Jan 28 2015

Big Shot Bob Returns To Form, Sixers Beat Pistons

Detroit Pistons 69 Final
Recap | Box Score
89 Philadelphia 76ers


Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, PF 31 MIN | 6-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +34 +/-The consummate Doug Collins player: a veteran defender with an affinity for long-twos. LRMAM has been a surprise this season, as I originally thought Sixers fans would want him dealt at next month’s deadline, but his positive defensive contributions and mentorship to Joel Embiid could make him worthwhile to keep around.

Robert Covington, SF 25 MIN | 7-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +22 +/-After hitting a bit of a slump in January (36.4% from deep including the win over Detroit), Covington returned to his Bobby Buckets form, nailing four threes and even adding a few points off the dribble for good measure. As I said on my podcast, a good Covington performance is directly proportional to a Sixers win.

Michael Carter-Williams, PG 35 MIN | 5-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 9 REB | 10 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 5 TO | 14 PTS | +34 +/-A near-Andre Iguodala triple-double for MCW, the Sixers should be taking any efficient shooting performance that they can get from the guard.

JaKarr Sampson, SG 24 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +26 +/-JaKarr Sampson: NBA Player?!? Replacing K.J. McDaniels in the starting lineup, he more than held his own, as the athletic wing jumped and sped his way around the court. Originally an afterthought in the barrage of Sixers D-League call-ups, could there be a JaKarr bandwagon forming?

Larry Drew II, PG 13 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -14 +/-There’s just a week or so left on Drew II’s 10-day contract. With Tony Wroten deciding to go through with surgery on the torn ACL in his right knee, Sam Hinkie & Co. might already be looking for their next D-League point guard. Seth Curry? Bryce Cotton?

Hollis Thompson, SG 20 MIN | 1-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -4 +/-The Golden boy of Sixers Twitter during his rookie campaign, Thompson has had trouble adjusting to a new, quickened released on his shot, now shooting just 31.6% from three for the season after making 40.1% of his shots beyond the arc last year.




By the Numbers: This was the Sixers’ largest margin of victory since a 123-98 win over the Pistons on March 29, 2014. It was also the first time the Sixers have held an opponent under 70 points in the Brett Brown era.

Tweet of the Game:

Best Vine:

Parting Shots: With the Sixers’ second unit continually getting destroyed this season, Brown inserted Sampson into the starting lineup to give his player groupings a bit more balance. That paid off, as Sampson had his best game as a pro and McDaniels continued his highlight-worthy play off the bench. This isn’t the same Detroit team that the Sixers defeated back in early December, as the Pistons had gone 12-6 since waiving the expensive and inept Josh Smith, rising out of the league’s cellar in the process. This is a nice win to dwell on before Almost Future Sixer Andrew Wiggins comes to South Philly on Friday.

Jan 28 2015

Can We All Give Jerami Grant A Hug?

Jerami Grant: the Sixers second-best 3-point shooter. Jerami Grant: averages 1.1 blocks per game.

Raise your hand if these are two things you didn’t expect to see coming. The 6-foot-8 forward is a work in progress, much like the team he plays for, but the promise is there. Due to an ankle injury he didn’t play his first NBA game until late November, and most of December was forgettable, with Grant averaging 3.8 points per game, shooting under 30 percent from the field and 3-point line. He did show some flashes including 11 points, seven boards and three blocks against Miami in December. But Grant followed that up by hitting two shots in his next three games. The consistency wasn’t there.

But then, January happened. In 2015, Grant has been a different player. It starts with the long ball; this month he’s shooting 42 percent from 3-point land, averaging one per game. Time will reveal if Grant’s 3-point shooting is sustainable. He could be due for a K.J. McDaniels-llke regression. The Sixers’ other second-round pick is shooting 30.5 percent from downtown after hitting about 40 percent through November. But at the same time, Grant is no Tony Wroten, The shots he takes are timely and come in the flow of the offense. Grant is popping only 2.1 3s per
game this month, compared to Wroten’s four, which were converted at a 26 percent clip (still love you). If Grant can force defenses to respect his perimeter shot, then mission accomplished.

Swat machine

Grant is rejecting shots like a bartender at 2 a.m. He had eight blocks against the New York Knicks last week, and then four against the Pelicans on Monday, giving him 1.1 per game on the season. He has the wingspan (7-3) of a  pterodactyl, and he’s not only blocking shots at the rim, but he’s blocking jump shooters as well. It’s a pleasant surprise, considering he only blocked 36 shots in two seasons at Syracuse.

Grant’s insane wingspan and reach has taken center stage during most of his notable performances. It’s one thing to block guys at the rim; Nerlens and K.J. do that as a warmup routine. But when Grant is smacking shots away that are being launched on the perimeter, that’s impressive.

There aren’t many more deflating things that can happen on a basketball court than getting ready to launch a jumper and having Stretch Armstrong come running at you to throw that shit into the backcourt.

Grant’s block party won over the Vine audience, but his defense as a whole has been impressive. He’s allowing 41 percent shooting at the rim at 2.8 attempts per game. For comparison, McDaniels allows 44.6 percent at the rim on 3.6 attempts per game, while Jabari Parker (tiny sample) was allowing 62.9 percent in 2.8 attempts. We may not have expected Grant to come in and slide right next to K.J. McDaniels as another future highlight reel playmaker, but he’s putting in work.

Picking up the late night PCOM shift …

Legend has it that Grant often travels from the Wells Fargo Center to PCOM after home games and works on his shot past midnight. Let the man himself explain his routine (via Montgomery News):

“I was missing a lot of shots early in the season,” Grant said, “so I really wanted to work on my shot, especially my 3-point shot. The easiest time to get in here is after a game, so I just come in here and work as hard as I can. It’s been paying off.

“Most of the time it’s just an empty gym. Sometimes K.J. will come in here with me and we’ll just get some shots up. I’ll do that a couple of times a week. Even in high school or college I would come to the gym after the game.”

We thank the security guard who let’s Jerami Grant into PCOM this late.

Give Jerami Grant a hug

Brett Brown wants to give Sam Hinkie a hug for drafting Jerami Grant. Let’s all embrace Hinkie and Grant at the same time. Hinkie put Grant in Philadelphia, but Jerami has put in the extra work in order to become a player that no one saw at Syracuse. There are still 37 games left in his rookie season and Grant will need to put more weight on his slim 200-pound frame. But on a team plagued by inconsistency, Jerami Grant’s recent play has been a breath of fresh air. And to think he was just the No. 39 pick in the draft. So the next person you hug, just hug them like they’re Jerami Grant. He deserves it.

Jan 26 2015

Davis Plays, Pelicans Cruise To Win

Philadelphia 76ers 74 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 New Orleans Pelicans
Robert Covington, SF 30 MIN | 2-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -1+/-Don’t look now, but Covington’s recent cold streak has put his field goal percentage below 40 percent. Don’t get me wrong, Covington remains perhaps the most remarkable success story of the Sixers season. However, with defenses potentially sending more attention his way as his reputation grows and in the extended absence of Tony Wroten, the cold streak could continue.

Henry Sims, C 19 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-8 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -14+/-Sims was arguably the best Sixer on the offensive end tonight. He stretched the floor better than any of the guards and was responsible for nearly 40 percent of the team’s foul shots in only 19 minutes of playing time. Three rebounds from a starting center is far from ideal, but on a night without many standouts, Sims was encouraging.

Nerlens Noel, C 31 MIN | 1-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -14+/-Noel’s comments from the teams’ last matchup about bringing the full roster to Philly were mentioned more than once during the broadcast. Those comments may have been the only reason to mention Nerl tonight. There wasn’t really any question as to whether Noel was going to be able to stop Davis when they matched up, but his two points and eight missed shots were disappointing.

Larry Drew II, PG 32 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 4 PTS | -17+/-In a significant opportunity to prove he should stick with the 76ers, Drew didn’t show much. He started strong with a few nice passes and a one-handed runner in the lane, and then…that was about it. He finished with as many turnovers as he had points, though it would be nice to see Drew get another shot before his second ten days are up.

Jerami Grant, SF 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -15+/-There were a few ugly turnovers, but Grant’s garbage time reverse dunk was the highlight of the game. The 3-pointer Grant hit was one of only two the team converted, and that continues a more than promising trend for the rookie forward. Grant is the latest Sixers prospect to provide support for Hinkie’s stockpiling of assets strategy. Tonight wasn’t his absolute best game but he did enough to keep his momentum rolling in the right direction.

By the Numbers: 12: Total points scored by three of the five starters (Noel, Covington, Drew). That’s not good.

Tweet of the Game: 

Parting Shots:

A Sixers win on the road with Anthony Davis in the lineup is a difficult proposition. A winning formula would have required a down night from Davis coupled with big games from every solid member of the 76ers rotation. Davis was spectacular and no one on the Sixers came that close to scoring 20 points, so this one was over pretty early on. Oh yeah, and shooting 2-15 from the behind the arc doesn’t help either.

Update: Here’s the Jerami Grant dunk:

Jan 25 2015

Life Without Tony Wroten

What seemed to be nothing more than a measly knee sprain has turned into the nightmare scenario. The Sixers announced Friday that Tony Wroten has a partial ACL tear and will be out indefinitely. The 6-foot-6 guard will most likely miss the rest of this season, as well as Jamal Crawford’s summer Pro-Am league in Seattle, training camp, preseason, and possibly a significant chunk of the 2015-16 campaign.

While it’s not the end of the world for Wrecking Ball Wroten — ACL tears no longer dismantle the careers as the once did to the Bernard Kings of the world back in the 1980s — this will be the second time Wroten has had his right knee surgically repaired in the last five years. That’s is a gut punch to any player, let alone one whose game so heavily depends on burst and athleticism. We can remain hopeful that Wroten has the same fate as Russell Westbrook, but one also can’t help but feel disheartened every time a certain Chicagoan point guard comes to mind.

As for the Sixers, Wroten’s injury doesn’t move the needle too far in either direction — in the short term, at least. Philadelphia has actually been better when Wroten has been off the floor, as measured by nearly every advanced metric; his -3.66 real plus-minus ranks 430th on a list of 464 players provided by ESPN, his team’s net rating saw a slight bump from -12.7 up to -11.6 whenever he hit the pine, and he’s logged exactly zero win shares through his 30 games. Despite his charming counting numbers and 14.97 PER, Wroten has typically remained a net-negative.

The silver lining is that Wroten’s absence will force a larger responsibility for reigning ROTY Michael Carter-Williams — whether or not he is prepared for such — and will give D-League floaters like Larry Drew II an opportunity to prove themselves in the big leagues. Taking away Wroten’s possessions will also mean more touches for K.J. McDaniels and Robert Covington, thus further expediting the talent evaluation process as Philadelphia attempts to rebuild its franchise.

But Wroten’s absence could still be a major obstacle. The 21-year-old led the Philadelphia roster in usage by a mile at 30.3 percent, and while he may have used those possessions inefficiently, there is certainly no guarantee that the players who fill his shoes can do any better. Carter-Williams’ 34 minutes per game may see a sharp hike and while Drew II hasn’t been completely disastrous in his five-game audition, Philadelphia is severely lacking in point guard depth; Alexey Shved was shipped to Houston after an unremarkable 17-game stint, Malcolm Lee’s Sixer career lasted just 120 seconds, and the Point Guard JaKarr Sampson Experience was dead upon arrival. Even the slightest malady suffered by Carter-Williams could be a devastating blow to what already seems to be a historically bad offense.

Wroten has two years remaining on his contract after this season — a $2.2 million team option for next year that GM Sam Hinkie will almost certainly exercise as the team currently drowns in cap space, and a $3.2 player option in the summer of 2016. ACL tears regularly take more or less a year to fully recover from; this setback could mean Wroten misses out on millions down the line in free agency.

But such is the unpredictable nature of sports. Wroten came to Philadelphia at last season’s tip in a salary dump from a Memphis unit that lacked both the necessary time and patience required to assimilate a raw prospect as it fought through a temporary championship window. And although Wroten has been far from an ace in his first two seasons on Broad Street, his transformation into such a compelling prospect has come as a pleasant surprise to the Philadelphia fan base. Few reasons exist this season to tune in to this flop of a Philadelphia squad, but Wroten’s consistent ability to entertain was positively one of them.

And that’s the area of the game, one that so easily goes overlooked in this being the age of analytics, where Wroten’s absence will hit the hardest — entertainment. Sure, he’s amongst the league’s best at coughing up the rock, a bottom-feeder in the ranks of true shooting percentage, and gambles so frequently on defense that he could make the entire Vegas population blush, but Wroten’s audacious style is often a reminder of why many of us came to appreciate basketball in the first place. Wroten, regardless of his various glaring deficiencies, plays with a ferocity and flash that is eerily similar to that of a particular Sixer legend.

Like Iverson did before him, Wroten is able to play with an outright unconsciousness of how his field goal percentage will look in the box score the next morning. Does Tony Wroten care that he’s already bricked 10 of his 15 shots while taking it to the league’s best rim protector in the guts of the game? In short, nah:

Even if it’s to his own detriment, it’s difficult not to appreciate Wroten’s dauntless style. The once undeniable necessity of “creating your own shot” has become a relic in today’s basketball as its effectiveness has been knocked down a peg by advanced analytics, but for a guy to neglect his own statistics in an attempt to put his team on his back remains an admirable quality. Few players have the ability to force a shot in the basket when need be and even less so utilize this skill in an effort to preserve their own marks, which in a strange way adds value to Wroten’s valueless approach.

Especially if his knee never fully recovers, Wroten may eventually flame out in the same way that former entertainers like Iverson, Jason Williams, or Rafer Alston once did — players whose unusual flair was ultimately overshadowed by their abject inefficiency. Wroten may be the last of what seems to be a dying breed in today’s game as teams understandably strive for maximum efficiency, and although we may at times bemoan his carelessness and sluggish development, his on-court antics will be sorely missed for the time being.

Get well soon, Wrecking Ball. This team may be a bit better without you, but it will also be a helluva lot more boring.

Jan 23 2015

Sixers Play Great, But Lowry’s Late Heroics Lead to Yet Another Loss

Toronto Raptors 91 Final
Recap | Box Score
86 Philadelphia 76ers
Robert Covington, SF 35 MIN | 5-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | +11 +/-Despite struggling mightily in the final three quarters, Covington was the personification of the fire emoji to start the game and initiated a 15-0 lead for the Sixers right out the gate. Although his defense still leaves much to be desired, RoCo continues to prove why he is such a great get for such a low price.

Nerlens Noel, C 33 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +13 +/-Noel picked up his fifth double-double of his young career, but he more importantly played the role of floor general for what was an absolutely overwhelming Philadelphia defense tonight. Few 20 year-olds have the defensive instincts that Noel possesses, and this game was another sign of the destructive force that he can be on this end throughout his career.

Michael Carter-Williams, PG 36 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 9 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 12 PTS | +8 +/-This might be a generous grade for a guy who only scored 12 points, but Carter-Williams gets credit for the shots that he didn’t take tonight. MCW finally put the hero ball on hold after some grumblings earlier in the week that the ball has been sticking, and it helped keep Philly in the game right up to the final buzzer. It’s always great to see a young player be so receptive to some constructive criticism.

K.J. McDaniels, SG 30 MIN | 6-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +17 +/-MCW wasn’t the only guy who helped move the rock tonight. Not only did K.J. rack up a career-high five assists, but he added two secondary assists and one free throw assist in there as well, according to SportsVU tracking. Although McDaniels’ shooting may have fallen of a bit as of late, good on him for showing the league that he can provide more than a couple highlight plays every night.

Larry Drew II, PG 14 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -16 +/-Rough game for Drew tonight, who was forcing shots and missing easy passes all over the place in his 14 minutes. He luckily has one game remaining on his current 10-day contract with the Sixers, and hopefully he’ll be able to end on a higher note than he did tonight.

By the Numbers

17 – Number of points Kyle Lowry scored in the fourth quarter to clinch the win for Toronto. Great to see this guy finally get selected to his first All-Star game this season after going overlooked for such a long time.

Tweet of the Game

Parting Shots

Although it came in a loss, it was definitely encouraging to see this young Sixers squad hang tough with one of the East’s best teams tonight. The ball moved with a fluidity and effectiveness that made the offense look downright Spurs-ian at some points. The defense was equally as great, rotating with a suffocating cohesiveness that even held the league’s fourth-best offense to two lengthy scoreless stretches to open the first and fourth quarters.

But on a sadder note, it was reported before the game that Tony Wroten has a partial tear in his ACL and be out indefinitely. This is a major blow to a player whose game relies so heavily on burst and athleticism, and while I haven’t exactly been his biggest supporter, this team will nevertheless be a significantly less-exciting watch in Wroten’s absence. Despite his various shortcomings, Wroten brings an energy and electricity to every game that brings out the young basketball fan in me who used to root for a similarly (although not equally) inefficient Allen Iverson. Get better soon, Tony. All of your insane no-look passes, completely reckless (left-handed) attacks at the basket, and dazzling handles will surely be missed by all.

Jan 21 2015

Knicks Top Sixers, 98-91

New York Knicks 98 Final  Recap  | Box Score 91 Philadelphia 76ers
Furkan Aldemir, PF 19 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -8 +/-Furkan was a non-factor in his first NBA start, dropping rebounds and often failing to box out. His three blocks were a beacon of hope, but his defense was, as a whole, largely unimpressive.

Robert Covington, SF 39 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | -5 +/-RoCo had another solid performance for the Sixers, making a strong case for securing a spot in the newly revamped Rising Stars Challenge. He even played some solid defense on ‘Melo down the stretch, only to be hurt by a couple of bogus foul calls.

Henry Sims, C 32 MIN | 4-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | 0 +/-Sims took advantage of an Amundson-and-Smith-heavy front court tonight and recorded his third double-double of the season.

Michael Carter-Williams, PG 38 MIN | 10-26 FG | 7-8 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 27 PTS | 0 +/-MCW only made two shots outside of eight feet,  took 17 shots in the first half and was generally not efficient offensively tonight. He filled the stat sheet and perpetually attacked the basket, as he tends to do nightly, but his overall performance wasn’t nearly as strong as his line indicates.

Jerami Grant, SF 25 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 8 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +14 +/-Grant grabbed everyone’s attention with his ferocious shot-blocking tonight, swatting eight Knicks shots. Only 12 other rookies have accomplished such a feat, per StatMuse: Mark Eaton, Manute Bol, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Shaq, Shawn Bradley, Marcus Camby, Michael Stewart, Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Darius Miles and Sean Williams.

By the Numbers:

16 – Number of forwards in NBA history to have recorded eight or more blocks in a game, one of which is now Jerami Grant.

Tweet of the Game:

Parting Shots:

This game was actually semi-presentable at times, although that may have been due to its absurdity. Jason Smith stuffed Michael Carter-Williams at the rim (twice) and hit him with a KG-style stare-down, Langston Galloway made the game-winning shot and Lou Amundson and Jason Smith combined for 56 minutes. That is a few too many minutes for Lou Amundson and Jason Smith.

Next up is the Raptors, who come to town on Friday. That should be…interesting.

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