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.
-Goldwein

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.

-Dimoff

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.

-Patterson

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.

-Nemcik

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.

-Stone

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.

-Smolen

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.)
-Toporek

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

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.

-Dimoff

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.

-Patterson

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.

-Nemcik

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.

-Stone

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.

-Smolen

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.
-Toporek

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.

-Goldwein

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?

-Dimoff

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.

-Patterson

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.

-Nemcik

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.

-Stone

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.

-Smolen

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.

-Toporek

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.

-Goldwein

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.

-Dimoff

Jun 21 2016

Reports: Embiid Cleared to Scrimmage, Simmons Going No. 1

With two days to go until Thursday’s draft, Tuesday provided clarity regarding the Sixers’ future moving forward.

News broke last week that presumptive No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was refusing to work out for the Sixers (or any other team), which led to a hot-take-pocalypse suggesting he was trying to force his way to the Los Angeles Lakers. That narrative took a nosedive into oblivion Tuesday morning, as Simmons privately worked out for the Sixers in Philadelphia, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported there was “little chance” that Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, would have agreed to the workout unless the Sixers had promised to take the LSU forward first overall.

Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com confirmed those suspicions shortly thereafter:

Simmons didn’t waste much time winning over fans of his soon-to-be team.

 

Trust the process

A photo posted by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Just as the Simmons high began wearing off, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski gave Sixers fans another hit of positive news:

According to Woj, Embiid “has been impressive in his non-contact workouts in recent weeks at the 76ers’ facility, sources said, and the soundness of his problematic right foot should continue to allow him to begin preparations for next season.”

Embiid confirmed Wojnarowski’s report Tuesday afternoon:

Woj reported Embiid is “expected to travel to Las Vegas” for summer league “only to practice with the team,” as the Sixers aren’t planning on allowing him to participate in games. That meshes with what team president Bryan Colangelo told reporters last week:

It’s the question of the day so let me just put it to rest: he will not play summer league basketball. … What he will do is join the team in Las Vegas, be with our coaches, be around that team environment again, which is very important that we start to acclimate him to being in that team environment again. So he’ll do some controlled scrimmaging, some controlled situations, drill work with everybody in Las Vegas.

Though it’s mildly disappointing that Embiid won’t make his debut in a Sixers uniform until this fall, it makes perfect sense for the team to tread extra cautiously with him. There’s no sense in risking another setback in a meaningless summer league game, despite the desire to whet fans’ appetite.

With the No. 1 pick debate reportedly put to rest and Embiid continuing to progress toward making his NBA debut, the focus now turns to Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. While speaking with reporters Tuesday, Colangelo said the Sixers were “still working” on resolving their frontcourt logjam “every day,” adding, “We’re not going to make a bad deal so we’re going to do everything we can to make the right choice if we decide to ultimately move one. We’ll try to make the right deal for the organization.”

Both Okafor and Noel have surfaced in trade rumors in recent days, with both having been linked to the Boston Celtics. CSNNE.com’s Gary Tanguay reported Monday that trade talks between the Sixers and Celtics was heating up, as “Philly really wants [Providence point guard Kris] Dunn.” Tanguay added that Okafor was involved in those discussions. HoopsCritic.com’s Brian Geltzeiler, meanwhile, reported Tuesday that Noel is the “Celtics’ trade target.”

The odds remain strong that either Okafor or Noel will be on a different team come Friday morning, particularly if the Sixers do go ahead and choose Simmons at No. 1 overall. Brace yourself for an eventful next two days.

Jun 10 2016

‘Chasing Perfection’ While Chasing Pingpong Balls

As much as it makes Doug Collins want to blow his brains out, the NBA has entered the era of Big Data. Gone are the days where basic counting statistics take precedence over shooting efficiency, per-possession averages and defensive metrics.

As Andy Glockner notes in his new book, Chasing Perfection, the league’s analytics revolution is hardly limited to players’ on-court output. In particular, teams across the Association are placing an increased emphasis on every aspect of player development and wellness, something which former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie prioritized during his three-year tenure.

In speaking with Glockner, Dr. Marcus Elliott, the founder and director of P3 (the Peak Performance Project), described the “idea of trying to perfect athletes in the NBA” as “the biggest sort of imperfect market that there is in basketball still, this piece that hasn’t been optimized yet.”

“They went from having no real training culture to saying this is maybe the most important piece that we have,” he added. “They’ve gone from zero to sixty in like three seconds.”

chasing perfection

Look no further than the Hinkie-era Sixers for an example of a franchise that placed an organization-wide focus on sports science. Immediately upon coming into power, Hinkie had every player wear a “fatigue-tracking GPS device” at practice, per ESPN’s Pablo Torre, and later began to monitor hydration and sleep, too.

After Joel Embiid underwent his second foot surgery in as many years, the team sent him to the Aspetar facility in Doha, Qatar—twice—as part of his rehabilitation process. Within the past year, the Sixers rounded out their training staff by hiring David T. Martin of the Australian Institute of Sport as their director of performance research and development and added former University of Texas strength and conditioning coach Todd Martin as their head of strength and conditioning.

That well-rounded focus on player health and development is especially critical given the Sixers’ heavy reliance on young players, if Chasing Perfection is any indication. Dr. Michael Clark, who helped create the Phoenix Suns’ widely renowned training program, explained to Glockner why sports science and preventative maintenance could be especially important to a franchise such as Philadelphia.

“In Clark’s opinion, the young players he has seen in the past five to ten years are showing worse and worse movement,” Glockner wrote. “Today’s budding basketball talents are building more strength and weight earlier in their growing process while also working on their basketball-specific skills, but Clark believes they are not doing enough proper stretching or figuring out the efficient way to move or jump.”

Adam Hewitt, P3’s assistant general manager, concurred with Clark. According to Glockner, “among the most surprising things they see in their data capture is ‘how untrained’ the major-college players are when they are tested. Their muscles are not developed symmetrically and they have dangerous movements that are putting strain on their joints and ligaments.”

By staying attuned to the strain players are putting on their muscles and joints, the Sixers are effectively protecting their investments as best as possible. While fluke injuries aren’t entirely avoidable—see: Paul George snapping his leg under a stanchion—Clark “believes 75 percent of all muscle-related injuries are preventable through proper training, monitoring, and treatment,” according to Glockner.

(Side note: There are several potential ethical issues—employer conflict of interest, privacy, etc.—attached to such use of player data, and there could be some Orwellian consequences, as discussed in this ESPN The Magazine piece by Torre and Tom Haberstroh.)

Those interested in how analytics are radically reshaping every facet of the NBA should check out Chasing Perfection. And if you’re a masochist who still isn’t over Hinkie’s fall from grace in Philadelphia, the following anecdote may entice you to chug the nearest bottle of cyanide (emphasis mine):

Given the chance to comment on the record, Hinkie predictably declined, but he was happy to chat for a couple of minutes. He even chuckled when I compared the 76ers’ rebuild to the famous internet story ‘One Red Paperclip,’ where a guy started with said paperclip and kept bartering for something else that had slightly more value, ultimately ending up with a fully paid-for house.

After two seasons of designed losing, the 76ers had traded up from a paperclip to something akin to a toaster, but with Hinkie’s moxie, the assets he has collected, and the patience of ownership that supports this controversial path, he may someday get that house. There’s no guarantee it will have a roof or indoor plumbing, but whatever it ends up looking like, you can be sure that the neighbors will be talking about it.

Don’t say you weren’t forewarned.

May 18 2016

5-on-5: Who Do You Choose at No. 1?

On Tuesday evening, the lottery gods smiled upon Philadelphia, bestowing the No. 1 overall pick upon the Sixers. After a night of jubilant celebration, the Hoop76 crew got together to weigh in the lottery aftermath.

1. Soooo… Simmons or Ingram?

Bryan Toporek (@btoporek): Although Brandon Ingram is undeniably the better fit with the current roster, I’m going with Simmons here. The value of having that type of offensive creator at the 4 outweighs the concerns about his nonexistent jumper and his questionable attitude. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Brett Brown has long-lasting ties to the Simmons family, as USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach noted Tuesday, which should help the team vet any qualms about perceived issues with his intangibles. The Sixers can do no real wrong here — Ingram would be awesome, too — but I’m leaning Simmons slightly as of now. This is subject to change about 15,081,372 times between now and draft night, though.

Xylon Dimoff (@xylondimoff): Simmons is the more talented player at this point, and even though I’m sure I’ll change my mind countless times between now and June 23rd, I’m going Ingram. In the same way that Jahlil Okafor may be more individually talented than Kristaps Porzingis, Simmons’ flaws (shooting) provide both a team and league-wide fit issue that make me think twice. Sure, he could one day learn to shoot, but in the same mold as Jah’s defense, I’m not sure I feel like waiting around to see if that dream comes true. I know the mantra has been relentlessly “BPA or die” over the last few years, but that’s a reckless way of building a team when the talent gap between prospects is so small. Give me the guy who should fit seamlessly into not only this team, but also his position.

Eric Goldwein (@ericgoldwein): How about option C: Trade dow– No, yeah, I’m going with Simmons, and I couldn’t be less certain. Those that follow closely say he has the higher upside. I’m not sure how we can draw that conclusion — what exactly is “upside” anyway? — but Simmons seems to have the body and court vision to become a superstar.

That said, Ingram has plenty of tools too, and his shots are worth 1.5x more than Simmons’. And while I don’t think they should worry about fit, there are real costs in relying on future transactions to balance the roster. Selecting Ingram would curb some of the risk associated with having a frontcourt-heavy team.

Marc Nemcik (@marcnemcik): Brandon Ingram. I have been enamored with Ben Simmons as a player for a couple of years, but the talent gap does not outweigh both pre-draft concerns and roster fit. I don’t place too much value on the question marks coming out of LSU, but it seems very clear that Simmons is set on forcing his way to Los Angeles. Simmons could make it very difficult on the Sixers in regards to working out for them. Ingram is a tremendous shooter and has the competitive edge that makes up for marginal talent differences.

2. How bummed are you not to get the Lakers’ pick?

Toporek: I’d be much more bummed if the Sixers didn’t get No. 1. I’m not thrilled that the Lakers get to pick up the sloppy seconds of the Simmons-Ingram debate, seeing as they still owe a top-three-protected first-round pick to the Sixers next summer. A core of Ingram or Simmons, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle could jump up the Western Conference standings with the addition of an impact free agent or two. That said, next year’s draft class is supposedly far deeper than this one, so even a pick in the 6-8 range could be better than No. 4 in 2016. And who knows? Maybe the pressure to win now forces the Lakers’ front office into some boneheaded moves that backfire magnificently, leading to No. 4 next year?

Dimoff: I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed to not bring home a little extra to accompany our shiny new no. 1 pick, but this scenario seems by all accounts favorable. People who know way more about teenage basketball players than I claim that next year’s draft already looks to be a real banger, and I’m not exactly shaking in my boots that Los Angeles will take a huge leap by way of a rookie Coach Walton, potentially 20 DeMar DeRozan shots per game, and the Lakers youngins fighting off Byron Scott PTSD.

Goldwein: Not at all. The Sixers suddenly have a lot of young players, and not a lot of minutes to go around. There’s not a consensus can’t-miss prospect that would’ve been left at four or five, and it’s not as if the pick disappears. A top-3 protected 2017 1st or an unprotected 2018 1st is a worthy consolation prize.

Nemcik: I was practically convinced that Los Angeles or Boston would jump Philadelphia to snag the top pick. Finally having the first pick is sufficient enough for me. Knowing that the Lakers will predictably provide the Sixers with a great selection in 2017 or 2018 also helps.

3. If the Celtics are shopping No. 3, what would you give up for it?

Toporek: I’d seriously consider moving Okafor for No. 3 straight up. If they’d add either Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley or Jae Crowder with No. 3 for Okafor, I would make that deal in 0.1 seconds. If they wanted Nerlens Noel, I’d insist on either Smart or Crowder + No. 3. And if they wanted Joel Embiid, I’d tell them to dunk their heads into the Charles River like they were crates of tea during the Revolutionary War.

Dimoff: With Bryan (Toporek, never Colangelo) here on all counts. The Jah-for-3 straight-up deal presents a bit of flawed logic in that Colangelo would be giving up a big in Okafor for presumably another in the third pick (Dragan Bender), but Bender’s skillset presents an easier fit with either of BenGram whereas keeping Jah in place requires to further move some parts around.

Goldwein: This all depends on what the Sixers think of the available prospects. If they’re intrigued by any of the guards — Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray? — then I’d consider giving up Noel and change (OKC 1st, etc.). Would Boston be up for that? Doubt it, but I don’t see another team bringing much more to the table. And that’s the beauty of having all the assets.

Nemcik: The Celtics are likely looking at a veteran player in return for their pick. If they are nonetheless interested in one of the Sixers bigs, I’d deal either Noel or Okafor as the centerpiece of a trade. Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray are satisfying results in that scenario. Dragan Bender is excellent, but there isn’t much of a point in pursuing that.

4. Is this a validation of The Process?

Toporek: Yes and no. Obviously, winning the No. 1 pick is a validation of the theory that with enough cracks near the top of the lottery, the odds will eventually be in your favor. So, in that sense, yes, Hinkie’s approach looks far better right now than it would had the Sixers fallen to third or fourth on Tuesday. That said… cashing in on a 26.9 percent chance isn’t undeniable proof that the Process supporters were right all along. The odds were still significantly in favor of the Sixers falling. If anything, the focus shouldn’t be on the upper echelon of possibilities — it’s the fact that no matter what, the Sixers weren’t sinking below No. 4 by virtue of having the worst record. Winning the No. 1 pick is great, but being virtually guaranteed a top-five pick three years running is even better.

Dimoff: No, because if you needed this as validation, then you weren’t paying close enough attention. The Process was about giving yourself the best possible chance to achieve your goal — in this case, the no. 1 pick — and whether tonight brought us the first or fourth pick, the Sixers achieved those chances either way. Long live Sam Hinkie (who is still totally alive, by the way).

Goldwein: NO. Sam Hinkie tried to put the Sixers in position to acquire elite talent by exploiting the NBA’s perverse lottery system and acquiring a ton of ping pong balls. Hitting the jackpot on the third spin says nothing about his strategy. Neither did missing last year’s No. 1 (Karl-Anthony Towns) or Andrew Wiggins the year before.

Nemcik: No. The top pick is one of the accomplishments of The Process, not a validation of an entire philosophy. The goal was always to be in the optimal position for this outcome to occur. Process enthusiasts never needed any validation.

5. Summarize your reaction to lottery night in one GIF.

Toporek:

RonSwansonDancing

Dimoff:

 Beyonce

Goldwein: Bending the rules, but here’s a video:


Nemcik:

YasQueen

May 17 2016

The Definitive 2016 Sixers Draft Lottery Primer: 1, 4 (?), 24, 26.

The 2016 draft lottery — Sixers Twitter’s Finals Game 7 —  is finally here. This is THE single most important night of the Sam Hinkie era, even if Hinkie isn’t a part of the franchise anymore. His legacy and the team’s fate will be determined by what is essentially a coin flip.

Because lottery-related stress has already driven me to the brink of insanity, I’ll be conducting a self-interview breaking down everything you need to know.

Explain the lottery to me.

The CliffsNotes version: Each team gets a certain number of four-digit combinations of pingpong balls based on their final place in the regular-season standings. By virtue of finishing with the league’s worst record, the Sixers have the highest number of combinations for the first time in the Hinkie era.

Fourteen balls are placed into a lottery machine, numbered 1-14, and four of them will be selected randomly to decide which team wins the No. 1 pick. Whichever team has that four-digit combination—the order of the numbers doesn’t matter—will receive the first overall selection. That process will be repeated for the second and third overall picks until three different teams have their combinations selected. (If the team that wins the first overall pick has its combination selected for No. 2 or No. 3 as well, that pick is re-drawn until a new team’s combination appears.) From No. 4 onward, the remaining lottery teams are organized according to their win-loss records (with the worst going fourth, second-worst going fifth, etc.).

Confused? Watch the drawing from last year to see how it works.

When will we know which pick the Sixers have?

The drawing itself typically takes place around 7:30 p.m. ET. The lottery show begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. By 8:30, you should either be drinking champagne or drinking your own tears, depending on what happens.

What are the odds of the Sixers winning each pick?

Per LotteryBucket.com, here are their odds of landing each pick:

No. 1: 26.9 percent

No. 2: 22.6 percent

No. 3: 18.2 percent

No. 4: 32.3 percent

They have a 49.5 percent chance of getting a top-two pick — likely Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram — and a 67.7 percent chance of landing in the top three. There is no chance of them finishing below fourth.

Here’s the math: Since the Sixers had the league’s worst record, they would ordinarily have a 25.0 percent chance of finishing first, 21.5 percent of second, 17.8 percent of third and 35.7 percent of fourth. Thanks to Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings, though, their odds of finishing with each of the top three picks are slightly higher.

If the Kings land a top-three pick and finish ahead of Philadelphia in the lottery, the Sixers can swap first-round picks with them. (According to Sports Illustrated‘s Jake Fischer, they’ve already submitted that request with the league, pending the outcome of the lottery.)

What about the Lakers’ pick?

If the Los Angeles Lakers fall outside of the top three, their first-round pick conveys to Philadelphia. The Lakers have a 19.9 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, 18.8 percent of No. 2 and 17.1 percent of No. 3, which adds up to a 55.8 percent overall chance of them retaining their first-round pick.

There’s a 31.9 percent chance of two teams jumping the Lakers, pushing them to fourth, and a 12.3 percent chance of three teams jumping them, causing them to fall to fifth. They cannot finish lower than fifth. So, the odds are slightly less than a coin flip that the Sixers walk out of the lottery tomorrow night with not one but two top-five picks. There’s just shy of a 25 percent chance of the Sixers getting a top-two pick and the Lakers’ pick, per Lottery Bucket.

An NBA spokesman told Fischer that if the Lakers pick falls to No. 4 or No. 5 and conveys to Philly, the Sixers logo will show up on the card with “from Lakers” written at the bottom. Pray for that small text, friends.

What’s the best-case scenario?

The basic answer: Walking away with the No. 1 (either via the Sixers or Kings winning the lottery). There’s some argument as to whether Sixers fans should want the Lakers pick to convey this year or roll over to next year, given the dearth of franchise-caliber talent beyond the top two selections in this draft class. Basically, it boils down to a matter of preference: Would you rather have the No. 4 pick in a weak draft or gamble on getting somewhere in the No. 6-10 range in what appears to be a stronger draft class?

Between the Lakers’ hiring of Luke Walton and the $60-plus million of cap space they’re set to have this summer, the latter option is fraught with risk, which is why I’ve come around to Team Land The Pick Now. If the Lakers sign, say, DeMar DeRozan and Hassan Whiteside in free agency and pair them with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and the top-three pick they retain, that team could perhaps cobble together 35-40 wins next season, thus pushing the pick they owe to the Sixers into the late lottery.

If the Sixers win the No. 1 pick (either via their own lottery combinations or Sacramento’s), there will be a 13.4 percent chance of them also receiving the Lakers’ pick at No. 4, per Lottery Bucket, and a 0.5 percent chance of them getting No. 5 from L.A. If Philly falls to second, there’s a 10.6 percent chance of L.A. dropping to fourth and a 0.5 percent chance of the Lakers plunging to fifth.

The Kings winning the No. 1 pick could kill two birds with one stone, as they would leapfrog the Lakers, thus requiring only one other team to jump L.A. for that pick to convey. (Also, the comedic value of the Kings winning the lottery only to send that pick to Philadelphia is too great not to happen, right?) From there, the best-case scenario would be a random Western Conference team winning No. 2 (Denver, perhaps?) and the Sixers dropping to No. 3, thus preventing the Kings from having a shot at either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Remember, the Sixers can swap first-round picks with Sacramento next year as well, so depriving them of franchise-changing talent is a must.

TL;DR version: Root for the Lakers to fall to No. 4, the Kings to win the lottery and the Sixers to fall to No. 3, thus depriving Sacramento of landing Simmons or Ingram. Comedy abound.

What’s the worst-case scenario?

The Lakers win No. 1 and the Sixers fall to fourth. Not only would the Sixers be forced to settle for a prospect who isn’t likely to radically change the direction of the franchise, but their future pick entitlement would become that much weaker.

Which prospects should we care about?

If the Sixers receive the No. 1 pick, the debate will come down to Simmons vs. Ingram. Simmons remains the prohibitive favorite for the top spot in large part due to his surreal passing ability, but concerns about his nonexistent jump shot and his attitude have instilled some doubt about whether he should be the consensus No. 1. Ingram looks like a better fit with the Sixers’ current core, as he’s a much better shooter than Simmons, but his rail-thin frame may hinder his ability to make an immediate impact upon joining the league this fall.

Basically, there’s no wrong answer here. Both players are excellent, and Sixers fans should be happy with either. If Lady Luck does bestow the first overall pick upon the City of Brotherly Love, we can have endless Simmons-vs.-Ingram debates over the next month, but first thing’s first: Without getting No. 1, that discussion becomes moot.

If the Sixers end up at No. 3, Dragan Bender would likely fit the “best player available” mold, but selecting the 7’1″ Croatian would only further complicate an already crowded frontcourt. Thus, Providence point guard Kris Dunn and Kentucky combo guard Jamal Murray are the two names to keep in mind. Murray is a better shooter than Dunn, having knocked down 40.8 percent of his 277 three-point attempts as a freshman this past season, but Dunn is a more traditional point guard, having racked up 453 assists across his junior and senior campaigns. Given the Sixers’ desperate need for reliable backcourt contributors, whether at the point or at 2-guard, either player makes sense.

Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield also looms large as a possible Sixers target in the 3-5 range (either with their own pick or the Lakers’ first-rounder). The John R. Wooden National Player of the Year averaged an eye-popping 25.0 points on 50.1 percent shooting this past season while knocking down a career-best 45.7 percent of his 322 three-point attempts. He’s already 22 years old, raising questions about how much more he’ll develop—particularly in comparison to the 19-year-old Murray—but Hield would immediately become the Sixers’ most proven backcourt scorer if the team does draft him.

Some combination of Simmons or Ingram at No. 1 and Dunn, Murray or Hield at No. 4 or 5 (via the Lakers) is the dream. From there, it’s mostly a matter of individual preference.

What else do we need to know?

Regardless of what happens at the lottery, there’s no guarantee the Sixers will actually make that selection (or those selections) during the June 23 draft. At the recent NBA scouting combine, new team president Bryan Colangelo told reporters the Sixers will “look at everything” with regard to their draft picks once the lottery determines where those selections fall. “We’re just not good enough right now as a team to hold anything back,” he added.

Before working yourself into a cold sweat imagining Colangelo trading the No. 3 pick for Andrea Bargnani, keep in mind the complete lack of substance in that quote. Were Hinkie around (and speaking to the media), he likely would have said something exactly along those lines. Until the order of draft picks is set, there’s no sense speculating what Colangelo will or won’t do with whichever pick (or picks) the Sixers end up with among the top five. It’s all too hypothetical for now.

The Sixers are also guaranteed to have two other first-round picks: No. 24 (via the Miami Heat) and No. 26 (via the Oklahoma City Thunder). The order of those picks is already set in stone since Miami and Oklahoma City made the playoffs, so the lottery will have no effect on either.

Which team’s bandwagon should we join when the Sixers fall to No. 4?

Minnesota. Have you seen Karl-Anthony Towns? He’s like Joel Embiid, except with two functional feet.

Speaking of which…

This has been your annual mid-spring reminder that nothing else matters aside from a healthy Joel Embiid.

That said… don’t fail us now, lottery gods.

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