Feb 15 2014

5-on-5: Is This Rock Bottom?

Courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

Courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

1. Is this rock bottom?

Anthony Calabro: I don’t really need a deep dive into the numbers to know that losing back-to-back games by more than 40 points is rock bottom. Good news for the Sixers: A 30-point loss is progress!

Eric Goldwein: Yes. The product will get worse if/when ET and Hawes bounce, but so will the competition. The last two weeks have been exactly what #TeamTank signed up for.

Alec Nathan: It certainly feels like it. The Sixers have lost eight in a row, nine of their last 10. And since ripping off four straight wins over the Lakers, Nuggets, Kings and Blazers, they’re 3-18. Not only that, but in 2014 the Sixers have posted a net rating of -11.6 points per 100 possessions, which is actually a point-and-a-half worse than their season-long mark. And just for fun: Since getting blown out by the Clippers, the Sixers are scoring 81.7 points per 100 possessions and allowing 110.5, good for a net rating of -28.5. Yeah, this is rock bottom.

Tom Sunnergren: While the team will probably be much worse if/when Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes are traded (i’ve comet to think Evan Turner is part of the problem) I don’t think we’ll ever again see this team–or any–lose consecutive games by 40 points.

Bryan Toporek: Sadly, no. The Sixers might not lose back-to-back games by more than 40 points again, but Sam Hinkie is going to ravage this team at the trade deadline. Swapping Evan Turner for Ben Gordon alone would make the squad considerably worse, and that might just be the tip of the iceberg.

2. Over/Under: Seven wins after the All-Star break (28 games).

Calabro: I’m taking the over. There’s a good chance Hinkie is going to pull the trigger at the deadline. No matter who they get, I think some new blood will re-energize the Sixers, propelling them to eight additional wins. What can I say, I’m an optimist.

Goldwein: Under, but it’ll be close. An in shape Arnett Moultrie will help make up for Hawes’ presumed departure and some of the young guys will be playing for their first guaranteed contracts. This group won’t completely check out.

Nathan: Under. It took them 54 games to win 15, so I don’t have much confidence that they’ll be able to go 7-21 over the final 28, especially if several key pieces are dumped at the deadline.

Sunnergren: I’m going to take the under. While this team has a (somewhat maddening) tendency to pull out more close games than we’d prefer, a starting lineup of MCW, James Anderson, Hollis Thompson, Arnett Moultrie, and Lavoy Allen–even with one or more of Young, Hawes, and Turner sprinkled in–is sufficiently talentless that anything better than 6-22 is probably biomechanically impossible.  I mean, look at those names.

Toporek: Under. After the break, the Sixers have games against Cleveland, Milwaukee, Orlando (x2), Utah, New York (x2), Sacramento and Boston (x2), so the opportunity will certainly be there. That said, I fully expect the post-trade-deadline Sixers to resemble the world in The Walking Dead. Cracking 20 wins will be a struggle.

3. The Sixers are 8.8 points better when Evan Turner is on the floor. Discuss…

Calabro: This makes sense as Philly’s bench guys are so below average, it makes Evan Turner more valuable. It looks good on paper, but we know better. (Above)

Goldwein: It’s a fun fact that says as much about us as it does about ET. There’s been a bit of an overreaction to “Yay Points!” all-stars — high usage players like Turner, Rudy Gay, and Monta Ellis, who produce more points than wins. We”ll use every number in our advanced stat arsenal to try and take them down, and it’s pretty fun. But sometimes, we’ll leave out numbers — like the probably meaningless +8.8 — that don’t conveniently fit into our hypotheses.

Nathan: It’s an interesting number, but I think it’s more reflective of just how putrid the Sixers’ bench is than it is of Turner’s abilities. In fact, according to HoopsStats, Brett Brown’s second unit is shooting just 42.2 percent from the field and a league-worst 29.4 percent from three. For what it’s worth, they also rank No. 29 overall in terms of free-throw percentage and are allowing 33.7 points to opposing benches, good for the fifth-worst mark in the NBA.  It’s important to remember that Turner still owns a negative individual net rating of -7.8 and is posting a below-average PER of 13.3 while eating up more than 24 percent of the team’s possessions when he’s on the floor.

Sunnergren: Plus/minus is a really noisy stat that tends to reflect a lot more than what it claims to. In this case, we’re not getting a number that tells us impactful Evan Turner has been, but rather a number that tells us how successful the Sixers have been with ET on the floor given the quality of their opponent’s lineups, quality of their own lineups, dumb luck, etc. Even adjusted plus/minus, which holds for the aforementioned variables, requires about two seasons worth of data to take on any kind of explanatory power. So this–an unadjusted number from a little over half a season–It means just about nothing to me.

Toporek: He’s mostly on the floor with one of the team’s two best players. Only one of the Sixers’ 20 most-used five-man units features Turner without MCW or Young, per 82games.com. That unit (Morris-Wroten-Turner-Allen-Orton) has played 18 minutes all year. When Turner plays without MCW and Young, the Sixers average 1.004 points per possession, according to NBAWowy.com, and give up an average 1.107 points per possession. So, there’s that.

4. Fact or fiction: a current member of the Sixers will win a championship this season?

Calabro: Fact. I would really like to see the Spurs make a run at Thaddeus Young or Spencer Hawes. Either player would be a major upgrade to San Antonio’s bench. I suspect Tim Duncan has one more championship run in him.

Goldwein: Fiction, but it’s possible. San Antonio and OKC have reportedly shown interest in Hawes/Turner/Young, and they have as good a shot as anybody.

Nathan: Fiction, mainly because I don’t think the Sixers are going to make a deal with Oklahoma City, Miami or Indiana. However, I still feel like there’s a good chance that a valuable commodity like Hawes could wind up with a Western contender such as the Spurs, Clippers or Blazers (especially after Joel Freeland’s injury).

Sunnergren: Fiction. I think one of the Heat, Thunder, Pacers, or Spurs win the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2014, and neither seems particularly interested in the Sam Hinkie’s wares.

Toporek: Fiction. I don’t see a contender—namely, OKC, Miami, Indiana, San Antonio or Portland—making a serious play for Turner, Hawes or Young. The latter is the only one who screams “missing piece of a title contender” to me, but Hinkie isn’t going to let him go for cheap. One or more of them might escape one of the NBA’s bleakest situations, but none will win a title this year.

5. Who is the worst pickup basketball player?

Calabro: Sandy Lyle aka Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly. Let it Rain! RIP.

Goldwein: Guy who wears headphones. Pickup basketball requires communication and headphones dude  has no intention of interacting with his teammates. It’s the ultimate, “I’m bigger than this game” move.

Nathan: The tall guy who refuses to post up. It’s always frustrating when you think you’re getting a 6’6’’ gem who can dominate down on the blocks and all he does is hover around the perimeter and hoist up jumpers.

Sunnergren: Me. A close second is anyone I pass the ball to, receive passes from, or otherwise offensively interact with in any way. I’m a black hole on the floor–I suck everything that comes close enough into the darkness with me.

Toporek: Andrew Bynum. Per Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Bynum was “shooting the ball every time he touched it in a practice scrimmage” with Cleveland, “from whatever remote part of the court he had caught the ball.” As comical as it is when Bynum shoots threes, he’s a toxic mixture of what Page 2’s Patrick Hruby defined as The Little Big Man and The Bad Bomber.

  • robbybonfire23

    I don’t know why this team cannot do better, with E.T. and Hawes gone? Just the markedly improved attitude and enthusiasm, plus the opportunity accruing to bench-warmers who have much to prove, should inject some “life” and some chemistry, as well as upgraded overall effort, into the mix. In fact, this scenario is something we can look forward to, and the sooner it happens the better, understanding the “tanking” agenda may suffer a slight set-back.