Until The Philadelphia 76ers Get A Leader, Expect More Rebuilding


The Philadelphia 76ers have a lot of youth and no leadership. Until they get some veteran players, expect the dreaded rebuild to continue

In the NBA preview edition of Sports Illustrated, three separate articles focused on the student-teacher relationship between three of the top picks from the draft. Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Justise Winslow were highlighted, as well as their mentors, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

There was, of course, one glaring omission: Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers, who might be considered the favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year.

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Despite Okafor’s obvious talent and potential, the simple reason he wasn’t covered in the–tremendous–SI article is because he has no veteran leader to learn from.

In fact, as scary as it sounds, third-year man Nerlens Noel is actually the longest-tenured player on the Sixers. That’s right, the 21-year-old center has been with Philadelphia the longest. Despite the Sixers having a slew of young talent, having a roster with no veteran presence is something that hinders the development significantly.

The average age of Philadelphia’s core group of players (Jerami Grant, T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington, Isaiah Canaan, Nik Stauskas, JaKarr Sampson, Noel and Okafor) is 22. RoCo, who turned 25 earlier in December, is the oldest member in the regular rotation.

The Sixers’ lack of a leader was arguably most apparent during the team’s loss in Minnesota earlier in the year. Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns are the three young pieces on that team, but the Timberwolves also have veterans like Andre Miller, Kevin Garnett and Kevin Martin.

Both players played pivotal roles, as Martin sank a late, clutch three, while KG was seen yelling instructions from the bench. Having someone who can help teach young players who don’t know much about winning in the NBA is invaluable.

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That’s also something Philadelphia desperately, desperately lacks. Think about it: sure, Okafor and Noel are the future, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to carry this team just yet. You wouldn’t give a 16-year-old kid the keys to a brand-new Ferrari, would you?

The devoid of a leader like a KG has probably helped contribute to Okafor’s off-court issues. I don’t really blame the kid, since A) he’s younger than I am, and B) prior to being drafted by Philly, he was a winner at every level. But the fact of the matter remains that having a leader to talk to Okafor during his struggles would probably go a long way.

A coach can only say so much until there becomes the inevitable boundary of generations. Oftentimes advice is best when it comes from a teammate.

It’s not like the Sixers never had veterans, either. Sam Hinkie got rid of Thaddeus Young, Jason Richardson and JaVale McGee. Yes, believe it or not, JaVale McGee, who has criticized for his basketball intelligence throughout his entire NBA career, would be an addition in regard to the team’s veteran leadership.

It’s a bit concerning the best veteran advice these young Sixers received this season was from Kobe Bryant after Philadelphia’s lone win.

This season, the Sixers have been in numerous games until the very end. The sad fact is that despite their high energy, these young players don’t have the poise to close out games down the stretch. It’s been the story all year for the Sixers. They’ve been in games, only to see their leads dissipate down the stretch.

Hinkie’s methods don’t make a whole lot of sense, as a team stock-piled with inexperienced players and no leaders is almost pre-determined to fail. But that’s probably why the Sixers brought in two great basketball minds in Jerry Colangelo and Mike D’Antoni.

Since the arrival of the two, there have been talks to bring in some veteran players, albeit in a non-playing role.

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“Other sources said the Sixers are talking to former star Elton Brand and NBA veteran Shane Battier about joining the organization, hoping to bring in guys with sterling reputations to serve as role models for young players,” Fox Sports writes.

The change is welcomed, and it’s also necessary.

Hinkie’s plan of loading up with young talent looks good on paper, but that young talent needs some guidance. It doesn’t matter whom the Sixers select with their numerous draft picks. If they can’t bring in some veteran players in the offseason, the rebuild will continue.