1. Is this the worst pro team you’ve ever seen?
Gus Crawford: Public consciousness can be tragically short term, and awkwardly selective. It wasn’t so long ago that the dastardly 2011 lockout seared our eyes and crippled the souls of basketball enthusiasts everywhere. The flawed negotiation process that was riddled with ineptitude, anticlimaxes, and memorable, misguided Roger Mason Jr. tweets also brought us another gem: the 2011-12 Charlotte Bob[Johnson]cats, owners of the worst single-season win percentage (.106) in NBA history. Think about that: marginally over one win in every 1 0 games! Those cuddly kitties held a net rating of -15.5 over 66 games (shortened season), also allowing opponents to register an offensive rebound percentage of 29.1% (good for 26th in the L that season). These Sixers aren’t quite that repugnant just yet, although there’s still room to continue down the slippity slide of shame.
Eric Goldwein: It’s the worst Philadelphia team I’ve seen, for sure. It’s not necessarily for lack of effort; they’re simply outmatched. Per ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, this particular roster has the “true” talent level of an eight-win team — that’s as bad as the 2012 Bobcats (7-59) and 1973 Sixers (9-73). The good news: it only gets better from here.
Kyle Neubeck: Certainly the worst one I’ve ever watched on a regular basis.Turner and Hawes have been long-standing punchlines around these parts, but imagine if the Sixers had played an entire season with the group of misfits they have out there at this point. I don’t know if they would have challenged for the all-time mark in futility, whether that’s the ‘73 Sixers or the ‘12 Bobcats, but I’d imagine it would have been fairly close.
Wesley Share: In terms of pure talent level, sure. But nothing can surpass the catastrophe that was the 2012 Eagles. So much talent, so much money, yet so little effort and positive results. Absolutely abhorrent. At least this is what we want the Sixers to be doing. The Eagles actually built a team intended to make a run at the Superbowl.
Tom Sunnergren: No. No, sadly it isn’t. The worst team I’ve ever seen–that my own eyes took inventory of–is the 2001 Carolina Panthers. They won Game 1 that season, then proceeded to drop their next 15. They were a lurching disaster on both sides of the ball. Gawd, that team was bad. George Seiffert, the head coach who won TWO Super Bowls with the 49ers got canned at year’s end. And three years later…the Panthers beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. There may or may not be a moral there. Either way, that team, I think, sucked worse than these Sixers suck.
2. Can the Sixers lose out?
Crawford: It would take a masterful medley of unparalleled incompetence, to say the least. Look, these last 15 games have been all kinds of atrocious — the Sixers have been outscored by an aggregate of 297 points, 129 points stinkier (!!!) than the next worst team (Denver). Over that time, the offense — while far from an eight cylinder engine in the first place — has been alarmingly in absentia, netting an eye-poppingly low 90.9 points per 100 possessions. In order for this to continue and/or be exacerbated, it’ll take some creative culinary concoctions from the Sixers’ kitchen staff. A dab of MCW’s ROY-centric, erratic point guard play, a sprinkle of Thad Young exhaustion, and a whole lot of the aforementioned Mr. Mullens.
Goldwein: Vegas has the odds at 3:1, which seems a bit high, but there’s certainly a more than zero chance of it happening. (Before the Thunder loss, Pelton had it at 8 percent.) That said, I don’t think this team has checked out; I’d blame the blowout losses on the talent gap, not effort. If they continue showing up; they’re bound to have a hot shooting night and end the streak (against a weak opponent).
Neubeck: Yes, but that doesn’t mean that they will. The law of averages is going to come into play at some point, and they’re likely to be playing some teams down the stretch that are resting their better players for more meaningful playoff games. Then again, they’re playing Byron Mullens extended minutes, so…
Share: There’s a reason no team has ever lost more than 26 straight games, but with Byron Mullens and the impending return of Brandon Davies, it’s a crapshoot. Good teams will rest their best players against the Sixers in April, which will give the team a chance to steal a couple. But every night I watch them, I grow less and less confident.
Sunnergren: It’s possible, but a real longshot. Remember the Heat’s 27-game winning streak last season? And the hysterical, wild-eyed reverence with which commentators discussed it? “Is this the greatest team ever?” and that sort of thing? The Sixers, if they lose out, would have dropped THIRTY-SIX straight games. I don’t think they can pull it off, but if they can–and, god help me, I’m sort of rooting for it–I’m retroactively changing my answer to question No. 1.
3. How do you get up for games?
Crawford: It’s tough. It’s easier to attempt to consume the product in a vacuum, but even then there are moments of unavoidable insanity. The last handful games that I’ve trawled through with a fine tooth comb and really scrutinised (rather than simply gazed over) included the 43-point loss in Oakland (aka “The Mo Speights Game”), Jeff Green’s 36-point abuse of the since-departed Evan Turner, and whatever the hell one could call the 26-point home loss to the depleted Atlanta Hawks (Brett Brown labelled it the “worst loss of the season,” at the time). It’s not enough that the aesthetics of a basketball game leave you to contemplate the value of pepper spray treatment, but I feel like we can comfortably call the 2014 Sixers the exception to that rule. Hey, if nothing else, there’s plenty of material and inspiration (desolation?) here to plug into one’s writing.
Goldwein: I didn’t see any good coming from those early-season wins, and looking back — as the Sixers battle with Milwaukee for the No. 1 spot — I still think they’d have been better off had a couple of those buzzer-beaters rimmed out. But at least the 2013 Sixers had me invested in something. The 2014 product is as bad as it gets, and though I agree with the tanking mission, watching the Sixers has become a chore.
Share: Andrew Wiggins’ high school mixtape is all the desensitizing I need.
Sunnergren: Percocet and wine coolers.
4. Should the Sixers shut down Michael Carter-Williams?
Crawford: Hmm… This notion is a bit of a cost/benefit scenario. “Michael Carter-Williams” the player could be richly rewarded by the rest, and the remnants of his once-flashy, somewhat-sturdy game rescued from the cancerous pastimes of this flaming wreck of a team. The identity and public perception of this franchise, though, could be catapulted further into disarray with such an explicit “We don’t mind that we’re approaching our longest losing streak in franchise history, excuse us while we unprovokedly remove our second-best piece from the already hopelessly unbalanced equation” maneuver. The organization has already been widely panned as is. I was in the audience with Tom when Stan Van Gundy condemned the front office’s blueprint as “disgraceful,” and there was a palpable edge to it. I’m not sure that this team can afford to take any more of a PR hit, in the way that banishing MCW may lead to.
Goldwein: Nay. Most reps are good reps, and though it looks like he’s regressed, I’d like to think he’s still learning a thing or two about the point guard position.
Neubeck: No. Development of talent has been the No. 1 goal for the franchise this season, and even though he’s playing with a skeleton cast, there’s still plenty for MCW to learn down the stretch. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure I could even tolerate watching this Sixers team, because you could argue there wouldn’t be a single man left standing who was in the team’s long-term plans. I’m totally on board with how they’ve gone about this, but if there’s zero interest in the players past this season, watching these blowouts would feel pretty pointless.
Share: No, but that doesn’t mean shutting him down wouldn’t make any sense. While learning is important and rookie year experience is integral in a player’s development, it’s reasonable to question whether he could pick up some bad habits in the midst of the carnage likely to commence over the last 20 games. While I think he should ultimately play it out and take advantage of the developmental resources at hand, it’s still within the realm of reason to weigh the pros and cons. and wonder how much he really has to benefit from playing 20 more games this season with this team.
Sunnergren: Nah. It’s not really possible for a team to get much worse than the Sixers are right now, and it might actually be really devastating for the city’s morale. Plus, who are you going to bench him for? A point guard who’s shooting below 39.5 percent?
5. Is Evan Turner fitting in with Indiana?
Crawford: One of the things about the whole Sixers/tanking/trade deadline discussion that baffled me was the enduring idea that Philly got little to no return for a valuable piece when they sent Evan Turner to Nap Town. Evan Turner is not a good basketball player. Not on a “tanking” team, and no measure of elite team defense should be able to disguise his unquestionable flaws as a player. This has been amply addressed throughout the season. Since landing in his new destination, Evan Turner has continued to do Evan Turner-like things (note: not good), and as such his per-36 measures are almost identical to what they were in Philadelphia this season. Turner has never amassed a league-average efficiency rating (PER of 12.5 thus far in Indy), and even his average shot distance (11.6 feet) mirrors his splendid Sixers chucking. The concept that his arrival in Indianapolis provides the Pacers with a form of “Lance Stephenson Lite,” is laughable. Don’t expect Turner’s postseason presence to be of any great consequence.
Goldwein: As a bench scorer, sure. He’s scoring at similar rates (11.3 points, 23.7 minutes) and his turnovers are down. That said, he’s more of a Danny Granger upgrade than a Lance Stephenson Lite.” If the Pacers were looking for anything more than a subpar defender who can occasionally carry a second unit, they’re not going to get it.
Neubeck: In the sense that he’s an upgrade to their bench, yes. This is the role Turner was always destined to play – solid bench guy on a good team – that never would have come to fruition here. I still think the sentiment that he’s the, “missing piece” is hilariously misguided, because he’s not going to be the guy that pushes them over the top of Miami. The Pacers have had their own struggles apart from Turner, like Roy Hibbert hovering around 40 percent shooting in 2014 or Paul George coming back to Earth a bit, that will have a bigger impact on their postseason chances than Turner’s contributions. For every game he shoots them into, he’ll shoot them out of another.
Share: I suppose, in the sense that he’s doing the bare minimum to fit in with an already stellar culture.
Sunnergren: I suppose, though Evan Turner fitting in with a winning culture is sort of like one of those Internet pictures of a bunny being raised by a litter of puppies, or whatever. Cute, but it isn’t natural and you know it won’t end well for the rabbit.