Jul 18 2014

Should the Sixers Make An Offer to Eric Bledsoe?

Last month, Bryan outlined a strategy that a cap-savvy/healthy team like the Sixers could utilize in restricted free agency: offering a hefty contract in the hopes of either landing a borderline all-star, or as a consolation prize, driving up his price for a competitor.

As we’ve seen with the Mavericks signing of Chandler Parsons (three years, $46 million) and the Hornets attempt to pry away Gordon Hayward from the Jazz (4/63), the restricted free-agency market is a dicey game. The Sixers, in spite of their cap room, have chosen to avoid it thus far, but there are still a few RFAs, including Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe, that they could go after. The latter is reportedly far apart in contract talks with Phoenix and Philly, with more than $30 million in cap room, is in a unique position to make a play for the talented combo-guard.

So, the Sixers are the only team not from Phoenix with the flexibility to jump in and make Ryan McDonough sweat.

This puts the Suns in a predicament. While Bledsoe is a dynamic, two-way player, a max contract could restrict their spending in the near- and possibly long-term.1 Losing Bledsoe would hurt, but with Goran Dragic and the newly acquired Isaiah Thomas already in the backcourt they have replacements. The Suns proved last year that they could get by without Bledsoe, going 20-19 in the competitive Western Conference while their second-leading scorer sat out with shin and knee injuries.

The Sixers, meanwhile, would be in a better position to take on Bledsoe’s max without inhibiting their long-term plans. In the next year or two, they’d lose some of their coveted flexibility, but would still possess more than enough cap space to facilitate trades and do Hinkie things. (Keep in mind that with a new TV deal kicking in, the cap is expected to raise as high as $80 million, something that the Suns, Sixers and Bledsoe are keenly aware of. In other words, a max contract this summer could very well be a bargain two years from now.)

The fit could be interesting too. The Sixers were rumored to have spoken to Exum about running a two-point guard lineup, and Bledsoe is coming from the same double-alpha dog system in Phoenix. A lineup that includes Bledsoe, MCW, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid has all the makings of a lock-down defense.

There are cons as well. For one, he’s injury prone; he’s missed 87 games over the past three seasons. While his defense is strong, his offense is questionable. He’s turnover prone (3.3 a game last season) and he’s a poor, albeit improving shooter, as he converted about 36 percent of his 140 three-point attempts last season to up his career rate to just below 33 percent. Not exactly the ideal lights-out off-ball guard to place next to MCW and the twin towers, if and when they take the floor.

That said, fit and injury history certainly haven’t scared Hinkie off before, and 24 year-old talents like Bledsoe don’t come along often. He’s an intriguing option, one to keep in mind while his camp and Phoenix’s continue their negotiations.

1. ShamSports has Phoenix with $34,878,911 on the books for next season, plus the cap holds for Bledsoe, the newly drafted Tyler Ennis, restricted free agent PJ Tucker and Leandro Barbosa. Throw in max money for Bledsoe, Tucker’s new three-year. $16.5 million contract, Ennis’ deal for what is likely to be 120 percent of the rookie scale and whatever happens to Barbosa and Phoenix only has around $5 million to add anyone else this season to upgrade their fringe playoff team in the loaded West.

Jul 15 2014

The Sixers’ Bottomless Pit of Second-Round Picks and C-List Prospects

“Leave it to 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie, a former Houston Rockets front-office star, to find the diamonds in the rough.” – Fred Katz for The Washington Post

In his 14 months with the Sixers, GM Sam Hinkie has shown an unprecedented willingness to trade for future picks. As a result of his dealings, Philly ended up with five second-rounders in the 2014 draft: K.J. McDaniels (No. 32), Jerami Grant (No. 39), Pierre Jackson (in a trade for Russ Smith, the 47th overall pick), Vasijile Micic (No. 52, who will reportedly stay overseas in 2014-15) and Jordan McRae (No. 58).

It’s entirely possible that most, if not all of these rookies are out of the league in a few years. According to Roland Beech’s analysis for 82games.com, the average second-round pick isn’t expected to be more than a deep bench player. On Basketball-Reference.com, Justin Kubatko plotted the expected win shares for each draft pick over the first four years of their respective careers; all second-rounders were expected to produce fewer than five win shares over that four-year span1.

But the way that Hinkie acquired all these 2014 picks—and other future assets—might be more indicative of the Sixers’ future than how McDaniels, Grant, Jackson, Micic and McRae turn out2.

Below is a chart summarizing/simplifying all of Philly’s trades since Hinkie took over in May 2013; the second-round picks are bolded and the ex-Sixers are italicized. (See the footnotes below for additional details.)

Traded Received
Jrue Holiday, 42nd pick 2013 (Pierre Jackson)3 Nerlens Noel (6, 2013) Dario Saric (12, 2014) PHL 2017 1st (via ORL) ORL 2015 2nd
Glen Rice (35, 2013) Arsalan Kazemi (54, 2013) Pierre Jackson** (42, 2013) Jordan McRae (58, 2014) Cash
*2014 2nd (P31-55) Furkan Aldemir** Royce White
*2014 2nd (P31-50, 56-60) Tony Wroten
*2014 2nd (P31-40, 46-60)
Byron Mullens LAC 2018 2nd
*2014 2nd (P31-45, 51-60) Eric Maynor WAS 2015 2nd DEN 2016 2nd
Spencer Hawes Jerami Grant (39, 2014) Vasilije Micic (52, 2014) Henry Sims Earl Clark
Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen 2015 2nd (IND, via GSW) Danny Granger

To summarize: Hinkie traded Holiday, Rice (35th, 2013), Hawes, Turner, and Allen. He turned them into Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric, a 2017 1st, Wroten, Sims, Grant, Kazemi, Micic, McRae, Aldemir, FIVE future second-round picks, and cash.

Or put it this way: the Sixers lost an average starting point guard, a second-rounder, three expiring contracts, and pride. They gained a top-tier rookie, a No. 12 overall pick, their own 2017 first-rounder (which was originally traded to Orlando in the four-team Dwight Howard megadeal), and a mystery 12-pack of C-list prospects. Even accounting for the low success rate of second-round picks, that’s a massive expected return on a relatively small investment.

For what it’s worth, analysts gave the Sixers favorable reviews for their 2014 second-round haul, with Hinkie taking fliers on lengthy prospects whose physical gifts could help them carve out productive NBA careers. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford had McDaniels as his 24th-ranked prospect on his Big Board; landing him at 32 could prove to be an absolute heist. NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper highlighted McDaniels, who boasts a 6’11.25″ wingspan despite only being 6’6″, as one of his second-round picks with “the best chance to last” in the NBA, calling him a “human stat sheet.”

Grant (No. 34 on Ford’s Big Board) can’t shoot worth a lick right now—he went 6-of-20 from downtown during his two years at Syracuse—but it’s difficult not to be enamored with a 6’7.75″ prospect who touts a 7’2.75″ wingspan. His freakish length and athleticism may fit nicely in Brett Brown’s up-tempo style of play.

McRae, who stands 6’5.25″ with a 7’0.50″ wingspan, is an equally rangy prospect who could be nightmarish on defense next to Michael Carter-Williams. Micic, like MCW, is a 6’6″ point guard. And Jackson, who injured his Achilles tendon during the first game of Orlando Summer League last week and could miss the entire 2014-15 season, lit up the D-League last year. He averaged 29.1 points per game (second only to Manny Harris) and dropped a D-League-record 58 points against the Texas Legends on Feb. 4.

On paper, these rookies look good. But that’s besides the point. In the second round, even the savviest GMs are blindly throwing darts at a dartboard and hoping one sticks. The good news for the Sixers is that they have more ammo than their competitors. They have three second-rounders in 2015 (excluding their own5) and more are likely on the way. Give anyone enough throws, and eventually they’ll hit the target.

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1. For reference’s sake, Thaddeus Young, the 12th overall pick in 2007, produced 4.5 win shares as a rookie, per Basketball-Reference.com.

2. All transaction data via ProSportsTransactions.com.

3. As you can see, Hinkie quickly forged his reputation as a trade junkie on the night of the 2013 draft. He traded Jrue Holiday for the No. 6 pick (Nerlens Noel) and a top-10-protected 2014 first-round pick; sent Glen Rice Jr. (No. 35) to the Wizards for the rights to Nate Wolters (No. 38) and Arsalan Kazemi (No. 54); moved Wolters to Milwaukee for Ricky Ledo and the Bucks’ 2014 second-rounder (Nemanja Dangubić, who turned into Jordan McRae and cash); then sent Ledo to Dallas for another 2014 second-rounder (Russ Smith, who turned into Pierre Jackson).

4. Hinkie continued that madness on the day of the trade deadline. He sent Spencer Hawes to the Cavaliers for two 2014 second-rounders (Cleveland’s and Memphis’), Earl Clark and Henry Sims;  absorbed Byron Mullens for a 2018 second-rounder from the Clippers; took on Eric Maynor in a three-team trade for two additional second-rounders (a 2015 from New Orleans and a 2016 from Denver); and capped off the day by acquiring a 2015 second-round pick of Golden State’s (from Indiana) for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen.

5. Assuming they miss the playoffs, the Sixers’ 2015 and ’16 second round picks belong to Boston (via Miami) as part of the Arnett Moultrie trade.

* Protections were put in place to ensure the Sixers would keep these second-round picks.

** Jackson and Aldemir were second-round picks, but Hinkie acquired them after they were drafted. Hence why they’re not in bold.

Jul 11 2014

LeBron to Cleveland … Lin to Philly? (Update: No)

Update: Jeremy Lin to the Lakers, and Bosh back to Miami.

LeBron is going back to Cleveland, which means all sorts of crazy shit is about to go down. Starting with …

Chris Bosh possibly heading to Houston. If that happens, Daryl Morey will have to do whatever he can to clear cap space, which means Jeremy Lin and his $14.89 million contract (and $8.37 million cap hold) are probably headed elsewhere. Perhaps to Philadelphia.

As Liberty Ballers’ Jake Pavorsky reported a few days ago, the Rockets and Sixers have agreed in principle to a deal that would send Lin, and at least one first-rounder to Philly, in exchange for a bag of chips. Or protected second-round pick.

For what it’s worth, I think Lin would actually be a half-decent fit with the Sixers. He can score, he can handle the ball, and, well, that alone puts him ahead of most of the players currently on the roster. Details are still coming on the trade that may or may not happen (is it Houston’s first round pick? Is it New Orleans’? Is there another prospect involved). Either way, expect the Sixers to milk a first-rounder (or two) out of one of these teams that are desperate to shed salary.

Jul 03 2014

Sixers Thinking Globally

“[Basketball] is a global sport. The game’s played all over the world, and a lot of places, even better than it’s played here. I think our job is to look around and try to find the best talent we can anywhere in the world.” – Sam Hinkie

Though it may take years for the Sixers to reap the rewards, their 2014 draft haul was unprecedented.

From 1950 through 2013, the franchise drafted a grand total of seven internationally based players: Tornike Shengelia (No. 54, 2012), Petteri Koponen (No. 30, 2007), Kyrylo Fesenko (No. 38, 2007), Thabo Sefolosha (No. 13, 2006), Paccelis Morlende (No. 50, 2003), Jiri Welsch (No. 16, 2002) and Marko Milic (No. 33, 1997). Only one of those seven players, Milic, remained on the team past draft night.

Last Thursday, the Sixers drafted two international players—Dario Saric and Vasilije Micic—both of whom survived draft night without being traded. Throw in the 2013 draft-night acquisition of Arsalan Kazemi and last summer’s trade for Furkan Aldemir, perhaps the true prize in the Royce White deal, and it’s clear that Philly’s days of ignoring non-U.S. prospects have come to a swift and not-so-bitter end.

Without having spent time in the Sixers organization, it’s hard to know how much time or how many resources the franchise devoted to international scouting under past regimes. But since Sam Hinkie took over as GM last May (and hired Brett Brown1) the Sixers have seemingly taken a more global approach in acquiring talent. Here’s what Hinkie told reporters about Saric in his post-draft press conference:

Many of our people have been around him, have coached him over the years, many of our staff have. We’ve all flown around the world to see him. Several of our staff, including me, was at his first-ever game in Zagareb, which was a sight to behold in itself, the sort of fanfare with him being there in that game and the way he played that night.

During a draft-week edition of Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report podcast, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford revealed that the Sixers, via Brown’s Australian connections, had obtained tapes of 36 of Dante Exum’s high school games. That gave them a significant leg up in terms of scouting, and—if the rumors leading up to the draft are to be believed (perhaps they shouldn’t be)—had the squad seriously considering trading Michael Carter-Williams for another top-10 pick and drafting Exum third overall. Whether or not they they were truly interested in the Australian prospect, the Sixers had an informational advantage because Brown and Hinkie did their homework.

There’s no guarantee that Saric, Micic, Kazemi, Aldemir, or any other international prospect turn into the next Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili. The draft is a crapshoot, no matter where a player is from. By widely expanding the scope of players under serious consideration, though, Hinkie and Co. are upping their chances of fulfilling the mission they set out for themselves—finding the best talent they can anywhere in the world.

1. Brown spent over a decade coaching in Australia’s National Basketball League and served as the head coach of the Australian men’s national basketball team from 2009-12. He also coached alongside Gregg Popovich, a known international basketball supporter, for a decade in San Antonio before coming over to Philly.

Jun 27 2014

Remembering the Wiggins Rumors

End of night Wojbomb: the trade-up-for-Andrew-Wiggins rumors were bullshit.

As it turns out, Philadelphia never made a run at Cleveland’s No. 1 overall pick, league sources tell Yahoo.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2014

Wait … what? After all that, and nothing? Well, actually, it kinda makes sense.

Seems a little much, right?

Wtf?

Great.

Re: Reports that Cavs are asking for 3, 10 & 32 from Sixers for No. 1. If Sixers tanked all year for Wiggins, they have to say yes, right?

— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 26, 2014

So here’s where we all went wrong. People (Hoop76, partially included) assumed that Wiggins was the Sixers’ no. 1 target, because all the reports have been indicating that. Maybe the unnamed sources were right, and that the Sixers loved Wiggins. We’ll never know. But that doesn’t mean they tanked for him exclusively. Nor does that mean they’d sell the farm for him.

The point of the tank was to get a shot at a game-changing young player that’ll provide cheap labor for the next few years, and hopefully hang around a few more after that. In Embiid, and Dario Saric, the Sixers might’ve come away with two of those. The “3 + 10 + 32 (+ Thad and/or another first rounder)” rumors seem ridiculous in hindsight, but given that this is a team that’s all about buying low, selling high, and gathering assets, they didn’t really add up in the first place.

This was fun. Three final takeaways.. 1) the Cavs (or someone) put out a ton of smoke, 2) Hinkie won’t bend, and 3) No one on draft nights knows what Hinkie is really up to. Heck, not even Woj.

Jun 27 2014

Elfrid Payton’s 15 Minutes of Sixers

Elfrid Payton’s press conference began like all the others; the questions were part generic, part personal, part quote baiting. How does it feel to go to your favorite player’s (Allen Iverson) team. How do you think you’ll fit in alongside Michael Carter-Williams? What can you bring to the 76ers? Bleh Blah Bluh. Payton said all the right things about the Sixers and about Philadelphia. I was kinda starting to like him.

But then two minutes in, this happened:

“Elfrid. Steve Kyler, from Basketball Insiders. “There’s reports you’re going to be traded to Orlando Magic, how does it feel to go to Orlando?”

Payton laughed for a second.

“Uhh, I don’t know, I guess that would be nice too. Anything is a blessing, man.”

It was my favorite moment of the draft. Awkward as hell, sure; here’s a 20-year-old who just 30 minutes earlier, had thought he’d be living in Philadelphia for the next four years. Then, out of nowhere, he’s gone. Off to Orlando. But it wasn’t all that surprising.

Elfrid on the Sixers didn’t make sense. In college, per Draft Express, he was a high-usage player that couldn’t hit threes; he might turn into a good player, though he didn’t seem like a fit alongside Michael Carter-Williams, and he didn’t have the upside to justify that. With Hinkie’s asset exchange program, everybody is fair game.

So Hinkie dealt Payton to Orlando in exchange for Dario Saric (12th pick), a protected 2017 first rounder (Philly’s from the Bynum trade) and a second rounder. A great trade, especially if Saric opts out of his three-year contract by next season. And, hey, Payton said he’s cool with Orlando too. Everybody wins.

That was Hinkie’s only major deal of the night; but you can bet he’ll be making more calls this summer. Nobody is safe. Everyone’s a trade chip.

Elfrid Payton hat struggle on Twitpic
(GIF via Ben Golliver)

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