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76ers should be even worse than last season's 19-win team

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PHILADELPHIA — Name a starter for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Go ahead, we'll wait.

Nerlens Noel? The rookie out of Kentucky who missed all of last season as he recovered from a torn ACL?

OK, that's one.

Thaddeus Young, traded. Evan Turner, traded. Spencer Hawes, traded. Michael Carter-Williams? Great guess. But the NBA rookie of the year is sidelined indefinitely as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

Try Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims. Elliot Williams and K.J. McDaniels might be in the mix as well. And while that might sound like a lineup straight from the Sixers' D-League team down I-95 in Delaware, it's the real deal that second-year coach Brett Brown will have to work with opening night.

The Sixers' roster has little chance of topping last season's 19-win season, which almost seems like 50 considering somehow they matched an NBA record with a 26-game losing streak and still didn't have the worst record in the league. The only thing the Sixers want to win this season is the draft lottery, the next part of team president Sam Hinkie's devious plan to strip the team of talent only to build it back up one pick at a time.

Trying to infuse a dash of enthusiasm for a season that already appears lost, Philadelphia has counted down the days to its opener on its Instagram account.

On Monday, the 76ers wrote: "9 Days. Single-digits. #TogetherWeBuild."

Single digits for this team? Let the message board posters take it from here:

"Get ready for the pain." ''Single digit days before we (stink) again." ''9 days til the first loss."

PHOTO: Philadelphia 76ers forward Arnett Moultrie (5) drives around Brooklyn Nets guard Sergey Karasev (10) in the second half of an NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Philadelphia 76ers forward Arnett Moultrie (5) drives around Brooklyn Nets guard Sergey Karasev (10) in the second half of an NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brown, Hinkie and team owner Joshua Harris are not bashful about what they're trying to accomplish. They love Noel and injured Kansas rookie Joel Embiid, and at least like Carter-Williams enough to consider them the first layer of bricks for a championship contender. But that process comes with some real pain.

The Sixers are bad and they know it — and the front office embraces the fact, even as the rest of the league rolls their eyes at the stinkhole that has formed in one of the NBA's largest markets.

The NBA has even considered reforming the draft lottery in the wake of the 76ers' blatent — well, tanking — to dissuade teams from gutting their rosters for a shot at the top pick of the draft.

Oh well, the Sixers have already gone that route and Hinkie's plan can't truly be graded until 2016 or 2017.

Until then, Philly fans might want to cover their eyes and maybe buy tickets for the Delaware 87ers.

Same talent, cheaper prices.

Some things of note for the 76ers' season:

FIRST NOEL: The Year 1 plan for Noel seemed sound. Let the No. 6 overall pick of the 2013 draft, widely considered a potential top pick out of Kentucky before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, rest up. The Sixers wisely held the 6-foot-11 power forward out of action all season and refused to rush his recovery — even as the big man was antsy to return to basketball. Year 2 is already shaping up as a rough one for Noel. He's missed four of seven preseason games because of problems with his right quadriceps and an upper respiratory infection. Noel was traded for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday and was the big chip in Hinkie's plan. If Noel is a bust, so too, may be Hinkie in a few years.

THE HYPHEN: Michael Carter-Williams wowed with a triple-double in his first NBA game in a win against the Miami Heat and kept rolling all the way toward NBA rookie of the year honors. Not bad for the No. 11 pick. But not so good that the Sixers can get past the 26 percent shooting from 3-point range, 41 percent from the floor, 70 percent from the free-throw line and his 3.5 turnovers to 6.3 assists per game. He had surgery in May to repair the labrum of his right shoulder and there is no timetable for his return.

EMBIID IT: Former All-Center Andrew Bynum had no idea he'd be a trendsetter when he missed all of 2012-13 with knee injuries. His only season in Philly was logged with daily "will he or won't he play" updates that ended without the center ever taking the court. Last season, the injured big man baton was passed to Noel. Taking the handoff this season is rookie center and No. 3 overall draft pick Joel Embiid. Embiid, the 7-footer out of Kansas, is out indefinitely with a broken right foot. So, will he play this season? "Guess what our approach will be," Hinkie said after draft night. "We'll focus on the long-term health of the player."

SCRATCH OFF: So, about that tanking. Turned out the rest of the league did not care for it. Draft lottery reform appears headed to the NBA and it may look something like this: The four worst teams in the league would each have identical odds (about 12 percent) at winning the top pick. Compare that to the current system where the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick. Losing 60 games to pick fourth wasn't part of Hinkie's plan and he won't apologize for working within the rules. "These issues are bigger than any one team," he said.

LOOKING GOOD: Hey, if you're going to shell out $7.80 for a ticket — the starting price on StubHub for a seat to the Nov. 3 Houston-Philadelphia game — may as well get some bang for your buck. The Sixers said they will use "revolutionary new pregame introductions, featuring the first three-dimensional court projection system of its kind to be used in Philadelphia."

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