Mar 02 2015

This Starts In 2016

This Starts In 2016

Players on expiring contracts aren’t the golden tickets that they used to be. That’s because of the 2011 CBA, which added the stretch provision and the amnesty clause, and made it harder for general managers to make shortsighted long-term investments.

But these contracts still have value. That’ll be especially true come next February’s trade deadline, when teams are looking to shed salary so they can open cap space and participate in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.

So given that, why would the value-obsessed Sixers waive a player in JaVale McGee, who had a big, fat $12 million deal that would’ve been off the books after 2015-16? He’s the type of piece that could’ve helped, say, the New Orleans Pelicans get out of that Tyreke Evans contract and free up room for a high-profile free agent. Why pay him in full to go away?

Well, first off, McGee isn’t good. He’s tall and supposedly talented — maybe he’ll figure it out one day — but it was decided that he wasn’t worthy of minutes and a roster spot on one of the NBA’s worst teams.

There’s also the Sixers’ explanation: They wanted to make him eligible to join a postseason roster. While Sam Hinkie might not be all that concerned about McGee’s desires to play on a contender, the Sixers GM has incentive to build goodwill with McGee’s agent, B.J. Armstrong of the Wasserman Media Group. Jerami Grant, locked into a team-friendly deal, is a client of Armstrong, while the agents for Joel Embiid (Arn Tellem), Tony Wroten (Gregory Lawrence), and Arsalan Kazemi (Lawrence), all belong to the Wasserman Media Group, per DraftExpress. Get greedy with McGee, and there could be consequences down the road.

But the biggest reason (I suspect) the Sixers didn’t hold onto McGee is that they have zero intention of tying up any of their cap space beyond next season. Again, as unproductive as McGee is, he — err, his contract — could have had some value at the 2015 deadline. It might’ve even been worth a late first-round pick.

But for the Sixers to have gotten something back for McGee, they would’ve had to take on a player who was signed beyond 2015-16. Assuming they do in fact want to contend, that player would’ve limited their flexibility in 2016. That’s a real, cap-related cost.

The Sixers don’t have anything significant on their books after 2015-16. There’s the approximately $980K to Grant, the $1.02M to Robert Covington, the $4.83M team option for Embiid, the $4.38M TO to Nerlens Noel, the $1.02M TO to Hollis Thompson, the $980K to JaKarr Sampson, the $2.8M TO to Furkan Aldemir, the $1.22 qualifying option to Isaiah Canaan, and the $3.20M QO to Tony Wroten, per spotrac. That’s about $21M if they kept all of them.

Add in Dario Saric, the 2015 lottery pick, the cap hold for the 2016 first-rounder, the Miami pick, the OKC pick, the LAL pick, and all the second rounders, and they’ll still be hovering around $40M. Due to the new television deal, the cap is expected to increase to upwards of $90M in 2016-17. The Sixers could sign a big-name free agent this summer (Jimmy Butler, anyone?), and still have enough room for a max contract and more in 2016.

This is a good spot for the Sixers to be in. Durant is a longshot, but if he wants to go to an East Coast team that’s not the recently dysfunctional Wizards, and not run by a crazy billionaire, then the presumably up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers (located two hours away from his hometown) would be a logical option. He could even convince one of his star buddies to come along. The Sixers will have the space and the assets to make that happen.

But this isn’t about Durant. It’s about the Sixers being in position to acquire a player of (or approaching) Durant’s caliber. There aren’t many of those around, and when they are, it takes a lot of luck to bring them in. Take the Rockets, for example. They failed to get Dwight Howard the first time around and got screwed out of Pau Gasol. This summer they whiffed on Chris Bosh, who said he didn’t want the championship pressure. But they eventually hit. In 2012, they were able to take advantage of cheap Thunder ownership by dealing an assortment of prospects and draft picks for James Harden. In 2013, they signed Howard to a four-year, $88M deal after he left the Lakers.

On the flip side, there’s Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers. They did everything in their power to keep the best player in the world from returning to his hometown. But because they won a couple of lotteries, Dwyane Wade broke down, and LeBron loves Cleveland, the King came back. The lesson here is that star acquisition is a crapshoot, particularly in free agency.

But the Sixers are taking control of the things they can — like keeping their cap empty and their asset collection full — so that they can make a play at the next big name. Maybe it’ll be Durant. Maybe it’ll be DeMarcus Cousins. Maybe Anthony Davis. Maybe Russell Westbrook. Whoever the star is, the Sixers will want him. If that feeling is mutual, a bad long-term contract won’t get in the way of him landing in Philadelphia.

Mar 02 2015

Sixers Lose To Raptors; Everybody Plays Kinda Well

Toronto Raptors 114 Final
Recap | Box Score
103 Philadelphia 76ers
Henry Sims, C 23 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -8 +/-After missing his first game of the season against the Pacers on Sunday, Sims played his highest minute total since Jan. 21. He had a couple of strong takes around the basket but largely remained in the shadow of Nerlens Noel and Thomas Robinson.

Nerlens Noel, C 32 MIN | 7-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | -8 +/-Noel continued his recent trend of offensive efficiency, finishing 7-7 and shooting 75% from the line. Since the trade deadline his FG% is 49.2%, while also shooting 77.5% from the line.

Isaiah Canaan, PG 25 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -6 +/-With Robert Covington missing due to injury, Canaan remains the only outside scoring threat in the starting five. He filled that role nicely today, shooting 50% from three-point land, while also ending the night with zero turnovers.

Thomas Robinson, PF 15 MIN | 6-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +1 +/-Thomas Robinson showed off his range scoring on two jumpers from beyond 14 feet. In addition he went 4-4 from within two feet, scoring efficiently in only 15 minutes on the court.

Ish Smith, PG 27 MIN | 8-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | -1 +/-Ish Smith continued to solidify his spot on the roster, posting efficient scoring numbers and a high AST/TO ratio. His 19 points tonight are a career-high in scoring.

By the Numbers:

  • 32 – Number of assists on only 41 FGM.
  • 6 – Players with 10 or more points.

Tweet of the Game:

Parting Shots:

Although the plunging Raptors snapped their five-game losing streak, Philadelphia brought out several solid performances from a variety of players. The offense was uncharacteristically efficient tonight, shooting 52.6% from the floor and assisting on 78% of all field goals. A strong performance by DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors bench ultimately pummeled the Sixers, but the flow and efficiency of the offense leaves a positive mark. The Sixers will hope to build on tonight in Oklahoma City against the Thunder on Wednesday.

Mar 01 2015

Pacers Trounce Sixers, 94-74

Philadelphia 76ers 74 FinalRecap | Box Score 94 Indiana Pacers

 

Nerlens Noel, C 35 MIN | 2-8 FG | 6-6 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | -15 +/-Blessed with innate defensive instincts, it’s surprising how much Nerlens has grown offensively since the beginning of the new year. Brett Brown has frequently said that it’s his goal for Noel to shoot 60% percent from the charity stripe this season. Pop some champagne, Brett. Noel’s FT% now sits at 60.5%.

Jason Richardson, SG 26 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -8 +/-He hasn’t had overwhelming success, but it’s still great to see J-Rich being a competent basketball player after sitting out for two years. At 34, he feels about 50 when watching him play with the rest of this roster.

Thomas Robinson, PF 25 MIN | 4-11 FG | 1-3 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -3 +/-It still isn’t clear whether T-Rob can become Reggie Evans 2.0 with his Philadelphia revival or if his absurd rebounding rates are just the product of a small sample size. A little more self-awareness, like not trying to go coast-to-coast off a rebound like a young Charles Barkley, could help T-Rob in getting there.

Ish Smith, PG 25 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -7 +/-Is Ish Smith becoming a thing? He’s played more minutes than JaKarr once again. I don’t want to live in a world where Ish Smith is a thing.

Henry Sims, C DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | +/-Has T-Rob’s arrival marked the end of the Hank Sims era?

Brett Brown
I’m still shocked Brett Brown has the willpower to wake up in the morning. He must be on a Tony Wroten-level spiritually.

By the Numbers:

34.5% – The Sixers’ field-goal percentage tonight. Yuck.

12 – The amount of three-block games Noel has this season in his 55 games played.

Tweet of the Game:

Parting Shots: This was the team’s 12th-straight road loss, their longest streak of the season. As new players get shuffled in and out due to the Sixers’ trade deadline deals, the team is stuck in a similar adjustment period to the one they had in the month of November, as their -14.9 Net Rating for that month, per NBA Stats, is their worst of any full month this season. Once newcomers settled into Brett Brown’s defensive scheme, however, the team settled into a groove, relatively speaking, as their Net Rating increased each of the next three months. Is that sort of improvement going to come this year? There’s a little under two months left to find out.

Feb 28 2015

With The Help Of Some Fresh Faces, Sixers Down A Playoff Team

Washington Wizards 81 Final
Recap | Box Score
89 Philadelphia 76ers
Isaiah Canaan, PG 22 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -2 +/-Not a particularly overwhelming performance from the Canaanball tonight, but he nevertheless remained effective. Despite giving up nearly four inches to John Wall, Canaan’s pesky defending played a vital role in the All-Star’s 7-26 clunker.

Jason Richardson, SG 26 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +14 +/-Some may bemoan the idea of giving Richardson minutes over the likes of Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson, but Richardson’s ability to not just space the floor, but actually hit shots, is crucial to the development of this young crew. The 34 year-old may not have much left in the tank these days, but his mere presence on the court opens up the lane for more Nerlens post-ups and for Ish Smith to do whatever the hell it is that Ish Smith does.

Thomas Robinson, PF 13 MIN | 2-7 FG | 5-6 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | 0 +/-Despite a drab shooting performance and a handful of defensive lapses, the former Kansas standout was able to do what he does best: crash the damn boards. His touch near the hoop still looks a bit clumsy, but he still pulls out the occasional hyper-athletic effort (like this near-dunk in transition) that reminds you why he’s such an intriguing prospect.

Ish Smith, PG 26 MIN | 2-10 FG | 2-6 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +10 +/-Sometimes the numbers do lie. Ignore the 20 percent shooting rate, because Ish — yes, Ish Smith — put the team on his back and became a pick-and-roll maestro in the final stretch of the game. After some disenchanting hero ball acts over his last few games, he looked like, well, a John Wall Lite tonight, whipping the rock to the corners off his screens rather than forcing an errant shot at the rim. The NBA is a weird place sometimes.

JaVale McGee, C 11 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | +3 +/-Let’s quit while we’re ahead.
 

By the Numbers

78.9 - Washington’s offensive rating tonight.

3.5 - My personal over/under for how many days Randy Wittman has left as an NBA head coach.

Tweet of the Game


Parting Shots

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, this W can easily be taken as fool’s gold. Washington has played abominable basketball all throughout February, and the Sixers may have been merely salting the wound tonight. But one characteristic of these post-deadline Sixers remained constant in this contest: the team shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc. In fact, since the trade deadline, Philadelphia has shot the 3-ball at a rate of 38.5 percent — good for fourth in the league.

Yeah, I know.

I’ll make the obligatory note that a sample size of five games is probably far too small to base any realistic judgement off of, but this recent uptick in downtown efficiency may be no accident. Newcomers (well, sort of) Jason Richardson and Isaiah Canaan boast career percentages of 37.1 and 36.3 from 3-point land, respectively. While neither player is likely a major piece of the team’s long-term goals, the spacing they bring to the floor will be crucial to the evaluation of every player on the roster. Rather than being consumed by a plethora of banging bodies and reaching arms in the paint, players like Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant will now have the breathing room to showcase their skills down low — it’s worth noting that Noel put up a five-for-nine shooting performance tonight, despite having to face the monstrous Nene-Gortat defensive front line. This new-found spacing helps in the judgment of the Ish Smiths and Thomas Robinsons of the world, as well; Smith may never have had the opportunity to slash and kick in the lane as he did tonight if Robert Covington was the lone 3-point shooter on the floor.

The departures of Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels may be rightfully perceived as kicking the can down the road, but with the floor now open for the offense to properly operate, the building process may be moving along faster than ever.

Feb 25 2015

76ers Knocked Out Quickly By MCW And Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers 88 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Milwaukee Bucks
Robert Covington, SF 19 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | -8 +/-A beneficiary of garbage time, Covington’ s 13 points in 19 minutes and three 3-pointers were tempered by the fact that 10 of his 13 points and two of his 3-pointers came in the fourth quarter. Also in the fourth quarter, there was a minor scare when Covington took a hard fall after a foul on a dunk attempt. This one was over so early I’m just happy that Covington, and every other 76er came out of it all unscathed.

Isaiah Canaan, PG 33 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 11 PTS | -7 +/-Not a very strong performance from Canaan. He was part of a starting unit that struggled with Milwaukee’s perimeter length. While his final stat line doesn’t look awful, like Covington, many of Canaan’s points came in true garbage time. Then again, over half this game was garbage time so it’s difficult to truly give context to any of the performances.

Jason Richardson, SG 25 MIN | 6-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +1 +/-Richardson looked spry, impressive, and was willing to fight to avoid utter collective embarrassment for he and his teammates Tonight marked the most minutes Richardson has played since returning post All-Star break and doubled as his best performance of the year. If this team does manage to win any games down the stretch it is likely that he will be a big part of those victories.

Thomas Robinson, PF 13 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-3 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -5 +/-T-Rob’s first game as a 76er was solid given the circumstances—he played the same day he joined the team and the team was out of it really before he even checked in. Instant, knee-jerk analysis of T-Rob is that you can see why Hinkie was intrigued and also why he hasn’t quite stuck anywhere despite his high draft status. Robinson possesses a true NBA skill: rebounding. But he also has holes in his game offensively as a passer and scorer and his size is underwhelming. He is worth watching moving forward and being on this 76ers team will give him every opportunity to prove he belongs in an NBA rotation.

MIchael Carter-Williams, PG 18 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +8 +/-

MCW came out strong to start the game. Whether it was excitement, a desire to send a message to the 76ers front office, or just the fact that he finally got to go against the worst (non-Knicks) team in the NBA, he was instrumental to the Bucks early success, especially on defense and in the fast break. It’s difficult to judge him by his stat line or anything that happened beyond the first quarter because the game was over early. Ultimately, tonight likely felt great for MCW. Even if he harbors little ill will to the 76ers, he must be happy to have the chance to be on the other side of a night like this.

By the Numbers: 32 The Bucks scored 32 in the second quarter, the 76ers scored 32 in the first half.

Tweet of the Game: 

Parting Shots:
These ones pop up from time to time—games where you’re reminded how truly incomplete and raw this team is even if certain players are intriguing as long term development projects. Milwaukee’s length on defense was able to disrupt the perimeter offense early, and convert the massive amount of 1st half turnovers into easy baskets. By the time the 76ers had regrouped and found a rhythm in the fourth quarter it was long over. The Bucks had also probably stopped caring at that point.
The story that should have been big was MCW. This game should have been “The MCW Game”, but it didn’t quite feel that way. Maybe it was because the game happened so quickly after the trade—without any distance there wasn’t any nostalgia. Or maybe it was just a terrible game that was difficult to watch.

Feb 24 2015

Woj: Sixers Claim Thomas Robinson Off Waivers

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Sixers have put in a last-second claim on 2012 fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson and the $3,678,360 remaining on his contract. The Kansas product is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer after his option was declined by Portland, prior to his trade to the Nuggets, who waived him at his request.

It seemed, as Woj reported, as if Robinson was set to join Brooklyn after clearing waivers — only Philly, Atlanta, Orlando, Phoenix and Milwaukee had the cap space to claim him outright.

Robinson’s offensive game hasn’t translated at the pro level, which certainly has contributed to his inability to find traction in the league (the Sixers will be the fourth team he plays for in three seasons). But his rebounding has been a glimmer of hope. Last season in Portland with the NBA’s best rebounding squad (46.4 rebounds per game), he led the team in Total Rebounding Percentage at 18.9 in 12.5 minutes per game. The ability looks like it’s there. He may just be a player who needs more playing time to find his footing in the league – after all, over the course of his career, he’s only played 13.5 minutes per night. He’ll find no shortage of those in Philly.

T-Rob’s contract situation is a bit trickier than what we usually see, since young players on rookie scale deals are generally very valuable. But Portland declined his option, so he’s now set to be an unrestricted free agent. Since Philly claimed him, they claimed his Early Bird rights as well, but that’s mostly irrelevant — the Sixers will have loads of cap space anyway, and his max will be no higher than what the rookie scale could’ve paid him next season, which by my calculations, would be ~$4.7 million (26.7 percent increase over third year option salary).

The claiming of Robinson, which, by the way, helps the Sixers meet the (inconsequential) salary floor, appears to be a low-risk move on the harsh expedition for NBA talent. Wojnarowski says the “initial plan is to keep Robinson and take a look at him in the short-term,” so we’ll see how it goes. There’s no reason he shouldn’t get major minutes at the four right off the bat.

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