Matchup Preview: Orlando Magic vs Philadelphia 76ers


Over the next month, we’ll be talking with a variety of people who cover each NBA team to find out a little bit about their team, and how they expect the season to go. We’ll also find out what they believe will be the most intriguing matchup when the two team’s meet during the regular season. Continuing with the Atlantic Division, Kyle Neubeck joins us to discuss the Philadelphia 76ers. You can find Kyle on twitter @KyleNeubeck, and his work at LibertyBallers, amongst other places. 

Game Dates 

Wednesday, November 5th @ Philadelphia 

Sunday, December 21st @ Orlando 

Sunday, February 22nd @ Orlando 

Last Season: 19-63; Finished 14th in Eastern Conference 

November 27th: Orlando 105 Philadelphia 94

December 3rd: Philadelphia 124 Orlando 125 2OT 

February 26th: Philadelphia 90 Orlando 101

March 2nd: Orlando 92 Philadelphia 81 

Projected Starters (TIRE FIRE) 

Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams 

Shooting Guard: Tony Wroten 

Small Forward: Hollis Thompson

Power Forward: Nerlens Noel 

Center: Henry Sims 

Dec 14, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (4) shoots baskets during warmups prior to the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Nerlens Noel is back from a torn ACL, finally. He was really impressive during the Sumer League in Orlando. What do you think we can expect from him this season?

A: The hope on my end is simply that he stays healthy. It’s pretty obvious that he’s an NBA-caliber athlete after watching him gallop around at Summer League, but the awkward tumbles and collisions still have me on pins and needles. Proving that his body will hold up against the rigors of the league is the biggest step he can make in my eyes.

Realistically, I’m expecting up-and-down performances as he eases back into playing. Defensively he’s an enormous upgrade over anything the team had last season, but he’s still a little hyperactive chasing blocks. I’d like to see him scale it back a tad and do better on the glass, whether that’s getting boards or just positioning himself well after shots go up. If he can throw down a few dunks per game and make 60 percent of his free throws — keeping my expectations low — I would call that a solid rookie season. Nothing earth-shattering, but steps in the right direction are all that’s necessary.

Oh, and I expect him to maintain that glorious flat-top.   

Apr 2, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) is defended by Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker (15) during the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Q: What’s the next step that last years Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams needs to take in his development?

A: Sure you’ve heard this one before — improve his shooting. He was maligned for how bad his shot was last season for good reason, and it certainly looks like that page of the Syracuse scouting report was correct. 

My buddy Derek Bodner highlighted the primary issue with his jumper (inconsistent mechanics) in a great breakdown, and it made me worry a lot more than I did while watching live action. Footwork is something you don’t necessarily pay attention to in live action, but it’s the foundation for the shooting process and an essential part of your success. A lot of the Sixers conglomerate believes it’s a problem that will be ironed out over time, citing Jason Kidd as an example of how shooting can develop over time, though it’s far from a guarantee. When you grow into habits over the first 20-ish years of your life, your body’s natural response is to revert to what it knows. 

Outside of his internal development, I think some reinforcements this season will help him immensely. He’ll have Noel as a release valve in pick-and-rolls as well as a few wing additions like K.J. McDaniels to take the pressure off. If he’s not forced into as many bad shots due to lack of help, it’ll be easier to judge his personal growth.

Q: What’s one matchup you’ll be watching when the Magic and Sixers meet?

More from Games

A: The seeds of a battle between Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo have already been planted in my eyes. They were pretty much the only reasonable candidates for Rookie of The Year last season, and I thoroughly enjoyed their battles last season. Last year’s rookie first of dueling triple-doubles should hopefully be a jumping off point for a nice little rivalry. The only thing that might mess this up is Elfrid Payton’s arrival, which may push Oladipo onto another defensive assignment.

Q: How hard can the Sixers tank this season? Do they show any improvement this season, or is it another dreadful one?

A: If you’re looking at this from a pure wins and losses perspective, I think there’s a possibility this season is “worse” than the last. The long-awaited debut from Noel will be nice, but it’s not going to make up for the loss of veterans that helped the team rack up some early wins last season. I have personal distaste for the games of Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes — more-so the former — but they made a difference in the win column before their departures.

Improvement should come in the form of player development. Hollis Thompson’s outside shooting was a bright spot last season, and he showed off an improved off-the-bounce game in addition to some muscle gains at Orlando Summer League. Summer League disclaimers and all that, but he consistently looked like one of the best players on the floor, which is encouraging for a guy the Sixers plucked off the scrap heap last summer. 

It’s assumed that they have core pieces in Noel, MCW, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, but while their status as potential franchise guys is up in the air, they’re chasing low-risk, high-reward players like Thompson rather than trying to maximize the roster right now. If fans are watching the Sixers hoping that the team wins games this season, they’re going to be disappointed more often than not. For those invested in the process and the journey, it’s going to be another fun year of chances for mysterious D-League figures, and a season of monitoring Embiid’s progress on and off the court. After a decade of mediocrity, that’s A-OK with me.