Sixers Preseason Begins Tonight In Washington
The Philadelphia 76ers begin preseason basketball tonight on the road against the Washington Wizards.
With the exception if a couple of summer league games in the dog days of summer, the Sixers haven’t played basketball since the regular season ended on April 15th. If you’re a basketball diehard — and chances are, if you’re tuned in to the Sixers, you are — 174 days without basketball is a long time.
That ends tonight. Sort of. While it’s still a preseason game, it’s Sixers fans first chance to see Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel play against NBA competition together, and can be looked at as the beginning of the next step in the 76ers rebuild.
What: Sixers @ Wizards
When: Oct 6th, 7 PM, Verizon Center
Where to watch: CSN Philly (with CSN Mid-Atlantic Broadcast), NBA TV
Sixers: Isaiah Canaan, JaKarr Sampson, Robert Covington, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor
Wizards: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Nene Hilario, Marcin Gortat
Sixers players not available: Joel Embiid (right foot), Carl Landry (right wrist), Nik Stauskas (right tibia), Kendall Marshall (right knee), Tony Wroten (right knee), Pierre Jackson (groin), T.J. McConnell (sprained left foot)
About The Opponent
After a strong start to the season Washington limped into the playoffs, going just 13-15 after the All-star break. Still, the Wizards finished with a 46-36 record on the season and advanced to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the Hawks 4-2.
Besides John Wall, who has rounded out some of the rough edges in his game to become a force, the Wizards success was largely dependent on Bradley Beal and his availability. Beal played only 63 games for the Wizards last year, missing time because of a wrist injury to start the season, then a stress reaction later on in the year.
When Beal played, though, the Wizards offense was a different animal. The Wizards scored 107.2 points per 100 possessions with Beal on the court, with that falling all the way down to 100.9 when he wasn’t playing. The Wizards perimeter shooting and floor spacing took a huge hit without Beal, as they shot 39.7% from three point range while Beal was on the court, compared to only 31.7% when he was on the bench.
Where the Wizards really made their mark last year, however, was on the defensive end. Washington gave up the 6th fewest points per 100 possessions and were the 3rd best defensive rebounding team, pulling down 77.3% of their available defensive rebounds.
What To Look For
It’s the first preseason game, so don’t look for the starters to play heavy minutes. Sixers head coach Brett Brown has already stated that he doesn’t see Jahlil Okafor playing big minutes.
Still, this is the first chance that Sixers fans will get to see Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor play together, so the focus is naturally going to be on them. It’s a good test, too. While Nene Hilario is getting up there in age at 33 years old, he’s still a strong, active body, and one of the few times Okafor has played somebody who could physically hold his own against him. Okafor struggled a few times towards the end of Duke’s season last year when matched up against some NBA-caliber big men, so it would be nice to see him have some success against an imposing big tonight.
Washington’s strength on the defensive glass will also be an interesting matchup for Okafor. Okafor was one of the best offensive rebounders in college basketball last year, and he may struggle to have that same pronounced impact on the offensive glass tonight.
Other than Okafor/Noel, it will be interesting to watch the point guards. With 4 point guards out (Tony Wroten, Kendall Marshall, T.J. McConnell, and Pierre Jackson all will not play), Isaiah Canaan and Scottie Wilbekin will have a chance to shine. Those 2 may be fighting for the last point guard spot, as Brown stated they’ll likely carry 3 out of camp, so both Canaan and Wilbekin should get considerable playing time, and they’ll want to make the most of it.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.