Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Sixers done being the punchline?

30_in_30_sixers_082517.jpg

30 teams in 30 days: Sixers done being the punchline?

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: Philadelphia 76ers

BOSTON –  For years the Sixers have stunk while asking their fans to “trust the process,” with the losses piling up like a clogged sewage pipe.

It’s pretty clear by the moves they made this offseason, this franchise is tired of being a league-wide punchline for putrid play.

30 teams in 30 days:

Instead, they seem poised to punch back and – wait for it! – play competitive basketball that could potentially see them do the seemingly unthinkable and that’s get to the playoffs this spring.

There is an unmistakable buzz surrounding this team that’s based on something other than potential or incredibly pitiful play.

It’s rooted in progress, the kind that just may reward fans with a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2012 when they were eliminated in the second round by the Boston Celtics.

At the heart of Philadelphia’s now-optimistic hopes of having a bright future sooner rather than later, is Joel Embiid.

The 7-foot big man was a walking force of nature in his first healthy season (injuries sidelined him for his first two seasons in the league), which was an issue with him logging limited minutes (25.4 per game) and being even more limited when it came to actual games played (31).

But in that time, he averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds with 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks per game, the kind of stats that would put him firmly in the All-Star conversation.

However, the concerns that have dogged him since he came into the NBA – his health - are once again an issue heading into this season.

Embiid’s status to start the season remains uncertain due to a meniscus tear in his left knee suffered last season that has yet to heal to the point where he has been cleared to resume full basketball-related activities.

However, the optimism for Philadelphia competing for a playoff spot this season has more to do with them adding a pair of playoff-tested veterans in Amir Johnson and J.J. Redick who came via free agency from Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers, respectively.

Philadelphia should also benefit from having Ben Simmons on the floor.

Drafted by the Sixers with the top overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Simmons has been cleared for full basketball-related activities after having suffered a foot injury that led to him missing the entire 2016-2017 NBA season.

And Philadelphia’s top pick in last June’s NBA draft, Markelle Fultz, suffered an ankle injury during summer league in Las Vegas last month but he too is on track to be ready to go before the start of training camp.

To talk about Philadelphia and good health in the same breath, is indeed progress. And if their core guys can manage to maintain a relatively clean bill of health during the regular season, Sixers fans will finally reap the fruits of having trusted the process.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: J.J. Redick (Los Angeles Clippers); Amir Johnson (Boston).

Key losses:  Ersan Ilyasova (Atlanta); Sergio Rodriguez (CSKA Moscow); Gerald Henderson (free agent).

Rookies of note: Markelle Fultz; Furkan Korkmaz.

Expectations: 36-44 (Third in the Atlantic Division, ninth in the East)

Report: Clippers willing to offer Tobias Harris, draft picks for Kawhi Leonard

Report: Clippers willing to offer Tobias Harris, draft picks for Kawhi Leonard

The Clippers are firmly in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes.

According to the Los Angeles Times, they would be willing to part ways with Tobias Harris and the No. 12 or 13 pick in this year's draft for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Harris was the piece they received from the Pistons in the Blake Griffin trade last season.

Leonard wants out of San Antonio and has declared the Lakers his preferred landing spot, though the Clippers reportedly are among the teams he would consider.

Of course, the Celtics have also been named as a possible destination for the 27-year-old. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Blakely: Celtics may come up with a winner at No. 27

Blakely: Celtics may come up with a winner at No. 27

BOSTON -- The Celtics aren’t expected to try and move up in Thursday night’s NBA draft.

Judging by the success teams in recent years have had at their draft position, you can understand why.

Indeed, the 27th pick in recent years has been -- on many levels -- as good or better than players selected several slots higher in their respective draft.

BLAKELY'S MOCK DRAFT 3.0

Look at last year’s draft, one in which the Los Angeles Lakers nabbed Kyle Kuzma with the 27th overall pick. As a rookie, he averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in earning a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team -- the only player drafted outside of the lottery (top 14) to be chosen for the first unit.

In the previous season, Toronto selected Pascal Siakam from New Mexico at No. 27. He appeared in 55 games as a rookie, making a total of 36 starts while averaging 4.3 points per game. This past season he was key to a strong bench that played an instrumental role in Toronto recording a franchise-record 59 wins, giving the Raptors the best record in the East for the first time in franchise history.

As you continue to look at the 27th pick lineage, it’s clear that all the talk about Boston being able to find a player who can contribute that late in the draft isn’t overly optimistic.

Rudy Gobert, drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2012 at No. 27, has been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team three times and will be in contention for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award again. He was also on the All-NBA second team in 2017.

Last season Boston finished with the second-best record in the East with a roster that was the league’s fifth-youngest. Most of that core group is set to return, with only Marcus Smart (restricted) and Aron Baynes (unrestricted) on the free-agent market. Finding a potential replacement for either of those guys is possible (unlikely, but definitely possible) with the 27th pick.

MORE ON THE DRAFT

More important than that, Boston has to continue to add players who can produce regardless of their position.

And while it’s certainly a far cry from the last two years, when the Celtics had the third overall pick in each draft (Jaylen Brown in 2016, Jayson Tatum in 2017), history has shown that teams can find more than just a warm body at No. 27. The Celts hope to add another chapter to that narrative this week.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE