With just two games remaining and a roster that has been peeled away from coach Brett Brown like a banana skin, the final 96 minutes of the season really mean nothing more than getting away without a major injury to a key player. And with the 76ers' luck the last four years that just may be a tall wish.
As has been the norm for the past four seasons, we need to look not at what is right in front of us when it comes to the Sixers, but instead focus on the future. Aside from draft lottery and potential picks, along with possible free-agent signings (would Kyle Lowry want to come home?), what kind of impact, if any, will some the current players on the roster have when training camp begins in September?
The team announced a couple of days ago that guard Sergio Rodriguez would sit out the rest of the season due to a lingering hamstring problem. To sum it up quickly, the Spaniard has almost certainly played his last game for the Sixers.
President Bryan Colangelo brought in the 30-year-old veteran to give some stability to a backcourt that was expected to include rookie Ben Simmons and newly-signed combo guard Jerryd Bayless. Whether or not either one of those two could handle true point guard responsibilities for big minutes was simply unknown. Rodriguez, who played four years in the NBA before heading back to play in the EuroLeague, where he was league MVP two seasons ago, was just a too inconsistent this season, with suspect defensive play and was mostly erratic at the offensive end. Plus, he was simply outplayed by T.J. McConnell.
Justin Anderson is really intriguing moving forward because he brings an element the team doesn't have and one that is quite contagious. Anderson is brutally tough, in all aspects of the game. That isn't an abundant quality in anyone else on the roster. Being a tough, hustle guy off the bench and bringing what he does could be something the coaches are looking for. As much as the formulation of the starting lineup is the hot topic this offseason, there should be an abundance of excitement of what the second unit could bring as the roster has gotten, and will continue to get, deeper.
Speaking of that second unit, I totally believe that Dario Saric should get 30 to 35 minutes a game next season, but I wonder if the team would be better if he got them coming off the bench.
When Ersan Ilyasova, a bona fide shooter from the power-forward spot, was on the floor with Joel Embiid, the center had ample room to move as defenses had to respect Ilyasova's shooting ability. Unless Saric improves his three-point shooting tremendously - and he may - maybe the team is better off finding a true shooter to start the game with Embiid, to allow him to find a comfort zone at the offensive end. He and Saric will be able to share the court plenty and getting in sync has to be a priority for Brown next season. Maybe looking to bring back Ilyasova, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, is something Colangelo will revisit.
And speaking of Saric, why has the team put, and apparently will continue to, him on the floor? He is painfully out of energy, his legs sapped like an overused battery. And the team revealed last week that he is battling plantar fasciitis.
Saric has often spoken of his desire to play all 82 games, which is admirable, but really inconsequential. He has, in my opinion, rookie-of-the-year honors sewn up. He is going to get nothing out of these final two games, nor did he the three or four before it. And when you play hurt, you can favor the sore area and another injury can occur. Yes, the roster is depleted, but not to the point where sitting Saric would cause anything but more playing time for guys who are auditioning for their livelihood. And it seemingly goes totally against the cautious way in which the organization has handled injuries, not only this season, but for each of the last four.
As always, questions are everywhere. No doubt they'll be even more when the season draws to a close Wednesday in New York.