1. If Allen Iverson was born a decade later…
Anthony Calabro: He’d still be the same guy. I think Iverson was always comfortable with who he was, even when others were not. Although his stubbornness frustrated the hell out me, and likely led to his downfall, it’s what made him so special on the court. One of the greatest to ever play the game, in my opinion.
Eric Goldwein: He’d have been a far better player. Improved coaching and training could have done wonders for quite possibly the most athletic sub-six-footer to ever step foot on a basketball court. As is, Iverson was a transcendent talent. One of the greatest and most exciting scorers of all time. Who knows what he could have done with better surroundings.
Marc Nemcik: He would still be a prominent player in this league, but I do think his play would be judged differently due to the advancement of statistics since his prime. Iverson took a lot of bad shots in his career, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a fair assessment given the lack of support he received in his twelve years in Philadelphia. He carried an unmatched swagger with him that reinvented the league during the MJ transition. Iverson was the kind of player that could seduce fans on any given night, and that’s what made him special.
Tom Sunnergren: He’d be Monta Ellis. Seriously, like five of the ten greatest moments of my childhood involve Allen Iverson, but, with #SSAC2014 a full blown thing and probabilistic thinkers like Sam Hinkie running teams, it’s hard to imagine a 6-foot-tall guard who shoots 40 percent from the floor being a superstar. I hate myself for this answer.
Bryan Toporek: He’d be considered a poor man’s Russell Westbrook. Given his propensity to jack up mid-range jumpers, sabermatricians would routinely take a steaming dump on Bubba Chuck. His highest effective field-goal percentage with Philadelphia was .486 (1997-98); Westbrook’s best (thus far) is .481, set back in 2011-12. So, basically, #LetWestbrookBeWestbrook would turn into #LetIversonBeIverson on Sixers Twitter.
2. Has the Hinkie love gone too far?
Calabro: I’m probably in the minority here, but I think it has. That does not mean I think Hinkie’s plan is wrong. This team needed a good demolishing. The new CBA, all but encourages teams to do exactly what Hinkie is doing right now. Hinkie’s made bold moves personnel-wise and has done everything in his power to create a clean cap sheet. Philly loves him for it. I guess I’m cautiously optimistic. Watching teams like Cleveland, New Orleans and Charlotte struggle for playoff births after declaring their rebuilding over is still a bit scary.
Goldwein: In some parts, including here, yes. Hinkie has a long-term plan that involves blowing up the team, maximizing assets, and landing top talent through the draft. And that’s a plan that very well could work. But so far he’s only done the easy part—destroying the roster. The draft day trade (Holiday for Noel and New Orleans’ top-five protected pick) was a heist, but I’m less impressed with the loose change they were given in return for Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.
Nemcik: I think both fans and bloggers need something to lift their spirits given the Sixers current play. Hinkie has done a nice job thus far in creating a foundation for this team’s future. That’s something to be excited about, and I don’t blame anyone for seeking optimism in times like this.
Sunnergren: Interesting question. We’re in the midst of something of a mini-Hinkie backlash. It’s partly a function of a deadline that was, in some ways, underwhelming, and partly just a reflection of the contrarian impulse that runs in a lot of us. I don’t buy it though. Sam Hinkie is a very smart guy with a very good plan that’s been, so far, very well executed. Considering the administration that preceded him, Hinkie love would have to go pretty far–like, ritual sacrifice far–to be excessive.
Toporek: To outsiders, maybe. They didn’t suffer through the Elton Brand era of mediocrity, though. There was zero upside to the Sixers’ old way of doing things—scraping out a bottom-three playoff seed every year only to get knocked out in the first or second round. Hinkie still has plenty of work to do, admittedly. But he’s clearly sticking to a plan that could eventually result in a title contender. That’s good enough for me.
3. The next Sixers win will be ____.
Calabro: Saturday, March 1 against the Wizards. This game will be close to sold-out thanks to the Iverson jersey retirement ceremony. The crowd will energize the Sixers, who will pull of the victory against a tired Wiz team coming off a triple-OT win in Toronto.
Goldwein: Tomorrow vs. the Wizards. They’ll get an energy-boost with Iverson’s jersey retirement, and they’re playing a Nene-less Wiz team coming off a triple OT victory on Thursay–Marcin Gortat played 51 minutes! This one has upset potential.
Nemcik: When the Sixers draft two studs in the lottery in June. Seriously, who cares at this point? They haven’t won a game in a month and lost to both the Bucks and Magic in back-to-back games. There is no doubt in my mind that they are the worst team in the league right now, but they’ll end up winning a couple of more random games. They still play the Knicks twice after all.
Sunnergren: Never. The Sixers will lose out the regular season, then World War III will break out this summer over a territory dispute between Japan and China regarding a tiny island chain in the Pacific. It will annihilate every last one of us.
Toporek: March 8, against Utah at home. It’ll be the Jazz’s fifth road game in seven nights. They’ll be coming off a back-to-back against the Knicks. It’s the ultimate letdown game for them. Give the Sixers’ new additions another week to get comfortable with the system and they’ll be able to scrape out a win or two over the home stretch.
4. Fact or fiction: Henry Sims is the best big man on the roster.
Calabro: Fact. Tallest midget award goes to Henry Sims. Congratulations, Henry.
Goldwein: I’ll still go with Arnett Moultrie, who last season, was effective in limited playing time. But another week of horrific play from 23-year-old sophomore, and this answer changes.
Nemcik: Fact. One thing is for certain – it’s not Byron Mullens. Sims played well against the Orlando Magic, but you don’t want to be in the position where that assessment is true. I assume that we would all agree that Nerlens Noel holds that title once he begins playing, so hopefully we will not have this discussion much longer.
Sunnergren: Science fiction. The best big on the roster is Spencer Hawes. (Really? When?) Oh, wait. I mean Lavoy Allen. (Seriously? Him too?). I don’t know. Maybe Henry Sims.
Toporek: Fiction. Nerlens Noel would beg to differ. Best active big man? Zero question. Arnett Moultrie is Sims’ only real competition (sorry, Byron Mullens), and based on their respective per-36-minute stats, Sims gets the nod. He made major strides during his four years at Georgetown, and could evolve into a solid back-of-the-rotation big.
5. Are the Sixers TOO bad?
Calabro: At this point, the losses will only help. As a fan, it sucks. But I get it.
Goldwein: Nope. Close losses might make for a more palatable experience, but that’s not a sustainable way to gather ping-pong balls. So, we’re left with nightly 20-point blowouts. It stings right now, but it’s the price to pay for elite talent in the 2014 draft.
Nemcik: We all knew what this season was going to look like going in, so it’s time to keep the eyes on the prize. Considering that most of the current roster won’t be around in a year or two, I’m not sure the Sixers are creating a “losing culture”. I don’t think it’s going to stun the development of this team as long as the key players are performing at a respectable level. I’m hoping to see MCW and Thad Young step up in their leadership roles.
Sunnergren: I just, as I sit typing this, left a panel at the Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference at which comedy legend Stan Van Gundy bellowed–with Sam Hinkie in the room–that the Sixers had assembled a roster so terrible they had to be losing on purpose. They, he suggested, should be ashamed of themselves. Point being, people around the league are talking about how brazenly the Sixers are tanking. It’s a meme. That said, I disagree. The team is bad now, but with the assets and space, the build should be swift. I’m bored, but on board.
Toporek: Nope. What were you expecting this season? If you embraced the concept of tanking—which many of us did wholeheartedly—this comes with the territory. Kyle expertly dissected the idea of this season having long-term ramifications. My big fear: The way Hinkie slashed-and-burned at the trade deadline could send a negative message to the remaining players. It’s on the front office to reassure the few survivors that they remained on the team for a reason.