank jobs in sports history to collect a group of young players that is undeniably impressive. But they can't keep tanking forever. Is this the year they finally become a competitive NBA team?

Their fans (and Coach Brown) have been very patient, but it seems like this would be a good time to take the next step and actually gun for a playoff spot. The signing of Redick in free agency to a $23 million deal suggests they are ready to go for it and it will be interesting to see if they can make some noise with such a young team or whether it will take a few years for them to gel.

More 2017-18 previews:

Boston Celtics

Chicago Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers

Milwaukee Bucks

Indiana Pacers

Toronto Raptors



Quick Links

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!


Quick Links

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 

The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall remains out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.


The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.

The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home-court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.


By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!