Sixers basketball is finally back.
We gave our predictions for the 2018-19 season and NBA Finals on Monday. Today, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Matt Haughton, Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick offer a series of bold predictions before the season tips off tonight in Boston.
Simmons will lead NBA in triple-doubles
All of the questions surrounding Ben Simmons entering the new season are about his jumper, but put that on the back burner. The reigning Rookie of the Year is a freak of nature and will show you why again in 2018-19.
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Simmons used his athleticism, vision and strength to record 12 triple-doubles last season, good enough for third in the league. With a year of experience under his belt, I expect that total to rise.
Russell Westbrook led all players with 25 triple-doubles a season ago and LeBron James was second with 18. Westbrook may not open the regular season after knee surgery and James will have to carry the load for a young Lakers team.
Look for the versatile Simmons to cement his mark as a true all-around player by grabbing the triple-double crown.
Brand will swing a deal that benefits Sixers
This may seem like a low bar for a general manager. However, with every opposing team looking to take advantage of the new guy, Elton Brand is going to be the target of plenty of bad trade offers.
Brand has been working toward this gig for a few years now and knows the type of imprint he wants to make. Look for him to play things tight to start the season, but he’ll pull off a move to add a bench piece near the deadline.
Embiid will finish in the top 3 in MVP voting
We’ve all heard Joel Embiid’s lofty goal by now. The Sixers’ big man wants to win MVP.
As I outlined over the weekend, it’s not crazy to think he could win the award (see story). If he can up his scoring and cut his turnovers — accompanied with better fitness — he’ll have a shot.
If LeBron James can carry the young Lakers to a decent playoff spot out West, he’ll have a good chance to win the award for the fifth time in his career.
The player that will likely be Embiid’s stiffest competition for the award for the next decade or so will be Anthony Davis. The Pelicans’ star forward had a monster season last year (28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game) in leading sixth-seeded New Orleans to a first-round, upset sweep over the Blazers. Davis is also just 25.
Ultimately, these three players will finish as the top three candidates. Who wins it? I’ll go with James willing another ragtag team into a decent playoff seed.
Fultz will be over on all over/unders
Bovada came out with its odds for Markelle Fultz in his second NBA season.
The numbers have been set for over/under on his scoring (10.5), assists (4.5), three pointers made (44.5) and free throw percentage (65.5 percent).
I’m here to tell you that Fultz will go over on all of these numbers. He’ll average around 15 points and 5.5 assists per game. He’ll shoot over 70 percent from the free throw line. Admittedly, the one I feel least confident in is the threes made. But hey, this is a fearless forecast, so let’s go with 50 made treys.
Embiid will win Defensive Player of the Year
Embiid is the best interior defender in the NBA, and the Sixers will ask him to hang out in the paint much more this season (see story). That will be key to him taking the step up from second in last year’s Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Last season, opponents shot 50.1 percent on attempts from six feet and in against Embiid, the lowest of any player who appeared in at least 50 games and defended at least 2.5 interior field goals per game.
Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard are all strong competitors for this award. But Embiid has high aspirations this season, and he’ll be the “commander-in-chief,” as Brett Brown calls him, of one of the league’s top defenses.
Shamet will prove to be a steal at No. 26
I wasn’t initially sold on the Sixers taking Landry Shamet late in the first round of this year's draft. Because of questions about his athleticism and ability to physically cope as an NBA defender, many analysts thought he should have been selected in the second round.
However, I was optimistic about Shamet’s prospects with the Sixers because he was perhaps the best shooter in the draft, with a super quick release, and at Wichita State, he also showed he was smart and decisive with the ball in his hands.
Shamet has said defense is his “No. 1 priority,” which is the right approach for him to have. He held his own on that end of the floor in the preseason, while averaging 11 points on 45 percent shooting over the final three preseason contests.
Shamet has been working after every practice with JJ Redick, not a bad mentor for a young shooter, and he’s constantly watching and listening to pick up the tricks of the trade.
I’m confident Shamet will end up being an integral part of the Sixers’ rotation this season.
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