Jul 16 2016

Who Is Gerald Henderson? We Tracked Down A Former U-11 Soccer Teammate To Find Out.

Last week Gerald Henderson put pen to paper, making his two-year, $18-million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers official. To learn more about the Sixers’ free agent prize, the Hoop76 Investigation Team tracked down one of his former teammates — Hoop76 contributor Ben Smolen — for a Q&A.

The following is mostly, kinda true.

Hoop76 Investigation Team: So, Ben, what’s your connection to Gerald?

Ben Smolen: Well, Gerald and I played together on a U-11 soccer team — the Lower Merion Lasers — back in 1998. Before you ask, yes, we were in fact the “A” team. Before you ask, no, I did not play very much.

HIT: What was his role on that team?

BS: Gerald, or “G” as he asked me not to call him, was a striker. Which basically meant that he was so comically more athletic than anyone else on the field that we would kick it as far as we could and then watch as he outran everyone. (According to a 1998 LMSC newsletter, he and I were part of a “very potent scoring attack.”)

HIT: At what point did you realize Gerald Henderson was destined for stardom?

BS: I think, for me at least, it actually came years after we played together on the Lasers. Gerald ended up at Episcopal, and I went to Haverford (rival schools). But because the schools were close together and in the same conference, we’d end up at the same functions from time to time.

I believe it was 10th or 11th grade where we ended up at the same high school dance. I spotted him, so I went up to say hello. “G, man, how’ve you been?” I said. “I’m sorry. Remind me who you are again,” he replied.

At that moment, I knew he was a going to be a champion.

HIT: What was his favorite halftime snack?

BS: Orange slices. Just because he’s an NBA player doesn’t mean he isn’t human like the rest of us.

HIT: Do you see any parallels between the situation he walked into with the 1998 Lasers and 18 years later with the 2016 Philadelphia 76ers?

BS: The 1998 Lasers were a young team. In fact, I’m fairly certain that none of us were older than 11, which is practically unheard of. It is nearly impossible to look at the Sixers and think that they too aren’t very young. Granted, we Lasers were a playoff team already (I think. I could be misremembering in order to sound better), but Gerald added a special breed of athleticism that knocked us up a notch.

Also, for the record, I know this article is about my experience with Gerald, but I’m at least 85 percent sure that T.J. McConnell was on that team too. At the very least, there were four kids that looked exactly like him.

HIT: Bryan Colangelo cited Henderson’s veteran leadership and professionalism veteran as reasons he was targeted in free agency. In what ways did he show those qualities as your teammate?

Gerald was very very good at pretending he wasn’t much better than everyone else, which I think shows real levels of tact, awareness, and basic human decency. Mostly, he was just one of the guys and was willing to treat anyone, from the starting goalie to, say, a benchwarmer who was desperately trying to hide the fact that he never learned how to ride a bike from anyone, everyone, please god don’t let anybody ask me to go ride bikes, I don’t know what I’ll say this time, I’ve used up all my good lies already and I’m scared, as an equal and a teammate. And I think that speaks volumes.

Jul 15 2016

Could the New CBA Screw the Sixers?

The following is a loosely edited gmail exchange between Xylon Dimoff (@xylondimoff) and Bryan Toporek (@btoporek):

Xylon Dimoff: Welp, he did it. Kevin Durant, the 2014 MVP and quite possibly the league’s second-best player, signed with the 2016 Finals’ second-best team (sorry, I had to). It’s now the Warriors’ league for the foreseeable future, and NBA owners and fans outside the Bay Area aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of being rendered hopeless against another juggernaut.

Problem is, the NBA is usually prone to a bit of an overreaction: Kevin Garnett’s gargantuan, Bradley-Beal-sized $128 million contract ultimately caused the 1999 lockout, the formation of the Heatles led to lost games in 2011 — and in the irony of all ironies, our next stoppage may well be caused by precisely what the previous one was meant to prevent.

NBA Twitter has bounced around ideas since Independence Day on how owners may attempt to prevent these overpowering supergroups: abolishing the max, amending a supermax, instilling a hard cap — basically everything short of disbanding the league.

But let’s get to what’s really important here: How could a renegotiated CBA affect the Sixers’ future? Philadelphia could certainly benefit from owners striving to prevent their stars from leaving their first team, but measures such as expunging the max could spell trouble when trying to pay a budding Sixers roster a few years from now. So, Bryan, how do you see the Warriors affecting the 2017 bargaining discussions?

Bryan Toporek: Before we dive into the Sixers-related implications of #KD2GSW, two broader thoughts:

1. The Durant-Warriors situation isn’t necessarily proof that the CBA in its current form is broken. There are things which could be improved, sure, but the salary cap as is and the punitive luxury tax installed in the 2011 version worked largely as intended. It coerced OKC into trading James Harden a year prematurely, forced the Big Three-era Heat to hemorrhage bench players (see: Miller, Mike) and limits the ability of superteams to build out their reserve units, as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers have learned in recent years. A perfect storm of circumstances — particularly Stephen Curry’s laughably below-market contract combined with a $24 million overnight spike in the salary cap — is the only reason Durant was able to join the Warriors.

2. These next few seasons are going to be particularly tricky to navigate because so many players will be under old-cap contracts. John Wall is making $80 million over five years, while his oft-injured teammate, Bradley Beal, just got roughly $50 million more on his five-year deal. Those old-cap contracts could facilitate the creation of superteams, as they’ll be a much smaller percentage of the new cap than the old cap. (A $15 million starting salary under a $70 million cap is 21.4% of a team’s space, whereas it’s only 16.0% under the new $94 million cap. Ed. note: can we start measuring salaries by cap percentage?!?) Unless the new CBA adjusts each contract to align with the percentage of the cap when they were signed — i.e., all old-cap deals will be tilted up to reflect the new cap — I don’t know if there’s a way to avoid this problem over the next 3-4 years.

As for the Sixers… one has to assume that small-market owners are going to be terrified of a Durant-esque situation happening to their teams, particularly with the cap projected to jump again after next season. I would assume they’ll push hard to give additional benefits to incumbent teams, as an extra year on a contract and slightly higher raises (7.5% vs. 4.5%) aren’t always enough incentive to retain players in free agency.

I don’t expect the union to push for the full abolition of max contracts, as that would only help a very small percentage (no more than 10-15 players) while hurting the rank-and-file. If LeBron James and Kevin Durant can suddenly earn $60 million this summer instead of $25-30 million, that’s $30 million less for a guy like Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe or Timofey Mozgov. I do, however, think owners — particularly small-market owners — will want to raise the percentage of the cap that each max contract can consume. Whereas there’s now a 25/30/35 split based on years of experience in the league, I could see that jumping to 30/35/40, 35/40/45 or even 30/40/50.

My favorite proposal that I’ve seen, from Nate Jones of Goodwin Sports, was allowing incumbent teams to offer a so-called “supermax” while restricting other bidders to a normal max. So, in the case of the Sixers, they’d be allowed to offer 40-plus percent of their cap space when re-signing Ben Simmons in nine years, while other bidders would be restricted to 30 percent. That financial difference might be large enough to keep players on their incumbent teams, no matter how enormous their off-court earning profile is.

Here’s the thing I’m most immediately keeping my eye on: How CBA negotiations affect Nerlens Noel’s extension talks. How do you think the Sixers should proceed on that front, Xy?

Dimoff: I know the idea of “Nerlens Noel, Max Player” leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many Philly fans, but it should be a foregone conclusion that he’s offered the maximum extension. Never mind the fact that several much, MUCH worse centers this summer have received close to what that number would be for Nerlens; we have no idea what will go down in the negotiation rooms next summer, and it’s critical that Philadelphia locks up its best assets now rather than potentially losing them for nothing due to some CBA revisions. It’s easy to see why the abolition of the max may be a non-starter for 90 percent of players, but I’m not yet totally convinced that it’s an impossibility. We should remember that NBPA Director Michele Roberts has publicly spoken out against the max, and that Chris Paul, whose career earnings have been hampered significantly by capping his salary, is NBPA President. An open market, while probably being the right move in a purely capitalist sense, would obviously spell trouble for the Sixers trying to keep its core in place around Simmons.

I’m all for Jones’s idea of the supermax — in which case, by the way, Nerlens’ “regular” max looks like a steal — but it might already be faced with a few issues:

  • It would likely have to be tied to Bird Rights, meaning that Durant wouldn’t be able to sign a one-year old max in Golden State and then re-sign for the full supermax.
  • Players might not be thrilled with the idea of only the incumbent team being able to offer a supermax — can you imagine Boogie Cousins’ reaction to finding out that only the Kings can pay him an extra 10 percent of the cap?
  • I could see some pushback from the (alleged) destination cities on this front as well. I mean, oh man, can you imagine the Knicks trying to clear out supermax space in free agency?

And while the supermax works out great for the Sixers, giving incumbent teams leverage here may only further incentivize multi-year tank jobs. Perhaps we could make these provisions to balance out the scales a bit:

  • Instill a two-tier, two-player cap system for incumbent teams (e.g. Philadelphia could offer Simmons 40% of the cap, Embiid 35%, and then only have the old max left if the team so chooses).
  • Divorce years of experience from the max so that teams couldn’t stack up on rookie maxes, which is already a completely arbitrary restriction on the max — there’s no reason why Ben Simmons can’t earn 40 percent of the cap, just as much as the other proposed supermax players, if that’s what the market deems he’s worth.

But you’re the CBA expert here, so what we need from you is to come up with a system that simultaneously helps both the Sixers and the league as a whole! What say you, Bryan?

Toporek: See, I’m less sold on giving Nerlens a max extension now, but it’s not because he isn’t deserving of one. It’s just that the CBA uncertainty terrifies me.

If the Sixers can get him to agree to anything even remotely below a max deal — say, a four-year, $90 million extension — they should do that in a heartbeat. If he says “max or bust,” though, I think they should wait until the new CBA comes out to see what a max deal for him actually entails. If owners do go ahead with the “supermax” idea and he’s suddenly consuming 40 percent of the Sixers’ salary cap instead of 25 percent, the idea of blindly maxing him out this fall becomes a lot less palatable. This screwed the Thunder with Durant in the last CBA: He became eligible for the Rose Rule even though it wasn’t in the 2005 CBA, which cost OKC $3 million more annually — maybe having indirectly contributed to the Harden trade. If they can agree to give Nerlens four years, $94M and not tie it to a percentage of the cap, I’m all for it. But I don’t know if that’s allowed.

I doubt owners make drastic revisions to restricted free agency — at least revisions that hurt incumbent teams — so worst-case scenario, you’re making Nerlens wait a year and matching whatever offer sheet he receives next summer. (Given his his injury history, I highly doubt he gambles on taking the qualifying offer to become a UFA in 2018.)

I do like the idea of your tiered supermax system, since that might provide a healthy balance between the ability to construct superteams and funneling money to players who deserve a heftier proportion of the cap than they’re otherwise receiving at the moment. As you suggested, the supermax should definitely be tied to Bird rights to prevent circumvention via the 1+1 deals. I’m not as opposed to keeping maxes tied to years of experience — and I’m not only saying this as someone with a vested interest in the Sixers being able to keep their lottery picks together for as long as possible — since that’s a way to help owners not shoot themselves in the foot nearly as often.

In some ways, many of the CBA’s goals tie back to that point: How can the NBA create rules that save owners from themselves? As we’ve seen this summer, when most teams have a wealth of cap space at their disposal, they’ll spend like drunken sailors. Removing the ceiling on max deals might be as much of a non-starter for owners as it is for the union, as owners will have nightmarish flashbacks to the albatross deals that Joe Johnson and Amar’e Stoudemire signed near the turn of the decade. Now, imagine doubling the size of those contracts.

If the two sides go the supermax route — either the tiered system you proposed or just a higher ceiling on all max contracts — it’ll likely prevent the Warriors from re-signing both Durant and Stephen Curry next summer, thus restoring some semblance of competitive balance to the league. It won’t, however, cause financial ruin if a franchise decides to hand Blake Griffin a deal that gobbles up 60 percent of their cap space, only to see him break his hand again while punching another team staffer.

One thing I can almost guarantee will be in the next CBA: another amnesty clause. It feels like some of the contracts handed out this summer — hi, Timofey Mozgov — were made with such a provision in mind.

Do you think some version of the supermax is the best compromise, or do you have a better idea in mind? And am I crazy for my stance on not wanting to hand Nerlens a full max due to the CBA uncertainty? (Again, even a penny less than the max, I’m all for. His contract just cannot say “the maximum allowable amount” or it’ll be tied to the new CBA, which could be bad news bears.)

Dimoff: How could I forget the Durant/Rose Rule ThunderBlunder?! Sorry, Nerlens — I love you, I’ll probably name one, if not all of my children after you — but I couldn’t possibly agree to a max deal now with the uncertainty of the new CBA creeping in the back of my head.

The league trying to save owners from themselves is always an interesting, if not annoying monkey wrench in this process — especially as it pertains to the supermax proposal. Can you imagine stringing together drafts such as Orlando did over the last few years, only to eventually be pressured into giving Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja the 35-40 percent of the cap? Lacing experience into the supermax may be helpful to teams here, possibly helping avoid another Kevin Love-Timberwolves fiasco (what ultimately led to the downfall of Love’s relationship with Minnesota was not being offered the “designated player” extension).

I’m fully supportive of the amnesty clause, and call me crazy, but wouldn’t it be insanely fun to offer it to every team as an annual or bi-annual clause? I always thought it was a bit arbitrary that amnesties were only reserved for contracts signed before the last CBA, and offering multiple amnesties could a) help owners clean up after their own mistakes, b) ultimately help players as the amnesty is a generally pro-labor concept, and c) make everybody, both owners and players, breathe easier about potential superstar injuries as you mentioned. Plus, how damn fun would it be to see who gets amnestied every year?!

Toporek: I love the idea of an annual amnesty, but I’m guessing that’s a non-starter among small-market owners. That would allow big-market teams like the Lakers or Knicks to hand out egregiously awful contracts on a yearly basis with little reservation, as they’d know they have a get-out-of-jail-free card in their back pockets at all times. Since only one free-agent class was subject to the cap boom, one amnesty per team seems fair.

One other idea that CBS Sports’ Ken Berger threw out Wednesday: The new CBA should absolutely address the disincentive for players to sign extensions with their current teams. Under the current rules, extensions are limited to no more than four years, including seasons still remaining on the current deal. The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently feeling the adverse effects of this, as it makes little financial sense for Russell Westbrook to agree to an extension this summer in the wake of Durant’s departure. The new CBA should address that loophole, making it financially sound for players to sign extensions with their incumbent teams if they so desire.

Ideally, players should be allowed to sign extensions that match the contracts they could sign in free agency. So, Westbrook would be eligible for a six-year deal with OKC this summer, which would remove any incentive for the Thunder to trade him. This system would benefit the Sixers as much as any team, as it would give them even more of an advantage once Simmons, Embiid, etc., are nearing unrestricted free agency a half-decade from now. I’d say an overhaul of the extension rules are a no-brainer for the next CBA, while the supermax is more of a dicey proposition given the negative ramifications for rank-and-file players.

One thing is clear, though: Based on Adam Silver’s comments Tuesday from after the annual board of governors meeting, it’s clear Durant’s decision to join the Warriors poured lighter fluid all over CBA negotiations. No matter what structure the CBA ultimately takes, let’s hope both sides can reach an agreement quickly and avoid a prolonged lockout.

Jul 07 2016

5-on-5: What Would Hinkie Have Done In Free Agency?

1. Bryan Colangelo deserves a __ for his first free agency with the Sixers.

Eric Goldwein (@ericgoldwein): B+. An A+ for not screwing up and a B for the signings themselves. Colangelo had the right idea with Jerryd Bayless (3yr/$27M), a capable ball-handler that can stretch the floor, and while he might’ve paid a premium and tacked on one too many years, that’s the cost of doing business as a 10-72 team. Sergio Rodriguez was a creative signing; dare I say, Hinkie-esque. And Gerald Henderson at 2/$18 seems like a high-floor, low ceiling play that’ll help settle the rotation in the short term.

Xylon Dimoff (@xylondimoff): A. A lot of this is rooted in the moves he didn’t make — DeMar DeRozan, Jamal Crawford, Rajon Rondo, and the like are playing elsewhere (knock on wood RE: Dion Waiters). And not only are all three of Colangelo’s signings sound in the scope of patient team-building philosophy, but he managed to get somewhat inventive in a free agency market where creativity is out the window: Jerryd Bayless is the Ben Simmons point guard whom everybody forgot existed, and the third year on his deal could potentially make for a nice trade chip when the cap once again balloons in 2018 (alternatively, it could be a liability); Sergio Rodriguez’s $3 million buyout may have taken him off most teams’ radar, so Colangelo instead dipped into cap space and effectively handed out a $5 million contract with added buyout compensation; Gerald Henderson isn’t Allen Crabbe, Kent Bazemore, or similarly younger, more intriguing prospect, but Hendo should present equal money-to-production value. I admittedly would’ve preferred that he topped the bargain bin deals received by Seth Curry or E’Twaun Moore, but it’s impossible to know what went on behind the scenes that led to those players signing their respective deals.

Bryan Toporek (@btoporek): I’ll go with an A-/B+. He was always going to round out the backcourt with veterans; the question came down to which players he chose and how long their deals were. Finding two low-usage point guards in Bayless and Rodriguez who can operate off the ball as catch-and-shoot threats will help maximize Ben Simmons’ ability to run the team as a point forward. Gerald Henderson isn’t as strong of a three-point shooter, but he’ll be a fine complementary scorer nevertheless. I’m most encouraged by the fact he only handed each of them deals no longer than three years and with an AAV below $10 million, thereby not affecting the Sixers’ long-term financial flexibility. A lack of aggressiveness on the restricted free agent market is all that holds him back from a firm “A.”

Rob Patterson (@Rahbee33): A. The focus this summer wasn’t like any of the Hinkie summers in the sense that they might have finally found “the guy” in Ben Simmons and he’s ready to go. Nerlens and Embiid were both going to miss their first years and Okafor didn’t project to be quite the cornerstone that Simmons appears to be. The goal this year was different than it had been and I think Colangelo did a good job of filling out the roster with guys to compliment Simmons – who at this point is the only sure fire guy to be here and contributing for the foreseeable future – while not tying down cap space in the upcoming years when luring a big time free agent might actually be an option. All three of the signees so far (Henderson, Rodriguez, Bayless) can all be described as “solid” and ready to contribute. This isn’t a 10 win team next year but barring a Dion Waiters contract they didn’t try to immediately jump to the middle either while sacrificing the future. The looming Noel-Okafor trade is still a question mark, but between the free agents and the draft I think he’s done a fine job.     

Benny Kaufman (@bennyrkaufman)B.  I love what they did in free agency, but can’t give BC higher than this because he didn’t bring in anyone with the potential to be a long-term part of the team. He brought in some nice veteran pieces to fill the gaping hole in the backcourt and provide shooting to help space the floor for Simmons and the bigs. I’m most impressed with the creativity in going after Sergio Rodriguez, who has improved his shot since his days in Portland, averaging over 40% on 3.8 attempts in his last four seasons for Real Madrid.  Adding him to the mix with Simmons, Dario, Luwawu, and Embiid, this could be a fun team to watch.

2. Keeping in mind the tweet below, what would Hinkie have done differently?

Goldwein: Capitalized on the incompetence of the Knicks, Lakers, and Bulls. I’m not sure how, but if there was a way to get a future pick or swap, Hinkie would’ve found it, while still leaving enough cap room to add competent players similar to those brought in by BC.

Toporek: Hinkie would have gone after restricted free agents like a bat out of hell, particularly those who fell under the Arenas provision. Jordan Clarkson would have had a max offer sheet at his doorstep on 12:01 a.m. on July 1. Tyler Johnson and Langston Galloway likely wouldn’t have been far behind. While there’s always a chance Colangelo hands out a huge offer sheet to Allen Crabbe (or, God forbid, Dion Waiters), Hinkie would have used the Sixers’ $50-plus million in cap space far more aggressively on RFAs during the opening days of free agency, I’d assume.

Dimoff: I’m with Bryan in that he likely would’ve stacked up on restricted free agent offers early on, but it’s ultimately impossible to know how he’d actually fare. Hinkie is adept in most CBA circumvention tactics, but where he was a real virtuoso was in fleecing teams trying to free up cap space — basically a non-factor this offseason. I imagine that he would’ve chased after the cheap, analytic darlings in Curry and Moore as mentioned above, but I’m not quite sure what he could’ve done differently outside of that. That was always the mystique of the Hinkie era though: we never quite knew what to expect next.

Patterson: “What Would Hinkie Do?” will be a question on a lot of Sixers fans minds for the next few years. With so much money floating around I’m not sure if he would’ve been able to pull off a deal like the Kings-Stauskas deal last summer where he took advantage of a team in panic mode. With the backlash to last summer and the ownership perhaps getting a little tired of losing I could’ve seen him have a very similar offseason to what Colangelo has put together. Maybe it wouldn’t have been these guys in particular, but certainly veteran starters/rotation guys that would compliment Ben Simmons would’ve been the first priority. He could’ve gotten crazy with a potential Okafor or Noel trade, but I don’t think his free agent signings would’ve been that much different considering the pool of guys available this summer.      

Kaufman: The ultimate question. Part of the joy of Hinkie’s reign was that you never quite knew WWHD, but you always knew he was doing everything to make the best possible long-term decision. I think this was the year Hinkie had to start thinking about roster construction and beginning to win games.  With Simmons, Embiid, and Saric coming in, plus the security of the Kings swap, Hinkie could finally stop prioritizing draft positioning and turn towards development.   

With the cap exploding this year (and more over the next few years), I could see Hinkie being aggressive with RFAs, daring people to match slight overpays that would become less and less of a cap hit each year.


3. In Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless, the Sixers finally added veterans to the roster. Is this what Hinkie should have done last offseason?

Goldwein: If he wanted job security, sure. But that’s never been his goal. The difference between The Process and past tanks is that the former didn’t bother pretending to compete. In their “best” case free agent spending scenario, let’s say they brought in Cory Joseph (and I’m guessing he would’ve cost them more than 4/$30M). That move would’ve A. brought them closer to 15 wins, and B: taken up a roster spot, and C: taken away cap flexibility. And for what, Cory Joseph? A capable rotation guard that can be found in free agency every single season?

The three-year tank produced what most (outside Sixers Twitter) considered an unwatchable product. Yeah, they could’ve taken half-measures in the tear down and made that experience a little less unpleasant, but if title contention is the goal, ripping the band-aid off was the fastest way — probabilistically — to a full recovery.

Dimoff: One. Hundred. Percent. While I fully the understand the importance of finishing with the league’s worst record — those two wins against Minnesota in 2014-15 will haunt me forever — adding one or two NBA-caliber talents probably wouldn’t have closed the seven-game gap behind the Lakers. Would simply doubling (or coming close to) the measly offers that Jeremy Lin or Cory Joseph inked last summer have killed the chances of landing Simmons? Probably not, and, not only would those players look like great trade assets now, but Hinkie probably would still be the man seated on the Sixers’ Iron Throne.

Toporek: Yes and no. In retrospect, had he done that, the Sixers likely wouldn’t have finished as the league’s worst team, which means no Ben Simmons. That said, once the Lakers pulled a draft-night about-face and took D’Angelo Russell instead of Okafor, Hinkie’s failure to add a league-average point guard in free agency sewed the seeds for his demise. Had he signed a Cory Joseph or Jeremy Lin, there’s a strong chance he’d still be running the franchise. Whether the Sixers would be in a better place right now — with a legitimate PG in place, but sans Hinkie and Simmons — is another question entirely.

Patterson: Nope. Whether or not you believe Hinkie thought Kendall Marshall would be ready I think the goal of last year was still to be really bad. Maybe not 1-30 bad and perhaps had he made some of these types of moves he’d still be here, but there was one goal and that goal was to be in a position to get the first overall pick finally. Mission accomplished.

Kaufman: No.  After Embiid’s setback and losing out on D’Angelo Russell, it was clear that they had to be as bad as possible to ensure the best possible draft position.  I also don’t think they should have traded two second round picks for a rental of Ish Smith, but understand the necessity after our historically bad start.  It was not a fun season, but in the end, they didn’t set the record, and got Ben Simmons.

4. What are your biggest Ben Simmons/non-Simmons takeaways after two summer league games??

Goldwein: Christian Wood: NBA player.
Richaun Holmes: Fun NBA player with an astonishingly low defensive rebounding rate.
Ben Simmons: Future all-star point guard.
T.J. McConnell: John Stockton.

Dimoff: I’m not ready to let Richaun Holmes get lost in the rotation; every Christian Wood make basket is another gray hair for Brett Brown; I’m not sure that anybody is more excited about TJ McConnell’s hair than TJ McConnell is excited about TJ McConnell’s hair; James Webb III does some cool stuff and has better hair than TJ (please, don’t tell TJ) but unfortunately would probably never make it out of Delaware; Timothe Luwawu running the break is what keeps my heart beating; Ben Simmons is The Guy.

Toporek: Ben Simmons is the truth. The 2019 Eastern Conference Finals between Point Simmons and Point Giannis might break Basketball Twitter. Beyond that, I hope Richaun Holmes gets a chance to carve out a rotation spot this year — particularly if Colangelo does proceed with an Okafor or Noel trade over the coming months — and that the Sixers can keep Christian Wood around on a D-League deal. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by James Webb III, but given the crunch in terms of roster spots, he’s likely a D-League option as well.

Patterson: Brett Brown had been talking about how learning point guard is the hardest thing for a young rookie to do and not something he was going to force on Simmons right out of the gate so I was surprised at just how much of the ball handling he did even with TJ on the court. But boy, he was a thrill to watch. He had a mediocre game, but you could just tell from the way he moved around the court he is on a whole different level than what we’ve seen the last few years. I know it’s only Summer League, but Timothy John McConnell continues to be one of my favorite Sixers and he looked really in control in that first game.  

Kaufman: A lot of really encouraging things. I think Ben Simmons can be a point guard and an impact player from day one. The guy is already an elite passer, and his court vision is outstanding. Christian Wood might be an NBA player, but I don’t think he’ll be a Sixer.  Even if one of the bigs is gone before the season starts, I’d rather have Holmes be our third big off the bench. T.J. McConnell can do no wrong and I hope he’s a Sixer for the next 20 years.

5. What should the Sixers be looking for in an Okafor/Noel trade?

Goldwein: Keep Noel. For Okafor: hold out for unprotected picks/swaps or top-tier prospects. (Hi there, Chicago). It’d better to use him as a centerpiece and add more assets for, say, D’Angelo Russell than get three quarters on the dollar in return. Staying patient is also an option; Okafor’s value won’t sink any lower, and given Embiid’s likely early season restrictions and Okafor’s knee surgery, they’ll be opportunities to get creative with minute distribution.

Dimoff: For Okafor: a 2017 first-rounder. The backcourt trade market as is seems to be dried up and this summer’s freshman class is by all accounts a home run, so I’d be looking to roll the dice as many times as possible in the first round.

For Nerlens: they just simply can’t trade him yet. Many have always said that Jahlil is the Embiid insurance, but this team needs none of what Okafor brings at this juncture. Nerlens, on the other hand, is a sure-fire fit with Simmons & Co. as a rim protector and low-usage pick-and-roll threat on the offensive end. If the next great Sixers team is one that features both Simmons and Embiid, then Noel will likely on be superfluous as a backup. But until we can see a clearer picture about Embiid’s long-term health, the Sixers need to keep its only rim protector in place.

Toporek: It’s almost easier to use process of elimination here. They (obviously) don’t need another big man. They don’t need a traditional point guard like Rajon Rondo or even Chris Paul, since Simmons should eventually move into the role as the team’s primary ball-handler and playmaker. So, that basically leaves a three-and-D guard or wing. I was at least mildly intrigued by the draft-day rumors linking Noel to the Rockets for Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza, but ideally, the Sixers would get younger prospects more aligned with the developmental timelines of Simmons, Embiid and Dario Saric. If the Lakers wind up trading for Russell Westbrook, I sure wouldn’t complain if the Sixers got involved to make it a three-teamer and turned Okafor into D’Angelo Russell.

Patterson: This question has been on my mind since the roster started to take shape over the weekend and I honestly have no idea. I’d assume if there is a young wing that doesn’t have impending free agency next year would be the best option, but I don’t know if that guys out there right now. With Allen Crabbe still floating around perhaps a sign and trade could be in order, but I’d think the Sixers want a little something more.

Kaufman: The current free agent market can only have a positive impact on the value of their talented and cost-controlled bigs. They should look to make a deal with Phoenix or Boston for one of their young wings and future draft considerations.

Jun 30 2016

The Case for Maxing Out Jordan Clarkson

The Los Angeles Lakers dealt the Philadelphia 76ers’ ongoing rebuild a detrimental setback last June by selecting D’Angelo Russell ahead of Jahlil Okafor. Though the jury remains out on the Ohio State product, he certainly would’ve been a better short-term fit than Okafor given Philadelphia’s crowded frontcourt featuring Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Jerami Grant and Richaun Holmes.

This summer, the Sixers have an opportunity to exact some measure of revenge on the Lakers. According to USA Today‘s Sam Amick, Philadelphia may approach Jordan Clarkson with an offer sheet:

Clarkson, the No. 46 overall pick in 2014, has put up exceptional numbers given his age (24) and draft position. His career per-36-minute averages of 17.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists across two seasons suggest he’ll be a competent rotation player at worst over the coming years. Though his assist total plunged this past season—in large part due to the presence of Kobe Bryant, D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams—he became far more potent from beyond the arc, knocking down 34.7 percent of his 4.1 three-point attempts per game.

Clarkson particularly thrives as a spot-up shooter, having averaged 1.05 points per possession on his 180 such attempts this season, per NBA.com. That put him just outside of the 75th percentile across the league, ahead of players such as Carmelo Anthony, D’Angelo Russell and Gordon Hayward. He’s far less prolific as an isolation scorer—among the players with 100 or more isolations this season, he ranked dead last in points per possessions—but he was in the top quarter league-wide in scoring efficiency as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, an area in which the Sixers need drastic improvement this offseason.

Defense is another matter entirely. The Lakers were far worse defensively with Clarkson on the floor than on the bench, having allowed 6.1 points per 100 possessions fewer during his nearly 1,400 minutes off the court, per NBA.com. He also fared extremely poorly in terms of defensive box plus-minus, according to Basketball-Reference.com, although that isn’t the be-all, end-all of defensive statistics. (Klay Thompson ranked even worse in DBPM, and he’s widely acknowledged as one of the league’s best two-way 2-guards.) At 6-5 with a 6-8 wingspan, Clarkson can play either guard position, which could make him a huge asset to plug alongside Ben Simmons.

Though the idea of handing Clarkson a max contract might sound absurd based on his relative inexperience, a rarely used provision in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement makes it much more palatable. For restricted free agents with only one or two seasons in the league, prospective suitors aren’t able to offer a typical four-year max offer sheet. Instead, the first-year salary can’t exceed the non-taxpayer mid-level exception—which is set at $5.628 million for the 2016-17 season—and the second-year salary can only jump by 4.5 percent. The third-year salary can be as high as the maximum amount allowed under the current cap, while the fourth-year salary can be a 4.1 percent increase over the third-year rate.

With the NBA now projecting a $94 million cap for 2016-17, per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, here’s a rough approximation of what Clarkson’s four-year max offer sheet from the Sixers would look like:

2016-17 $5.628 million
2017-18 $5.881 million (4.5% raise)
2018-19 $24.1 million (Year 3 max)
2019-20 $25.1 million (4.1% raise)
Total $60.7 million ($15.2M annually)

If the Lakers declined to match the offer sheet, Clarkson would count for roughly $15.2 million against the cap in each his four seasons with the Sixers. With two-thirds of the league set to have room for at least one max contract this summer, that annual salary for Clarkson shouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye. Given the relatively low supply of top-tier free agents, eight-figure annual salaries are going to become the norm for any player with half a pulse.

In all likelihood, the Lakers would match this offer sheet without thinking twice. In fact, the terms of this offer sheet could save L.A.’s management from itself, as incumbent teams have no limitations on the types of contracts they offer to their own restricted free agents. The Lakers are the only team free to offer Clarkson a full four-year max deal worth roughly $98 million, which would amount to a difference of more than $35 million over the next four seasons. Knowing that, L.A. has little incentive to offer Clarkson a penny more than a four-year, $62 million deal.

The Lakers being forced to match an offer sheet rather than signing Clarkson outright could have some consequences down the line, however. Whereas the Missouri product would count for $15.2 million annually against the cap for the Sixers, the Lakers would have his actual salary each season count against their cap if it matched. Clarkson would thus come at a far-below-market rate over the next two seasons, but his salary would jump by more than $18 million in 2018-19, which happens to coincide with a projected $2 million decline in the salary cap, per USA Today‘s Jeff Zillgitt1. If Los Angeles sign him to a four-year, $62 million deal, his 2016-17 salary would be a bit under $14 million and would only increase by 7.5 percent each season.

While The Vertical’s Bobby Marks believes that type of imbalanced spike in Clarkson’s contract would behoove the Lakers — it would effectively give them an extra $10 million in cap space over each of the next two seasons compared to if they signed him outright — it also may be enough to give them pause, per Amick.

Further complicating matters is the Lakers’ first-round pick, which conveys to Philadelphia if it falls outside of the top three next season (and is fully unprotected in 2018 if it doesn’t convey next year). That gives the Sixers direct incentive to weaken the Lakers’ roster, either by prying Clarkson away or increasing the amount of L.A.’s cap space that he consumes. Until he agrees to a new deal with the Lakers or signs an offer sheet with another team, he’ll only have a cap hold of $2.725 million, per Basketball Insiders, which would allow L.A. to turn its attention elsewhere in free agency before re-signing him. Forcing the Lakers to match an offer sheet would increase his cap hold by nearly $3 million. Though that isn’t a sizable amount, particularly given how much cap space the Lakers have this summer—they currently have just under $27.5 million of committed salaries on the books, including Brandon Ingram’s $4.4 million cap hold—every dollar counts when rebuilding a roster that only has six non-rookies signed at the moment.

The Sixers almost certainly won’t be able to pry Clarkson away from the Lakers, given the amount of cap space L.A. has and the relatively paltry four-year salary Clarkson can receive in a max-level offer sheet from another team. That doesn’t meant Philly shouldn’t try, though, especially given the ramifications regarding the Lakers’ 2017 first-rounder.

1. If the NBA and/or the players’ association opts out of the current collective bargaining agreement by Dec. 15 of this year—a virtual certainty—the new CBA could drastically alter salary-cap projections in future seasons. In other words, a projected decline in the 2018-19 cap means almost nothing at this point in time.

All CBA information via Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ. All contract information via Spotrac, unless otherwise noted.

Jun 24 2016

4-on-4: Finally-Sixer Ben Simmons & The 2016 Draft

The Colangelo Sixers participated in its first draft and we’re somehow all still alive.

1. Grade the Sixers’ draft:

Eric Goldwein (@ericgoldwein): B. It’s hard to do this without knowing any of the conversations that went on, but they didn’t make a terrible trade, and they ought to get credit for that. That said, passing on a worthwhile trade could be just as costly as making a bad one.

As for the picks, it looks like they had the right philosophy, taking a stash candidate in Furkan 2.0 and an exciting swingman in Luwawu. Odds are against them becoming good NBA rotation players, but both have a real shot to succeed, and that’s all you can ask for late in the first round.

Xylon Dimoff (@xylondimoff): B+. I’m not gonna give loads of credit for drafting Simmons (that’d be like awarding Dave Griffin Executive of the Year for signing LeBron James), but Colangelo held his ground and came away with some steals in Luwawu and Korkmaz in the mid-20s. He was provided plenty an opportunity to execute blockbuster deals given the Sixers’ current assets, but he instead held his ground and came away with three very good players. I still have a nagging feeling however that he may have missed some opportunities with guys like Demetrius Jackson, Deyonta Davis, and Wade Baldwin plummeting out of their projected slots, but I can’t complain with the selections that were made.

Bryan Toporek (@btoporek): They get a decisive A from me. Simmons was a no-brainer, but Luwawu and Korkmaz were the perfect blend between the best-player-available philosophy and filling a glaring need (shooting and wing depth). Korkmaz isn’t planning on coming over next year, according to international reporter David Pick, but with upwards of four other rookies all joining the roster (Simmons, Luwawu, Joel Embiid and perhaps Dario Saric), it wouldn’t have been reasonable to take three guys who all expected to play right away. They mostly capitalized on good fortune — aka other teams making a number of head-scratching picks in the teens and early 20s — but deserve credit for resisting the temptation to package those picks and trade up.

Drew Stone (@DrewSt1ne): I have to give it a weird-ass A, an A that was either unintentional or drastically unintentional. It’s got me thinking about former Teen Mom Farrah Abraham’s avant garde album “My Teenage Dream Ended” (2012). Whether intentional or not, though clearly not, both Abraham and Colangelo managed to somehow weave a near-masterpiece with the non-descript tools they had been given. The first overall pick wasn’t botched. Okafor and (especially) Nerlens weren’t gift wrapped for less than their value. And both Luwawu and Furkan 2.0 were both great fits and exceptional value picks for where the Sixers got them. This will not be the last time I compare Bryan Colangelo with Farrah Abraham.

2. What other moves do the Sixers need to make this offseason? Should the Sixers address the frontcourt logjam ASAP or is it fine as is?

Goldwein: Dealing a big man — Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, but probably Okafor — should be a priority. How they’ll do that remains a mystery given there doesn’t seem to be a big market for either. Their best play at this point, ironically, might be kicking the can and trading for a 2017 1st.

Dimoff: The Sixers did a stellar job in the draft of filling a glaring need on the wing, and now all that’s left is to redistribute some of the talent in the frontcourt over to the point guard position. Colangelo plain and simply just needs to trade Jahlil Okafor: Jah couldn’t be a worse fit with Ben Simmons, and the minutes to further improve the big man’s value just won’t be here next season. The Sixers would do well to suss as many point-guard-for-Okafor trades as possible — a return like Avery Bradley would obviously be a far cry value-wise for what was the third pick a year ago, but these deals rarely net fair returns when working from such a position of weakness. Keeping the roster together as is would only stunt development for players like Simmons, and we’ve already seen last season how much a poor fit can diminish value with Okafor and Nerlens Noel.

Ideally the Sixers will find a deal for Okafor that brings over a healthy 2017 first-rounder, while addressing the point guard issue via free agency. Spending some of that mountain of cap space on a veteran floor general would certainly ease the NBA transition for all of Philly’s new players — two-years, $36 million for Jeremy Lin sound good, anyone?

Toporek: Even if Saric doesn’t come over this year, they still need to somehow break up the Noel-Okafor tandem. Ideally, they’d trade Okafor for the fit-related reasons that Xylon mentioned, but if the market is completely sparse for him and there’s a significantly higher demand for Noel, they may have to go that route and pray Jah can learn to guard a pick-and-roll. Since Boston apparently continues to refuse acknowledging the actual value of its assets, the Suns seem like a logical trade candidate, especially after they drafted Tyler Ulis with the No. 34 pick. Flip Okafor for Brandon Knight and everyone’s happy. Stealing Patrick Beverley from Houston would be pretty lit, too.

Stone: You need to move Okafor. I would say you need to move ONE of the big men, but come on, we all know it’s Okafor. Keeping Jah is Piper Chapman trying to stake out territory in the panty business; you just know it’s not going to end well. That said, I give the Sixers a ton of credit for sticking to their guns and not moving any of their big men for the first half-decent offer that came around tonight. There’s an entire off-season approaching to operate. Let’s see how Bryan navigates that.

3. What’s your irrational much-too-early wins prediction for next season?

Goldwein: 29. This is still not a good NBA team. Rookies tend to inefficient, no matter how talented they are and the Sixers will be giving key minutes to at least three of them, along with several sophomores and third-year players. If they do get to 29, it’ll be because of a breakout season from Noel and/or their investments in free agency.

Dimoff: If the Sixers make some semblance of the moves suggested above, this team could feasibly take a 15-to-20-win leap next season. It not only will be adding loads of raw talent to the roster, but, unlike in previous seasons, will do so while satisfying positions of need. I’ve typically been low on my Sixers win predictions here, but for the first time the team may actually be on its way to trotting out a real-life NBA team.

Toporek: I’ll go with 28, only because I have no idea how they’re going to rectify their frontcourt logjam. They’re about to receive an unprecedented infusion of rookie talent in Simmons, Embiid, Luwawu and perhaps Saric; complement that with a decent free-agent signing or two and they’re right on their way to relevance. Say, perhaps, Chandler Parsons?

Stone: 25. A 250% winning increase has to be some sort of record, right?

4. What’s your feeling on the Colangelos? Did the draft change anything?

Goldwein: Jerry is still a scumbag. But for Bryan, it’s a comforting datapoint. He went the whole night without doing anything crazy, and that’s no small feat given what first-year GMs have done in past years. We’ll have a better grasp on his decision-making after free agency, but there were no visible red flags tonight.

Dimoff: Honestly, who the hell knows what to believe. All day it was impossible to believe any of the stray, and quite frankly absurd rumors that floated across our Twitter timelines. If the alleged monstrosity that was Nerlens-Noel-AND-Robert-Covington-AND-24-AND-26-for-Kris-Dunn deal fell through because of something on Boston’s end, then I feel no better — and probably worse — about Colangelo.

But if we’re focusing solely on what actually happened, this draft should welcome a sigh of relief for all of Bryan’s doubters. Not only did he avoid paying far too much for a prospect he reportedly really, really liked, but he showed patience that ultimately landed him a pair of late first-round steals. I’ll admit I would’ve preferred him trying to to buy his way back into the second round rather than calling it an early night, but overall I must admit I’m pleasantly surprised by Colangelo at the moment.

Toporek: Considering my expectations at the start of the day were basically nil, Bryan Colangelo annihilated even my most optimistic outlook. I figured he was guaranteed to sell Nerlens for 60 cents on the dollar, especially after seeing the reports about how hot the Sixers were for the Celtics’ No. 3 overall pick. Instead, he resisted the temptation to pull the trigger — dodging a prospect who didn’t make all that much sense next to Simmons anyway (Kris Dunn) — and stayed put to land two significant steals in the 20s. This was only the appetizer to the offseason main course, which begins when free agency kicks off July 1, but so far, so good.

Stone: I felt a sense of capability. I sensed that they had scouted several of the projected first-round picks and made well-informed decisions on the clock. Thusly, I gained a moderate amount of respect for the Colangelos, and more appropriately their scouting department, in that regard. Yet I still feel like they weren’t able to complete a number of trades that, if passed, would have been borderline horrifying. I don’t know what should make you more uneasy: that Colangelo was actively involved in the pursuit of awkward fitting veterans like Jeff Teague or Trevor Ariza, or that he couldn’t seem to get the deal done on either. These are still choppy, choppy waters. Let’s just celebrate a pretty damn good draft night for the time being.

Jun 23 2016

Fourth Annual Hoop76 Mock Draft

Happy draft day, and welcome to Hoop76’s fourth annual mock. Last year we went an impressively terrible two out of 30 (thanks in large part to the Lakers selecting D’Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor). In 2014 we had the Sixers taking Dante Exum and only got three picks right. In 2013, back when Michael Carter-Williams was just a twinkle in our eyes, we had Nerlens Noel going first overall, so that didn’t go too well either.

So while we’re pretty confident what the start of the 2016 draft will look like, you’d be just as well off asking the drunk guy sitting next to you at the bar what’ll happen 3-30. Follow @Hoop_76 for draft coverage and ALSO, hit up our new site NBAassets.com (@NBAassets) to get updates on all 30 teams. Enjoy the mock.

1. Sixers: Ben Simmons
This seemed like a tough decision when the Sixers won the lottery five weeks ago, and literally nothing has changed since then.

Except for us.

Maybe it’s because we inflate the value of assets belonging to the Sixers. Maybe it’s Brandon Ingram’s unfavorable projection on Kevin Pelton’s draft rater. Maybe it’s that Simmons doesn’t actively despise the situation he’s heading into. Maybe it’s because he’s been endorsed by pretty much everybody (outside a couple DraftExpress folks), and that he’s a LeBron James approved 6-foot-10 point guard that kicks three-pointers as well as he can shoot them.

Bryan Colangelo has some difficult choices ahead as Sixers’ GM of the 76ers. This is not one of them.

-Eric Goldwein (@ericgoldwein)

2. Lakers: Brandon Ingram
It was always Brandon Ingram — despite whatever nonsense I was spewing only a few weeks ago. He fits the blueprint for a superstar in the NBA, and would be a fine option in this draft (and most others) if not for already-Sixer/Process-Truster/Joel-Embiid-best-bud Ben Simmons.

-Xylon Dimoff (@xylondimoff)

3. Celtics: Marquese Chriss

For the last few months this pick has been one of the most talked about trade chips, and as we approach Thursday night Danny Ainge still has it. We’ll assume that the Celtics do keep it and I think Marquese Chriss would be a likely pick for them. Both Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger are restricted free agents so taking the athletic power forward that can stretch the floor would allow them to let either both or one of those go. Bender is certainly an option, but I wonder if his timeline to contribute coincides with Boston looking to win now.

-Rob Patterson (@Rahbee33)

4. Suns: Dragan Bender

The Suns could use a floor-stretching, mobile big man to pair with their talented guards. Bender fits the blueprint of what NBA teams are presently seeking at his position. He is the youngest player in the draft and the best player available next to Kris Dunn.

-Marc Nemcik (@marcnemcik)

5. Timberwolves: Buddy Hield
Both Dunn and Murray are probably higher-ceiling guard prospects, and ours is the rare mock that still has both of them available at this spot. So consider this the first minor upset of the night. The Wolves reportedly love Dunn, but don’t forget that old man Thibs is the new sheriff in town. He and his team are in win-now mode, and though Dunn claims he’s ready to start and lead immediately, Hield has the four years of college experience – as well as a proven jumper the Wolves so desperately need – to back it up.

-Drew Stone (@DrewSt1ne)

6. Pelicans: Kris Dunn

This pick came down to Dunn and Jamal Murray, and, quite frankly, I don’t like Jamal Murray, so Kris Dunn it is! But all (excellent) kidding aside, Dunn fits in quite nicely with the Pelicans. Jrue is on the last year of his contract and is often injured. Even when he’s not, Dunn is versatile enough to share the backcourt with him. Also, the Pelicans defense last year was a tragicomedy. Dunn brings in an elite defensive skill set that should help the team immediately. I’ll take my GM of the Year trophy now, thank you.

-Ben Smolen (@SpudsBen)

7. Nuggets: Jamal Murray
This choice came down to Murray or Jaylen Brown. Though the Nuggets have the forward depth to allow Brown to come into his own in his own time, Murray’s shooting ability was just too enticing to pass up, particularly given Emmanuel Mudiay’s shooting woes. A backcourt rotation of Mudiay, Murray and Gary Harris gives Denver a terrifying trio to build around.

-Bryan Toporek (@btoporek)

8. Kings: Jaylen Brown
I can tell you — based on scouting reports and podcasts — that he’ll be anything from Jimmy Butler to, umm, Quentin Richardson? The 6-6 swingman flashed a lot of athletic potential in his freshman season at Cal, and while he didn’t do so with any efficiency, he’s the type of risk worth taking at the No. 8 spot.

9. Raptors: Denzel Valentine
His recent “fairly significant knee issue” gives me a lot of pause here, but is there a more perfect fit considering where Toronto is at right now? Drafting Valentine gives the Raptors an immediate contributor to next season’s playoff run without mortgaging its future, as he should slot beautifully into a sixth man position — which may ultimately be his role in the NBA.


10. Bucks: Skal Labissiere

The Greg Monroe experience is still chugging along on Milwaukee for the time being, but Milwaukee may try to get back the defensive principles that led to an unexpected playoff run two years ago. He is still exceptionally raw and isn’t Nerlens Noel or Willie Cauley-Stein defensively, but he could be worth developing for a year or two behind Monroe in the hopes that he could become a piece to pair next to their young core of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.


11. Magic: Deyonta Davis
The Magic turn to Deyonta Davis with Skal Labissiere off the board. Davis fills a desperate need for Orlando with his rim protection, despite lacking Labissiere’s shooting skills. He will continue developing on the offensive end, while providing stellar defense and astounding athleticism from the start.


12. Hawks: Wade Baldwin
The Jazz still owned this pick when I made it, and Baldwin would have added much needed depth in their backcourt (which George Hill’s addition addresses on its own just fine). Still, Baldwin is worth a look for Atlanta. Atlanta took Jeff Teague at #19, got an All-Star appearance and two deep playoff runs out of him, groomed a capable replacement, and managed to flip him for a No. 12 pick when all’s said and done. That’s good asset management, and grooming Baldwin behind newly encumbered Dennis Schroeder allows the process to start over anew. Plus, Baldwin’s flexibility would allow him to potentially play alongside Schroeder, giving the Hawks’ offense a needed change of pace as Kyle Korver’s body continues to absorb minutes.


13. Suns: Jakob Poeltl

His name makes me laugh, and, quite frankly, at this point in the 2016 draft, that’s kinda enough. Tyson Chandler has been an abject failure, and, while Len has shown some promise, I’m not sold. In Poeltl the Suns can find someone they hope will be able to anchor a defense. Also, his offense showed real signs of improvement last year, and he should be a nice fit alongside Bledsoe and Devin Booker. Please note that I did not mention Brandon Knight in this write-up until now. That’s because I forgot about him. Take that for what it’s worth.


14. Bulls: Domantas Sabonis
With Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah both likely to depart as free agents this summer, the Bulls needed to add young frontcourt talent. Sabonis, who has drawn comparisons to Pau’s younger brother throughout the pre-draft process, would provide some much-needed rebounding, toughness and scoring ability in the post. With him on board, the Bulls would seek to trade Taj Gibson and continue retooling around Jimmy Butler and their younger players.
(Ed. note: Pick made prior to trade sending Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks.)

15. Nuggets: Timothe Luwawu
A 6-7 shooting guard with a 6-11 wingspan, elite athleticism, and a jump shot? Yes, please.

16. Celtics: Henry Ellenson
Ellenson fits neatly into the Jahlil Okafor All-Offense-No-Defense mold, which, while my thoughts against this type of player are well-documented, 16 seems an apt spot to gamble on the talent. At worst he’s another solid Celtics role player who provides an offensive kick off the bench, at best he’s a non-issue defensively (which isn’t impossible under Brad Stevens) and is another good-not-great player that will continue to fool the Celtics into thinking that Boston is actually a superstar destination.


17. Grizzlies: Dejounte Murray

Probably quicker than most people imagined the Grizzlies began their descent down the other side of the mountain last year. With backcourt players like 39 year old Vince Carter and Tony Allen getting huge minutes and Mike Conley potentially on the move snagging a big young guard like Murray could be the first step towards wherever it is that Memphis is headed.


18. Pistons: Tyler Ulis
Ulis’ outstanding basketball IQ and leadership offset his size and ordinary athleticism. His effort and understanding of the game will make him a quality player, even if he is not a star in the NBA. Ulis can grow behind Reggie Jackson and receive significant minutes from the start in the Pistons weak guard rotation.


19. Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz
The Nuggets would undoubtedly consider it a steal if Korkmaz was still here at 19. They’ll be sorting out the center position for the next few years, with talented young bigs Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne all competing for playing time. What they need immediately is shooting and athleticism. Korkmaz is a larger, lengthier defensive alternative to Gary Harris, and pairing him with Luwawu (Eric’s pick at 15) would give Denver’s offense an adrenaline shot they haven’t had since 2013, George Karl’s last season.


20. Pacers: Patrick McCaw
Sorry Sixers fans who were hoping McCaw would make it to 24, but I ruined all your fun. After yesterday’s trade, the Pacers have a ball-dominant point guard in Teague, a superstar in Paul George, and a promising big man in Myles Turner. McCaw, while a far from a finished product, projects to be a plus defender, passer, and shooter. He would be the ideal three-and-d man in that lineup.


21. Hawks: Taurean Prince
After filling Jeff Teague’s hole in the rotation with Wade Baldwin at No. 12, the Hawks sought to find a potential Kent Bazemore replacement in Taurean Prince. Even if Prince never becomes more than a three-and-D guy, Atlanta’s system under Mike Budenholzer will help him maximize his strengths while minimizing his limitations as a go-to offensive threat.

22. Hornets: Malachi Richardson
Behind every average NBA team are core players who showed off their Championship DNA during a Final Four run, and thus had their stocks rise in the months leading up to the draft. Richardson will fit nicely next to Kemba Walker, and Frank Kaminsky.


23. Celtics: Thon Maker
Danny Ainge seems to be learning to hard way that these middling first-rounders will never amount to a star because nobody actually cares about them. Thon’s years away from contributing in the NBA (much less becoming a star), but theoretically he may have top-five upside in this draft if he, like, learns to play basketball. Adding another role player after Ellenson and last year’s blah first-round would only be redundant, so why not swing for the fences here?


24. Sixers: Malik Beasley

I was really intrigued with stashing somebody like Ivica Zubac, but the buzz around Beasley and the potential fit was just too much to overlook. I’m not sure how likely it is that the Sixers take both 24 and 26, but Beasley shot nearly 39% from deep last year at FSU and was one of the most efficient players in college basketball. He may not be a big time play maker, but alongside Simmons he wouldn’t have to be. I would be pretty ecstatic with him being the Sixers pick here.


25. Clippers: Brice Johnson
The Clippers played Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Cole Aldrich behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan last season. They desperately need someone who is able to step into their rotation right away. Johnson was a productive college player and actually still has some room to grow.


26. Sixers: Demetrius Jackson
First off, I’m sorry for taking a Furkan with my previous pick. I know you’re restless for another Furkan. Secondly, the Sixers will happily settle for a point guard with rotation player potential at this point in the draft. He provides shooting, which is apparently something they’re in need of at the moment? 41 percent beyond the arc over two seasons at Notre Dame is nothing to scoff at, and even though he’ll need some time to develop… well, let’s just say he’s going to an okay franchise for that.


27. Raptors: Ante Zizic
The Raptors are a pretty good team who used their first pick (Valentine) to add depth to their backcourt. At 27, they can afford to play with house money a bit. Enter a 19 year old Croat! Zizic is big, can board, and could be a nice replacement as a backup center once Biyombo leaves. Also, Zizic has great draft-and-stash potential if the Raptors want to go that route.


28. Suns: DeAndre Bembry
The Suns reloaded their frontcourt with their two lottery picks (Bender and Poeltl), so they went into best-player-available mode here. While a draft-and-stash may be the more logical route, Bembry was too enticing to pass up at No. 28. He’ll help add depth behind P.J. Tucker and T.J. Warren in the short term and could become the starting small forward in due time if Warren can’t dodge the injury bug.


29. Spurs: Juan Hernangomez
Trade bait for the Knicks (who have his brother Willy, and his Spanish League pal, Kristaps Porzingis). Except the Knicks don’t really have anything left to trade. The 6-9 stretch-4 could be a good player — he projects favorably in Pelton’s draft rater — and that’s about all you can expect from a 29th pick.


30. Warriors: Caris LeVert
Kevon Looney 2.0. LeVert’s collegiate health record is catastrophic, but luckily 73-win teams don’t need anything from rookies for a few years. Let him recover, hope Draymond doesn’t “accidentally” kick him in the nuts, and let this guy contribute when he’s good and ready.


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