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Five things to watch for the 76ers in their season-opener at the Celtics on Wednesday.
1. Four 76ers make their NBA debut: Undrafted TJ McConnell and Christian Wood join lottery pick Jahlil Okafor and second-round pick Richaun Holmes. Okafor is the major story, but each will play, given Philadelphia’s injuries.
2. Nerlens Noel carried his strong post-All-Star break play from last season into this preseason. He’s a treat to watch defensively. His continued offensive improvement will be something to keep an eye on, especially playing alongside Okafor at power forward.
3. Without Robert Covington, how will Philadelphia generate outside scoring? Covington injured his knee against Boston in the preseason finale. Thankfully, he’s only supposed to miss one-to-three weeks, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. If Nik Stauskas can’t play (according to head coach Brett Brown, Stauskas is a game-time decision), the Sixers will need reserve forward Hollis Thompson to give them a 3-point presence.
4. Brown said several times during preseason that Okafor will be on a minute limit early. Brown wants Okafor to give full effort every minute he’s on the court — but Okafor struggled to generate post position throughout the preseason. He doesn’t have to make most of his attempts, but Okafor has to show improvement in his positioning and recognizing of double teams.
5. McConnell sort of shocked people by making the final roster. He outplayed every Sixers point guard during the preseason. He averaged 6.2 points, 4.8 assists, 4 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from the field in 22.1 minutes a game. After dealing Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia’s major weakness was point guard. McConnell backs up Isaiah Canaan to start the season. Canaan’s a better 3-point threat, but McConnell is a player to watch in the early season without Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten.
Joe Phelan covers the 76ers and NBA for Amico Hoops.