STONE HARBOR, N.J. – Julius Erving has confidence the 76ers will make the next step, but he also says that the team isn't complete yet.
The observations on the state of the team from the Sixers Hall of Fame forward, now a team ambassador, came during a get-together with reporters during Saturday's Sixers Summer Tour at the 82nd Street Recreation Center.
After winning 28 games in 2016-17, the Sixers went 52-30, beat the Miami Heat in five games in their opening best-of-seven playoff series before losing in five games to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2017-18.
When asked if the Sixers were a complete team, Erving said there was still some work to be done.
"The team is not complete," Erving said. "I think the team has the core, which is very important to have, and now you have to get the tentacles, you have to get the role players and then you have to get the surprise guys that are better than you thought they were…"
That said, he still has high, but realistic, expectations for the team. When asked where they rank in the East, Erving said, "Anywhere between one and four."
Erving understands that rookie of the year Ben Simmons and first-time all-star Joel Embiid are the players who will most determine future success. He talked about what the two young stars need to work on to take that next step.
"I always thought you work on the skills you are weak in and you work also to improve the skills where you are strong and then you just try to be a consistent force night in and night out," he said. "So with Ben's shooting, mid-range, long-range, I am sure he has put a lot of time in practicing that."
Erving is even more impressed with Embiid.
"Joel is really a guy who has shown no weakness from a skill standpoint, offensively or defensively, so I think he just has to be more of a leader, maybe more of a vocal leader and probably in terms of night in and night out, doing things with matchups on the court that would allow him to be a consistent force," Erving said.
In the end, Erving sees the team improving and the fans approving their development.
"The fans have been tremendous in terms of showing their patience," he said. "All of the things that have been associated with the fans, with this process, with the process of the process or whatever, is historic. I think everybody will be happy at the end of the day."
Notes: Point guard Landry Shamet, the Sixers second first-round pick out of Wichita State, and forward Jonah Bolden, a second-round pick in 2017 who signed a multi-year contract with the Sixers this summer after playing last season with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, also attended Saturday's event.
Shamet suffered a right-ankle sprain in the Sixers' first summer league game against Boston and missed the rest of the action in Las Vegas.
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On his ankle, Shamet said, "I feel good. We are progressing and working out and I don't really need to speak on that too much but I feel well, I feel good."
The 6-foot-10 Bolden, who averaged 6.5 points and 6.0 rebound in 23 minutes during six summer league games, had an eye-opening experience recently taking the court at the Sixers facility against Embiid.
"Going up against somebody like that, you have to humble yourself and take a step back and know you are going to go out there and I think his competitive nature, my competitive nature going at each other, it was fun," Bolden said.