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Oct 16 2014

Life Without MCW: Examining the Sixers’ Backup Guards

Well, it’s starting to look like we’re going to have to get used to life without Michael Carter-Williams.

On Monday, the Sixers point guard told The Intelligencer’s Tom Moore that the original timetable for his bum shoulder – which was operated on in early May – was six-to-nine months. That makes him a near-lock to miss the start of the season, and while there’s not yet a return date, Brett Brown said that the Rookie of the Year is “a ways away” from full-contact basketball.

It’s the scenario we all thought was impossible: the Sixers, somehow, may be worse than anticipated.

But there is a silver – err, copper – lining. With MCW out, we’ll get a slightly better idea of what the reserves can do (probably very little) against NBA competition. There doesn’t yet seem to be a clear front-runner among the potential backup point guards, but let’s take a look at the candidates.

The Favorites: Alexey Shved vs. Tony Wroten

Neither player is advertised as a point guard, but it was Shved’s original position in Europe and Brett Brown has already mentioned that he wants Wroten to transition there this season.

As far as playmaking and running an offense goes, neither are fantastic options. Wroten is the more gifted passer, but his subpar decision making and bad case of tunnel vision lead to countless bricks and turnovers, as you’ll see in this 27-second clip.

Shved had similar issues while playing in Minnesota. Part of that could’ve been a result of his situation. The 6-foot-6 Russian had limited ballhandling opportunities while spending most of his time on the court with point guard J.J. Barea. In trying to get the most out of his minutes, he’d often force low-percentage shots. Shved shot only 29.2% while sharing the floor with Barea per NBA Wowy, but shot 39.6% when he got full control of the offense. For what it’s worth, he’s looked like a new man in the preseason, showing some impressive court vision and distribution through the first few games.

Neither player is a world-beating defender, though right now Shved may be the better option. Wroten, despite his athleticism, was ineffective defensively last season, often wandering away from his man while gambling for steals.

Shved will likely remain a net-minus defensively as well as he’s mostly a tweener on this end, but he is much more disciplined than Wroten in that he’ll rarely lunge out of position for steals and stick to his assignment. While Wroten has the higher ceiling, Shved may be more suited for the backup role right now.

Casper Ware: More Than a Wildcard?

Ware may just be a shoot-first point guard at heart but he’s shown impressive court vision in his first few preseason games, especially in both transition and drive-and-kick situations.

Now don’t get me wrong. Ware will never be the first option to run an offense, and his size (5-10) makes him a defensive liability. But he’s a nuisance to deal with on both ends and can be a burst of energy off the bench; he’s proved he can play hard too, having earned both Big West Player of the Year and Defensive Player the Year honors in his junior season at Long Beach State. And unlike Shved and Wroten, he can actually hit a jumper. He’ll probably buy himself some playing time this season based on that fact alone, as the roster is barren of any shooters outside of Hollis Thompson and Jason Richardson.

While there’s little chance that Ware gets any serious consideration to start over Shved or Wroten, don’t be surprised to see him take control of the offense for four-to-five minute stretches.

So, Who Gets the Nod?

It’s anybody’s game. The three leading candidates have split minutes in the preseason (though Shved had a DNP-CD on Tuesday), and none seem to be separating from the pack. If Brown wants an athlete, it’s Wroten. If he wants the (relatively) steady veteran, it’s Shved. If he wants shooting, it’s Ware. And don’t forget about Malcolm Lee, the ex-Timberwolves shooting guard who has gotten into a couple preseason games. None of these options are particularly appealing, but in the land of the Sixers backcourt, the one-eyed guard is king.

One thing we can be certain of: it’ll be rough watching this team without MCW. Please, Michael, get well soon.

  • robbybonfire23

    Wroten, with the acknowledged defects, has serious upside potential, to go with his unpolished raw ability. Shved is a pothole in a super highway world, where it comes to his basketball playing ability. If Wroten is the apple, Shved is the worm.

    • tbowman

      Robby – If you looked at his statistics when he was playing overseas and for his national team, would you still say that about Shved. The argument being made above is that his production plummeted because he was playing out of position in Minnesota. Could a simple change in position bring his stats back to life?

      • robbybonfire23

        What was his floor shooting percentage, overseas? And what what his total points per missed shot (PPX) average?

        Hope you’re right, but when a player is down to a 32 per cent floor shooting percentage, down from a dismal 37 per cent, in fact, I have to think he is done, career wise, except when playing for a team in a tanking context.

        Safe to say, that is why he was brought in here, same as the dreadful Eric Maynor was brought in here last season – for his glaring defects, not for any skills he possesses.

        • tbowman

          You may be right. Unfortunately, I do think the goal of management is another season of full tank. I see the same potential you do for winning 24 games, but they will find ways to lose more than they should.

          • robbybonfire23

            By the way, a player who is not hitting his shots, should not be taking a disproportionate number of shots. This is something A.I. (from downtown) and his “fans” could never bring themselves to acknowledge.

  • robbybonfire23

    I just now learned that Joel Embiid has lost his younger brother. So sad and so sorry to hear this, there really are no comforting words, just deepest thoughts of sympathy for Joel and the family.

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