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Feb 28 2014

5-on-5: If Allen Iverson Was Born a Decade Later…

1. If Allen Iverson was born a decade later…

Allen Iverson 5-on-5

Kevin Burkett/Wikimedia Commons

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.

  • rkwoekr

    Is Eric Goldwein insane? AI is not more athletic than Nate Robinson. Better, obviously, but CERTAINLY not as athletic.

  • robbybonfire23

    The upcoming draft, for me, will tell us what we have in Hinkie, initially for whom he takes with his first two picks, and, long-term, how they work out, given that there are always pleasant surprises and shockingly unanticipated/disappointing results. I am really going to be in “envy” of the two teams that ensnare Delon Wright and Daniel Ochefu, my “sleeper” picks for eventual stardom, in this league. That is, they are “sleepers” to just about everyone else, but not to me. You have a staffer (not contributing above) who is on record as saying that Delon Wright is NOT an NBA caliber guard – which boggles my mind at a site where there is so much waxing “nostalgic” over the “flashy” yet pedestrian-results career of one Allen Iverson. But, hey, each to his own.

    I have Wright penciled in as, by far, the best NCAA guard in the nation, right now, and Ochefu is a stud FG percentage shooting and rebounding PF machine, so why are they such a deep dark secret and not part of the draft day dialogue? Maybe someone can enlighten me?

    • Kevin

      Wright is a late second round pick at best on everyone’s big board as of now. It isn’t just sites that have AI love. I would like if the 6ers brought him in as a late pick or undrafted FA to give him a shot and possibly add a little depth to the position, but much like hk99, I would have similar questions and concerns. Also, anyone chosen in the 2nd round already has a uphill battle to “stardom”, as evidenced by the history of 2nd round picks in the NBA compared to top 5 or top 10 picks.

      And as for A.I., people either love him or hate him, it is just unfortunate that most (not all) of the people that love him can acknowledge shortcomings, while the people that dislike him refuse to give him even the slightest credit or acknowledgement for his performance, disregarding anything that is placed in front of them, and often even want to reference his off the court antics at time when speaking of his playing career. The good news is that the 76ers organization and the basketball world as a whole see him for what he was, which is why, to the dismay of many A.I. haters, he will be one of only 8 numbers in the rafters of this historic franchise. The stadium will also be jam packed for the first time in years for a game that the Heat were not present for. I think it’s a proud moment of this franchise, and I’m extremely happy to say that I’ll be in attendance.

      • robbybonfire23

        My problem with A.I. is really simple, Kevin – he shot the ball too damn much for a career 42 per cent shooter. Some forgive him for that, for having really crummy teammates, over the years. I say he missed the opportunity to make them better, by getting the ball inside to them, when he was really weak-shooting from the outside.

        Enjoy the game, and your pride in the team and the player being honored is something you can be proud of.

        • Jack Burton

          Allen Iverson was the best player I ever watched besides Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Hakeem the Dream. But if I had to win one game, I’d still take Iverson or Jordan. Jordan first obviously because of his defensive ability, but Iverson was good a play-maker. He may not have made the right play all the time, but he could get to more spots on the floor that even Jordan could. He was as unguardable a player as anyone who has played. David Stern put in a zone to stop him after the 2001 season because he kept fouling everyone out and was too dominant. If Eric Snow could hit an elbow jumper more than 2 out of 10 times and Ed Snider wasn’t the owner and Billy King the GM, Iverson would probably have 3-4 titles himself. People are so simpleminded when it comes to Iverson. He changed his game throughout his career. He was still very aggressive but he developed a nice floor game as well. He had the best offensive stats since Michael Jordan. He contributed more offense to his team than anyone from 1999-2008. And why was Iverson so polarizing and scrutinized more than any player? Because he was better than everyone. Kobe Bryant never receives as much critique as Iverson because they don’t expect as much from Kobe because he’s an inferior talent. Period. It’s the same with LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Durant gets a pass, as does Kobe, while LeBron gets grilled because LeBron is a more dominant player and if you can’t see that then you should start writing about another sport. Also, let’s face it, I’m a 30 year old white kid who grew up idolizing Iverson because he was better than Charles Barkley, my previous favorite player and because I saw him trash Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd and all these players who all of a sudden are better players because they managed to play with multiple Hall of Famers and won a title. When the hell did Kobe Bryant dominate any playoff games? I don’t remember one memorable Kobe Bryant playoff game or series besides the lob he threw to Shaq to come back against the Blazers in 2000 Conference Finals By the way, that’s a microcosm of the 2000-02 3Peat of the Lakers. Look at Iverson’s stats from 2005-2008. He averaged around 28 and 7.5 assists and 2 steals those 4 years. And he was Top 10 in points and assists per game. The only player who even had 2 in a row during that period was LeBron James. Iverson should have won the MVP in 2005. He averaged 30+ and won another scoring title and averaged 8 assists, which was 5th in the NBA and finished 2nd in steals. He was easily the most dominant player in the league but the Sixers only won 43 games because he had a rookie Iguodala, a 2nd year Kyle Korver, Kenny Thomas (for half the year before the Webber on one leg trade) and Samuel Dalembert in the starting lineup. Needless to say the bench wasn’t that great. Billy King gave Sammy “NoClue” D. to $10 million per, which remained one of the most untradeable contracts in NBA history. He also gave Kenny Thomas $49 million guaranteed. And Iverson wasn’t a weak shooter from the outside, he was a great pure shooter, he just took poor shots, I agree, earlier in his career, and then because no one else could score. He used to purposely just throw the ball up to the rim. He also was the only guy good enough on the Sixers for 8 of the 10 seasons to create his own shot, so he took end of quarter, end of game, and double coverage shots. I’ve watched so many games where Iverson would pass and pass and pass and no one could make a shot. If he had a big man who could actually catch the ball, let alone finish a play around the basket, he would’ve averaged 10+ assists a game. Whoever said Monte Ellis or a poor man’s Russell Westbrook should be dragged out to an abandoned parking lot and be given the soap wrapped in the towel treatment. You know nothing about basketball if you say he’d be Monte Ellis. In today’s NBA? He’d average 32 and 10 because he wouldn’t have Billy King as a GM so he’d actually play with some talent. BTW, I hope the Nets’ owner seriously considers sending Billy King to Putin and he ends up somewhere in Siberia. That guy completely ruined the Sixers best chance to win a title and ruined the career of one of the best 15 players of all time. Listen to the idiots today talking about Kobe’s 5 rings, comparing them with Duncan’s 4 and Shaq’s 4 and Jordan’s 6. That’s how people judge legacies now, which shows their complete absence of complex thinking and how organizations from the top on down determine how many titles your team wins. When did Allen Iverson ever play with a team talented enough to win a championship? Yet I have to listen to Kobe worship, a guy who has more 30+ point losses in series deciding games because he gives up and his teammates hate him. Yet LeBron and Wade and Shaq call him one of the best players ever. Shaq calls him a Top 5-10 player ever and many others say the best pound for pound player ever or best combo guard or best little man ever. To me, he’s the 2nd best shooting guard. He was more dominant than Kobe ever would be. For all those people saying Iverson was a volume scorer, which he was, at least he had enough handling and passing ability to get open shots and easy layups for teammates. Whereas Kobe relied on 90% of his points on contested jump shots or 1on1 coverage due to playing with Shaq, the Triangle Offense and then with Gasol/Bynum. Oh and they averaged about the same amount of rebounds. One guy 5’10 and the other 6’7. Iverson was the bridge connecting Jordan and LeBron as the iconic wing players of their decades. Iverson from 99-08 and LeBron from 07-present. I’ll give Kobe maybe 2-3 years from 2006-2008 where he challenged Iverson in terms of pure dominance as the most dominant force in the NBA. Then LeBron took it from the brief moments Kobe had the reign, all while David Stern was getting Iverson blackballed from the Association.

  • hk99

    robby,

    I had never heard of Delon Wright before you began touting him and I never really took the time to research him because sites like draftexpress.com and nbadraft.net never ranked him too high. Since you’ve continued to pound the table on how good Wright is – and how overrated Andrew Wiggins is – I looked at the two this AM and I have the following questions:

    1. At Wiggins’s current age (he just turned 19), Wright was still in prep school. At 21, while Wright was maturing as a man – both mentally and, I presume physically – he scored 16 per game and shot 51% from the field while playing in Junior College. How much of your analysis accounts for the fact that Wright is 3 years older than Wiggins and is mostly playing against guys younger than he is while Wiggins is playing against mostly guys who are older?

    2. You have frequently knocked Andrew Wiggins’s stats since conference play started. I looked up the Big 12 conference game stats and I see that Wiggins is in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding (while playing mostly on the perimeter), FG% (behind mostly big guys), FT%, steals and blocked shots. What were you expecting from this 18 year old – no straw man arguments, please – from this 18 year old playing in one of the top conferences in America?

    3. I get that Wright is a PG and not an SG and his FG% seems to show that he has a mature enough game that he knows a good shot from a bad one – something that our own MCW has to learn. However, how much does his 11 for 44 from 3-point range scare you? Without ever seeing him take a shot, it scares me in that I would suspect that a lot of shots that he gets as a 6’5″ almost 22 year old PG in the NCAA will be significantly more contested at the next level if he can’t stretch defenses.

    4. My other concern about Wright’s shooting percentage is that his non-conference vs. conference numbers are significantly different. In 12 conference games against what is a very, very weak non-conference schedule, he shot 71% from the field. In conference games, he has shot 53%. While 53% is still a good FG%, the issues I raised above about his age and size vs. the competition scares me. What are your thoughts on this?

    After too little sleep and too much coffee, I decided to dive deeper into the 2 players’ numbers this morning. After doing so, I see no reason to disagree with the contention that Wiggins is worthy of a top 3 pick. At the same time, I think that Wright has the potential to be a contributor in the NBA, but unless he can start shooting the rock from distance like his brother Dorrell, I see him as more of a role player than potential star. Not that you asked, but those are my questions and my two cents (if that) worth.

    • robbybonfire23

      Thanks, HK, for the serious and objective response. And objectivity is my primary information-gathering goal, as I evaluate teams and players, so I will do my best to be honest with myself, as well as with you here. Just understand that I have no axe to grind and have just gotten on board the Delon Wright bandwagon, as of this season. So that you have given me the incentive to backtrack Delon’s career to where his sophomore season statistics are available, which I will do, soon.

      Yes, you make a terrific point, not just regarding the age difference, but also by citing the fact that Wiggins takes on older, more mature and experienced players every game, while Delon has the luxury of playing against mostly younger players. I do not dismiss or downgrade this factor, in fact, if Delon were a senior I would mostly dismiss his accomplishments. I see Ochefu is a Soph, so we can be a bit more lenient as pertains to the age factor, with him.

      I regularly update my individual stats, so what I will give you re both Wiggins and Wright is off the top of my head, but certainly reliable, since it is quite familiar to me. I don’t know where 45 per cent floor shooting ranks, overall, in the Big 12, but it strikes me as being mediocre, at best, understanding we are dealing with a young guard, here, who is projected to go SF in the NBA, at nba.draft.net. At guard we can cut him some slack, but he will have do better if he switches to forward.

      My real knock on Wiggins, and I hit this home every time I mention him, is his contemptuous disdain for playmaking, averaging just 1 1/2 assists per game, in conference, with zero assists in games vs. EIGHT major opponents, including Duke, Villanova, Florida, K-State, Colorado, etc. Hard to like a player who cannot set up teammates in big, hotly-contested games. Really hard.

      I won’t completely dismiss FT’s, steals and blocks, etc., except to say that they are minor categories, and I never, HK, stray too far from the major categories of FG percentage, Defensive Rebounds, and Assists, because they stand out where it comes to straight-line correlation with winning.

      As for Delon, it is good that I focus upon conference games, his Utah team has too may soft touches on the schedule and I don’t want to corrupt my own findings, that way. He shoots mid 50′s per cent in conference and he is prolific at playmaking and DR’s at this position, his nine DR’s vs. Arizonal State being a real eye-popper.

      So that is all I have. I just hope Delon gets a serious look by an NBA team. You look at his YouTube highlights, and man, does he put defenders into the popcorn machine, with the best of them. It is really hard to defend him, one-on-one, with or away from the ball.

  • robbybonfire23

    Delon is hot from the floor, 7-9 today vs. Colorado, (no three’s attempted), to go with five DR’s and 4 Assists in a winning effort. So that in the last two games he is 14-16 from the floor.

  • robbybonfire23

    A. Wiggins report card for Kansas (lost) game vs. Okla. State, March 1st…

    32 minutes played; 5-16 from the floor (15 total points scored on 11 missed shots); 2 DR’s and 1 assist; 6 turnovers, zero blocks; one steal.

    Jesus – where is the effort, where are the results? I mean, low FG percentage, virtually invisible rebounding and playmaking totals, plus committed six apple turnovers! And people from Maine to California are salivating over this young man who really needs to show up for these big conference games, because his being an on-court “spectator” really isn’t working. At least he made one assist, so that he did not get blanked in that department for the ninth time vs. a major program opponent, this season. “Wingspan” hype notwithstanding, this young man is actually tanking better than a certain NBA team we know of. And how in the hell can his game actually be disintegrating, lately, when he is supposed to be young and “improving?”