Queries abound as young Sixers take camp

Second-year forward Robert Covington averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 70 games with the Sixers last season.


Philadelphia begins training camp Sept. 29 at Stockton University in New Jersey. The 76ers filled their final camp roster spot, after releasing Gerald Wallace, with guard T.J. McConnell, who played for their summer-league team.

Many speculated Philadelphia would use their final roster spot on Anthony Bennett, but the Sixers never made a claim for the former first overall draft pick.

Only three players, Tony Wroten, Kendall Marshall and Carl Landry, have three or more years of NBA experience for the youngest team in basketball.

Obvious questions hoped to be answered during training camp and the subsequent preseason games: Who starts at point guard? Which guards does coach Brett Brown keep? Who starts at small forward? And will Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor mesh on offense?

Some of these questions, like who will start at point guard, cannot be answered right away. Wroten and Marshall are both recovering from ACL tears. Brown said Marshall is closer to returning than Wroten, but it won’t be until the end of October.

It’s more likely for either Isaiah Canaan, Pierre Jackson or Scottie Wilbekin to open the season as Philadelphia’s starting point guard. During a press conference last week, Brown mentioned how Philadelphia would keep three point guards. It’s assumed Wroten and Marshall make the final roster, so that leaves one spot up to Canaan, Jackson, Wilbekin and McConnell.

Robert Covington and Jerami Grant are fighting for the starting small forward spot. Covington has the upper hand because of his success last season. Covington is a very good 3-point shooter. He’s one of the hidden gems general manager Sam Hinkie has found during his time with Philadelphia.

People raved about Grant’s development. Four rookies had at least 60 blocks and 40 steals last season, according to Basketball-Reference, and Grant was one of them. He has serious defensive potential. As expected for a rookie, Grant was inconsistent on offense. He showed flashes, but Philadelphia hopes he can be a serviceable two-way player.

Covington, outside of Noel, was Philadelphia’s best player last year. According to Basketball-Reference, Covington joined James Harden, Danny Green, Stephen Curry, Trevor Ariza and Damian Lillard as the only players with at least 160 3-pointers made and 95 steals last season.

The Sixers want their wings to shoot lots of threes and play overly aggressive defense — which is a reason why Covington was able to reach those numbers, but he impressed nonetheless. He connected on 37 percent of his 3-point attempts, and he scored the most points for Philadelphia last season.

The biggest question, even bigger than the point guard situation, has to be how Noel and Okafor mesh on offense.

It’s exciting for fans. Noel is a defensive stud; Okafor has the offensive potential. Noel and Okafor, along with Joel Embiid and the future first round picks, are the future.

It’s important for Noel and Okafor to mesh this year. Brown said Noel will back up Okafor at center, too. With Carl Landry in the fold, Philadelphia has the flexibility and depth to rotate big men.

Richaun Holmes, a 2015 second round selection, impressed in the Las Vegas summer league before breaking his elbow. He’s back to full health for training camp. He’ll have plenty of opportunity backing up Landry and Noel this season.

The Sixers might be the worst team in basketball. They have obvious weaknesses, but they do have very solid depth in the frontcourt.

Noel played much better on offense after the All-Star break. He had more assists (49) after the All-Star break than Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, and several other big men. His 11 double-doubles after the All-Star game tied for the eighth most in the NBA. He looked much more comfortable on offense after an up-and-down first half.

Okafor showed flashes of dominance during summer league. He’ll be one of the favorites to win Rookie of the Year since he might be the focal point on offense.

Okafor has pressure on him right away, but it’s not like Philadelphia reached for him. He fell to the 76ers after the Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell at No. 2. Still, Okafor could struggle early.

And Noel and Okafor might not work together right away. Brown has all season to figure out how to get them to play together. It will be a challenge, and it might not be pretty at times — but there’s no reason why they can’t complement each other on offense.

Philadelphia holds training camp until Oct. 3. The preseason begins Oct. 6 against the Wizards. The Sixers play seven preseason games overall, before opening the season at the Celtics on Oct. 28.

Joe Phelan covers the Sixers for Amico Hoops.