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February 04, 2017

What they’re saying: The Sixers have top under-25 talent

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While the Sixers are looking up at a bunch of teams in the 2016-17 NBA standings, they probably have a brighter future than many of them because of the elite young talent on the roster.

In the “Top 25 under 25 rankings,” ESPN Insider’s Kevin Pelton, Amin Elhassan, and David Thorpe ranked the league’s best young players. And mostly because of Thorpe, two players on the Sixers roster are ranked in the Top 10. They were the only team to place two players that high, although Minnesota and Milwaukee are right behind them.

The first is Joel Embiid, who checks in at 4 behind Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Here is what Thorpe wrote about “The Process”:

Embiid is the biggest challenger to Towns for "best center" in future seasons. He is every bit the scorer Towns is and has similar versatility and ball skills. He is also a better shooter (36.7 percent from 3 this year vs. 33.7 percent for Towns) and shot blocker (more than doubles Towns' block rate).

In time he'll have no excuse to not be an elite rebounder as well, thanks to his size and agility. As with Towns, his efficiency will spike as more experienced (and talented) players surround him.

Thorpe is also high on rookie point forward Ben Simmons, who he ranked fifth before Simmons has even suited up in his first professional game. The top-overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft was ranked 10th overall:

Simmons has the speed and quickness of Jason Kidd in his prime, but in a much taller frame. His overall playmaking skills project to be elite, too, which means that he can be a team's primary creator.

Thanks to his size and athleticism, coaches should expect him to be an all-league defensive player. If ever he learns to shoot, Simmons has MVP potential. If not, he is still a core player on a potentially great team.

Nerlens Noel was the only other Sixer to receive a vote, from Elhassan at No. 23. More good news for Philly fans is that, as draft picks keep coming in and the roster takes shape, the Sixers have a chance to be well represented in this post for years to come.

Other Sixers news, notes and analysis from around the web:

Meet Sachin Gupta, The Driving Force Behind Many of Sam Hinkie’s Trades: Derek Bodner, Philly Mag

In his final post for Philly Mag, Bodner wrote an excellent profile about Sam Hinkie’s top lieutenant:

In fact, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the Sixers’ front office proceedings, there wasn’t a trade of significance that Gupta didn’t have his hands in, an aspect of the Sixers’ rebuild even their most ardent detractors would almost universally admit was well executed. “His whole life revolved around that day in February,” one Sixers staffer told me, referring to February’s trade deadline. Those same sources describe Gupta as the driving force behind the Kings’ transaction, a trade which now looks to have set the Sixers up so enviably for the near- and long-term future.

Learning to appreciate Sixers' Robert Covington: David Murphy, Philadelphia Daily News

Murphy sees some similarities between RoCo and Andre Iguodala, specifically how Sixers fans perceived their value:

Yes, Covington is a tremendous value. Yes, his athleticism and versatility would earn him a spot in any playoff team's rotation. But all of those attributes shine even more when he plays a style that matches his skill set. Enter the cliches: when he plays within himself, when he doesn't try to do too much. That's the Covington the Sixers need. And for the last month, that's the guy they've been getting.

NBA Rookie Ladder: Scott Howard-Cooper,

The entire NBA would be cool with awarding Joel Embiid rookie of the year over the all-star break, no?

It’s been a tough couple weeks, between being passed over for an All-Star berth as part of a stretch that also included missing six of eleven games because of rest during back-to-backs and soreness in his left knee. But the five Embiid did play? Fifty percent from the field, 24.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.20 blocks in all of 26.6 minutes en route to what appears to be a third consecutive Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference. So it’s also been a tough couple weeks for opponents as well.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann