As the 76ers approach a record for futility, one scout laments their 'D-League roster'

Ball Don't Lie
Noel and Okafor's per-possession offensive work is even crummier than the Sixers as a whole. (Getty Images)
Noel and Okafor's per-possession offensive work is even crummier than the Sixers as a whole. (Getty Images)

It’s hard to fully comprehend just how the Philadelphia 76ers took an 18-win team, added a Rookie of the Year candidate that roared out of the gates with averages of 18 points and nearly eight rebounds, and somehow turned out this bad to begin things.Yet, here they are at 0-13.

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The 2014-15 76ers managed to eke out 18 wins even after an 0-17 start (one loss short of the NBA record for season-starting futility), and yet this year’s model (which also includes Nerlens Noel, seemingly improved in his second active season) is on pace for exactly zero wins.

If that seems like a smart-alecky overreaction, we understand. We’ve also been forced to watch 76ers games, not unlike some frustrated NBA scouts (who must have drawn the shortest stick in the office that week), and you can’t help but conclude that the 2015-16 outfit is playing far worse this time around.

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One of those scouts, in talking with the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell (via Pro Basketball Talk), reminded us why:

Sigh. This is where we’re reminded that, to the eye test and on the ledger, that Noel and Okafor have been a miserable pairing thus far. Yes, we’re only 13 games in, this is not promising.

The idea that the offensive-minded (and rebounding deficient, three weeks in) Okafor could pair swimmingly with the athletic and versatile defensive force in Noel was a reasonable one. Noel can’t hit the sort of jumpers needed to give Okafor space to work down low, but the athletic second-year forward could act as a functional diver and screener off the ball until that face-up 15-footer came around.

It’s not working, yet. The hoped-for saviors are Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten, good god, and despite coming close against Miami on Saturday (entering the fourth quarter of that contest with a six-point lead) the Sixers have yet to win this season.

Prior to the season, it wouldn’t have been unrealistic to peg Philly for another long losing streak to enter the season, because outside of Okafor the team’s top offseason acquisition was disappointing second-year guard Nik Stauskas – who has shot 33 percent from the floor this year.

Any Sixer fan gifted with the knowledge of his or her team’s sad start would at least be relieved to see that the Minnesota Timberwolves were due up in Game 14, a Wolves team that won four fewer games last season than Philadelphia prior to adding a 19-year rookie of its own, plus two (beyond) aging players in Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller.

The Wolves won four of their first six and currently stand at 5-8, though, and that 19-year-old (now 20) in Karl-Anthony Towns is turning in a jaw-dropping rookie season. Truly, Minnesota should wipe the floor with the 76ers.

From there, one has to look at the upcoming schedule, which includes the final three games of a road trip that coach Brett Brown mentioned taking “sadistic” pleasure in last week.

There’s a game on Wednesday against the Celtics, pitched less than two nights after flying halfway across the country from Minneapolis, featuring the league’s top turnover-causing defense in Boston against the league’s worst ball-protecting offense in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is not going to win that game.

The Sixers then fly halfway across America to Houston after that, working against a Rockets team looking to have a glorified and well-compensated practice against lesser talent in order to turn its disappointing season around.

Philadelphia is not going to win that game.

At Memphis?

Philadelphia is not going to win that game.

In Los Angeles, against the Lakers?

Well …

In New York, against the Knicks?

Philadelphia is not going to win that game.

At home, against Denver?

The Spurs?

Odd things happen in this league. It’s hard to look the rosters from the 1999 Bulls or 2003 Nuggets or even last year’s Sixers and try to wrap your head around how, exactly, they won a single game that season. This league doesn’t play on paper, though.

The sheer amount of basketball games in a regular season, with teams flying in and out of cities and strange quirks abounding, leaves you to think that the Sixers can’t help but win a game or 15 this season, but with its defense having fallen off the cliff (it was a respectable 10th last year) working alongside its embarrassing offense, how on earth can they be counted on to outscore another team in 48 minutes’ time?

That could change on Monday, in Minnesota. Or, the Sixers could roll on as expected, be forced to down a similarly lowly Lakers team in Game 19 while working with an 0-18 record, attempting to stop the streak and not set the record for the worst start to any NBA season in the league’s history.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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