Nov 01 2014

Sixers Sixer In Fourth Quarter, Lose to Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers 81 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 Milwaukee Bucks
Nerlens Noel, PF 35 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -4This was an encouraging performance from the hi-top fade after an underwhelming NBA debut. Noel looked more comfortable on offense and was an absolute menace on defense. He put it all together for what will be his first of many double-doubles.

Chris Johnson, SF 29 MIN | 1-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -1The Chris Johnson experience has been a rocky one so far. He crashed the boards well and, well, that’s about it. Despite a strong effort, he continues to look lost on defensive and uncomfortable shooting the ball. If he can’t put it together soon, his days in Philadelphia may be numbered.

Tony Wroten, SG 35 MIN | 4-11 FG | 6-11 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 8 TO | 14 PTS | -6This was the epitome of a Tony Wroten game. For every flashy assist or electrifying attack at the basket, an errant pass or blown defensive rotation quickly followed. He showed that he can limit the turnovers and bad decisions in the season opener against Indiana though, and perhaps we’ll see more games like that, than like what we saw tonight.

Hollis Thompson, SG 35 MIN | 6-19 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -4Hollis “Future MVP” Thompson shot poorly, but helped open up the Sixers’ offense with some great ball movement, and gave his typically awesome defensive effort. He looked a lot more aggressive as well, which was encouraging after a mostly passive offensive performance on Wednesday.

K.J. McDaniels, SG 14 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -10McDaniels showed he can do a lot more than just block shots, draining a couple 3s as well as attacking the rim with reckless abandon in limited playing time. If you’re confused as to why he only got 14 minutes while Chris Johnson played 29, don’t worry, so are we.

By the Numbers

8:21 – Philadelphia failed to record a single point in the final 8:21 of the game. The wins will be few and far between unless the team can find a go-to scorer to lean on in crunch time.

Quote of the Game

“This guy’s got a full-grown mustache. What is he, a Ninja Turtle? A superhero? Come on, man.” – Malik Rose, Halloween Costume Expert Critic

Tweet of the Game

This is what the entire 2014-15 76ers season will be in a nutshell.

Parting Shots

Philadelphia’s defense showed its versatility, switching on basically every pick-and-roll Milwaukee threw its way. This was a change of pace from the typical “pack-the-paint” style of defense that the Sixers usually employ, and at times it suffocated Milwaukee’s offense. It’ll be interesting to see whether this was just a one-time experiment or if Brett Brown uses this strategy more often in the future.

Oct 29 2014

Sixers Drop Season Opener to Pacers, 103-91

Philadelphia 76ers 91 FinalRecap | Box Score 103 Indiana Pacers
Nerlens Noel, PF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 2-11 FG | 2-6 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +2He struggled mightily from the field, as you might have expected against such a bulky front line. But he made some nice hustle plays, was effective on the glass and picked up a few obligatory swats. There’s not much more we can ask from him this season after all, so an overall decent debut for the rook.

Henry Sims, C Shot Chart 23 MIN | 4-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -16Sims got into foul trouble early and never really looked back. Hibbert was bodying him up without much deliberation, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and Sims struggled to get into any sort of offensive rhythm.

Tony Wroten, SG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 9-21 FG | 3-8 FT | 8 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | +8The Team WHOP proprietor had himself quite the night. He was active on both sides of the ball, missed fewer layups than anyone could have expected and created some really nice looks for his teammates. He’ll continue to stuff the stat line in MCW’s absence; we can only hope he keeps his turnovers to a minimum as he did tonight.

Hollis Thompson, SG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | 0Holliswood picked up a couple fouls early on and it prevented him from getting too involved offensively. Chris Johnson ended up getting a lot of the looks off screens and pick-and-pops that I would’ve liked to see Thompson get, but judging from his preseason play, if he can stay out of foul trouble, he’s still set to make big strides this season.

Alexey Shved, PG Shot Chart 24 MIN | 5-11 FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | -16Shved made the most of his time off the bench. Wolves fans would tell you that this is a trap, and it probably is, but for now we can appreciate that he shot surprisingly well and take note of his successes running the second unit.

By the Numbers

11 – The Sixers turned the ball over 11 times tonight. Last season they led the league with over 16 turnovers per game.

Quote of the Game

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates

Tweet of the Game

It might as well be, Xylon. It might as well be.

Parting Shots

Philly stays in the midwest to take on Milwaukee on Halloween night. The Bucks just surrendered a 24-point lead in a loss to Charlotte tonight, so that’s a very winnable game.  But after falling to the West-less, George-less, Hill-less, Solomon Hill centric Pacers tonight, anything is in play.

Oct 28 2014

5-on-5: Predicting Another Shitty Sixers Season

 1. When will the Sixers pick up their first win?

Eric Goldwein: Game one. These aren’t the Pacers of yesteryear; Paul George’s leg is snapped in half and Lance Stephenson is ballin in Charlotte, leaving C.J. Miles, George Hill, and 55-year-old David West (update: injured) in control of an offense that wasn’t any good to begin with. Even at their best, Indiana struggled against the Sixers; the Pacers won all three of last season’s games by single digits. This game has all the makings up an upset.

Wesley Share: Opening night in Indiana. Indy is banged up, and Philly will be in better physical shape and run them to death as they did to Miami on opening night last year. Tony Wroten will smile a lot and it will be delightful.

Bryan Toporek: I’m with Eric & Wes here: Just like last year, the Sixers are kicking off the 2014-15 campaign with a big W. As if the loss of Paul George and Lance Stephenson wasn’t enough for Indiana to overcome, they’ll now be down David West, George Hill and C.J. Watson, as all three are already injured. We know the Sixers’ starting lineup is comically bad, but Indiana’s might be on Philly’s level without West, Hill and Watson.

Xylon Dimoff: Nov. 5 against Orlando. Considering the Magic will probably be exhausted from playing in Chicago the night before and should still be without Channing Frye and Victor Oladipo, this one should be a gimme. Unless of course former Sixer Elfrid Payton decides to turn this into a revenge game and drops 50 on Marquis Teague (update: cut).

Ben Smolen: Nov. 5. Orlando is on the second game of a road back-to-back, and the Sixers will be well rested. I hope I’m right, because, after that, there isn’t a truly winnable game until Nov. 19 against the Celtics.

2. This season, Nerlens Noel will play ___ games. 

Goldwein: 65. The Sixers will handle Noel with kid gloves, sitting him in some back-to-backs and managing his minutes. The rookie, nearly two years removed from his ACL tear, may succumb to the wear and tear of an 82-game season, but he should be in the lineup most nights.

Share: 50. The Sixers have 21 back-to-backs, and I suspect they’ll sit him for a lot of those. Plus, being as valuable an asset as he is, they’ll err on the side of caution, seeing as winning regular season games isn’t a priority. Even the most minor of injuries could force him out of the lineup.

Toporek: I’ll optimistically say at least 60, although his preseason usage might suggest otherwise. The Sixers clearly won’t put him in harm’s way and play him through a litany of minor ailments, as seeing him go down with another major injury is the team’s worst-case scenario this year. Fingers crossed, let’s go with 68.

Dimoff: I don’t predict he’ll sit all of the 21 back-to-backs as the Sixers may want to help him adapt to the NBA schedule, but the team will probably also be exceedingly cautious with any potential injury. A stubbed toe keeping him out for three games.

Smolen: Enough. As long as the man stays healthy and swats 20-25 balls ten rows deep, I’m all smiles. Practically speaking, I expect the Sixers rookie will sit most of the back-to-backs. Add in five to seven more games for minor injuries and three to five more games for high-top fade maintenance and that takes us to the 50-55 range.

3. What’s one bold Sixers prediction for the upcoming season?

Goldwein: Philly will have a top-20 defense. The roster is filled with athletes who are desperate for NBA contracts. That alone wouldn’t yield results in a playoff setting, but in an 82-game regular season, where players take nights off — sometimes literally — it could be enough to catch some teams off guard.

Share: K.J. McDaniels will make an all-rookie team, and maybe even play in the Rising Stars Challenge. He’ll be playing for a contract, seeing loads of PT and getting plenty touches. No reason he can’t block at least one shot per night, either.

Toporek: Let’s go for gold here: Nerlens Noel will be the Rookie of the Year. Jabari Parker enters the season as the clear ROY favorite, but he’s unlikely to be much of a factor defensively. If Noel stays healthy and shows flashes of legitimate offensive competence, his stat-stuffing on defense could help push him over Parker in the ROY race. His flat top should earn him at least 20 first-place votes on its own.

Dimoff: The Sixers will be a top-3 team in both steals and blocks. With guys like Wroten and Carter-Williams lunging out of position at every pass like a cat pounces at a laser pointer, they could lead the league in steals again. And the additions of McDaniels and Noel should turn Philly into one of the league’s best swatting teams. This won’t translate to actual good defense, but it’ll at least make this dreadful team a bit more entertaining.

Smolen: The Sixers will have a three game winning streak. That’s right. Not one, not two, but three full games in a row that AREN’T losses. It will immediately be followed by reporters patronizing the team’s “success,” George Karl saying something particularly stupid, and a double digit losing streak.

4. Will Joel Embiid play this season?

Goldwein: NBA basketball? No. With our hearts? Probably. The Sixers may not immediately their prized rookie out for season, and that’ll get our hopes up. But odds are that, like Noel, we’ll have to wait until year two for Embiid’s debut.

Share: Some in the national media seem to think the Sixers will play him late in the season to show the fans they care. But with more riding on his health than anything else in the organization and….you know what, this doesn’t even seem necessary. No, he won’t play this season.

Toporek: No way. Hinkie was around in Houston for Yao Ming’s foot troubles. In a piece for ESPN Insider, one of the Rockets’ former team physicians, Dr. Mark Adickes, noted how Yao suffered three injuries to the navicular bone in his left foot over a three-year span. There’s no way Hinkie allows Embiid, who’s dealing with the same type of foot fracture, to take the court at any point this season and risk re-injury.

Dimoff: Nope. Hinkie said in his post-draft press conference that it could take Joel up to eight months to recover from surgery, which would place his return date at some point in February. We can assume though that Embiid won’t exactly be in NBA shape at this point after spending the better part of the season off of his feet and devouring countless Shirley Temples, and we can assume that the team will be overly cautious with its most prized possession anyway.

Smolen: Short answer: No. Longer answer: No, he will not. I just can’t see them rushing back a potential building block and risk further injury. Expect them to go the Noel route, i.e. word will come out that Embiid is 100 percent, we all salivate watching the leaked practice footage, but have to wait until the next Summer League.

5. The Sixers will win ____ games this year.

Goldwein:  20. Ten wins because of the defense, three because of unsustainably hot shooting performances, and seven because of tanking/resting/lazy opponents. With Noel and McDaniels added to the rotation, the pack-the-paint defense will take a giant leap forward. The offense? Well, that’s a different story. But NBA regular season wins are low-hanging fruit, which the Sixers have the length to grab.

Share: 21. The defense will be improved this season, and although losing three veterans is a thing that matters, I’m not so sure how much they really moved the needle in the first place; take this with a grain of salt, but Turner and Hawes combined for only three win shares last year. Losing Thad obviously hurts, but I’m optimistic, for whatever reason.

Toporek: 17. With Noel manning the middle, the Sixers’ defense won’t be as abysmal as it was last year. However, the squad lacks the requisite firepower to stay competitive on most nights. They’ll catch a few opponents sleeping and score a handful of upsets over the course of the season, but let’s not delude ourselves: The Sixers will be trotting out below-replacement-level talent in their starting five most nights. That’s not a recipe for short-term success. (The long-term potential, however, makes the bevy of losses worthwhile.)

Dimoff: 13. I know that seems low, but let’s keep in mind that the two best players in Noel and Carter-Williams may miss a decent chunk of the season. This offense might be historically bad too; Hollis Thompson and Jason Richardson’s corpses are the only players on the roster who can shoot, and TONY WROTEN will see extended minutes at point guard. And let’s not forget that the veterans – as frustrating as they may have been at times – who played major roles in getting all those early-season wins last year are now gone.

Smolen: 20. One more than last year. They are a national punchline–their stinkatude was almost single-handedly responsible for a change in league rules–but guess what? They will be better than last year. Sure, Evan Turner is no longer here, but, on the plus side, Evan Turner is no longer here. With a year of development for MCW, the addition of Noel, and more time for Brown to implement his system, the Sixers will shock the world and get out of the teens!

Oct 27 2014

The Arnett Moultrie Era Is Over

It seems like just yesterday that the Sixers traded the 45th pick and a future protected first-rounder for Arnett Moultrie, the 27th pick in the 2012 draft. The 6-foot-10 power forward’s stock had dropped, so in theory, this was a buy-low play. But for a variety of reasons, Moultrie didn’t produce in his first two seasons and his stock remained in the gutters. And just as he reportedly started to whip himself into shape, management decided it had enough.

This afternoon, Philly dealt Moultrie to the New York Knicks in exchange for Travis Outlaw, a 2019 second-rounder, and the rights to swap another second-rounder, ESPN’s Marc Stein reports. Outlaw and his $3 million expiring contract will likely be released.

Moultrie was the longest tenured Sixer, and by some metrics, he wasn’t that terrible. As Xylon explained in last night’s post — which I’d recommend to Knicks fans if they hadn’t already cut him — the 23-year-old was starting to show some signs of life this preseason. If he can break some of his bad habits — and there are plenty of them — he has the talent to become a productive rotation player. Okay, 12th man.

But that won’t happen in Philly. Or in New York. Not now, at least. Both teams decided they were better off having a roster spot, which is telling, considering the Sixers and Knicks aren’t exactly exclusive clubs.

And so, the Arnett Moultrie era is over. As Derek Bodner pointed out, it ended with a bit of symmetry. Barring a miracle, the Sixers will miss the playoffs and that first-rounder — which I’m fairly certain was protected by someone not named Doug Collins — will turn into two second-rounders. Today’s transaction erases some of the damage from that bizarre draft night deal.

Oct 26 2014

Is Arnett Moultrie’s Renaissance Real?

From the moment he was acquired in the 2012 draft — and made into another cog in the short-sighted Doug Collins plan — Arnett Moultrie has been a major disappointment. Between the lingering health issues, the questionable fitness, the five-game drug suspension, and the all-around lack of production, he’s had a troublesome first two NBA seasons. So with the Sixers in all-out rebuild mode, this fall could’ve been the opportune time for GM Sam Hinkie to cut ties with the former 27th pick.

But Moultrie, a 6-foot-10 power forward, reportedly showed up to training camp with a new and improved attitude. He said he’s “definitely all-in now” and that he’s learned from his prior mistakes. That’s showing on the court; Moultrie, who turns 24 in November, has looked better than ever this preseason. His box score numbers – 10 points and nearly six boards per game on 47 percent shooting – are promising, and he’s brought energy that’s been lacking previous years. Finally, he’s running the court and playing hard defensively. There are signs that he’s a salvageable prospect.

Hustle alone, however, won’t turn Moultrie into a productive NBA player. There are several bad habits that he’s yet to break, and they’ve come to the surface even during his career-best preseason.

We’ll start with his long-two-lovin’. Moultrie has had the chucking meter turned all the way up this preseason, firing away whenever, and wherever.

The first shot in that clip is particularly frustrating. Please, Arnett, if you’re going to launch a contested jumper with 17 left on the clock, MAKE SURE IT’S WORTH AN EXTRA POINT.[1] These shots would be less cringeworthy if they created offense for teammates — a la David Lee — but Moultrie rarely, if ever, looks to pass. He has ranked in the bottom 20[2] in assist percentage in the league in each of his first two seasons.

Where Moultrie really hurts the team is his positioning. A good floor-spacing big, alternatively, would use the threat of his jumper to draw defenders away from the ball. But like many young — and often times, bad — players, Moultrie has a tendency to hover over the ball (usually in an effort to set himself up for a shot), getting in the way of an offensive action.

MoultrieBadSpacing

Screenshot captured from NBA TV.

 

Moultrie has shown he can move quite nicely off the ball. He has a quick first step and can position himself in the lane for scoring opportunities. But the tape shows that he lacks sense of when to do so. Watch here as he cuts to the basket right as Casper Ware attacks the rim:

Moultrie does this all the time. By cutting when he does, Moultrie a) gives Olynyk no reason to move out of his position defending in the paint and b) takes himself outside of a position where the now ex-Sixer could’ve hit him for a pass. This is especially problematic since Moultrie is a weak finisher and dependent on his midrange game.

Moultrie’s extra hustle has translated more on the defensive end, where historically he’s been terrible. This preseason, he’s closing out harder on shooters, and providing better help. But again, effort is only half the battle here. Moultrie has had his share of mental blips while adapting to the pack-the-paint defense.

And on the few occasions he was thrown into the rim protecting role, it didn’t exactly work out.

But overall, this preseason has been a definite step in the right direction for the longest-tenured Sixer. It’s possible he’s shown enough to not only make the team, but get significant playing time. Down the line, he could very well develop into a productive power forward.[3] But the third-year player has plenty to work on to get to that level. Fortunately for him, Philadelphia has some time on its hands.

 

Follow Xylon on Twitter: @xylondimoff



[1] Though Moultrie confidently fires contested 21-footers, he freezes up when behind the arc. He’s shot exactly zero 3-pointers in his career.

[2] Minimum average of 10 minutes per game.

[3] Usual sample size warnings apply, but Moultrie led the team in Wins Produced per 48 his rookie season.

Oct 22 2014

Owners Strike Down Lottery Reform; NBA and Sixers Saved

This morning, the NBA’s Board of Governors struck down a plan that would have put a used band-aid on the benign tanking tumor, infected the entire NBA, and probably destroyed the planet.

The reform, had it gone through, would’ve reduced the lottery odds for the NBA’s shittiest teams; currently, the last-ranked squad has a 25 percent chance at landing the first pick, and a 100 percent chance at landing in the top-four. The proposed lottery would give each of the bottom-four teams a 12 percent shot at the first pick, and a guaranteed top-seven spot.

This was very much a reaction to the Sixers. They weren’t the first team to disregard regular season wins, but their blatant rebuild drew the ire of other franchises that viewed Philadelphia’s plan as a revenue drag, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in July.

In theory, the new lottery system would’ve lowered the incentive to tank. In practice, well, it’s not so simple. My guess is that teams would’ve started gunning for that no. 27 spot — rather than no. 30 — but really, who knows. Unintended consequences are a crazy thing, and according to one owner, that’s the reason 13 of the 30 teams opposed to the change.

The vote came as a surprise to just about everyone. The reform looked like a sure thing earlier this week; as of Tuesday, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City — lottery reform opponents — were struggling to gain support from other owners, according Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and without eight Nays, the change would have gone through. But in a shocking turn of events – and one of the biggest upsets of the Sam Hinkie era – eleven more franchises came to their senses, and joined Philly and OKC.

There could still be a change in the future, but for now, the current lottery format remains. If you’re a fan of the Sixers — a likely 2015 lottery contender — this is good news. If you’re a fan of logical, non-rash decision-making, this is even better news. A crisis has been averted. Rejoice, all ye fans of the roundball.

So let’s give a big Mazel Tov to Chicago, Washington, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Detroit, Miami, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Utah, Washington and Atlanta. You, dear NBA owners, deserve a shiny gold star.

Now go ahead, and get back to working with Adam Silver on that plan to keep those 19-year-old hooligans out of our league, and back on the college campuses where they belong.

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