Jun 26 2015

5-on-5: Can an Okafor-Noel-Embiid Frontcourt Work

 1. Odds Okafor is wearing a Sixers uniform on opening night?

Eric Goldwein: 65 percent. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a frontcourt of Okafor, Embiid and Noel can coexist on a contending team — especially given Okafor’s lack of versatility, and Noel’s offensive shortcomings. But the Sixers don’t need them to fit well right now. All they need is for them to continue showing they’re promising players. If there’s an offer on the table, then certainly the Sixers will be listening. But for now, I think they’d be content letting the three bigs share the frontcourt.

Bryan Toporek: 35-40 percent? It all depends on what doctors say about Joel Embiid’s foot. If it’s serious enough to keep him sidelined for a portion — or all — of the 2015-16 season, Okafor won’t be going anywhere. If Embiid is healthy by opening night — or if his foot isn’t a long-term concern — it’d be pretty shocking if Hinkie kept all three of Okafor, Embiid and Nerlens. Barring a huge trade offer, though, the Sixers might as well keep Okafor through summer league to see whether the concerns about his defense were overblown.

Benjamin Smolen: Around 75-80 percent. The Sixers will be open to a trade, as is their responsibility, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Sam Hinkie it’s that he’s patient. He will take all the time he needs before dealing one of his bigs, and I assume that will mean starting the season with all three. And to editorialize a little, I know a lot of people are split on this pick, but I think it was absolutely the right one. We are obligated as a team to take the best player available at this juncture. Despite all the heat Okafor took during the pre-draft process (unfairly I think), he was that.

Daniel Christian: 70 percent. I’m pretty confident Okafor will be with the Sixers at the start of the season, just because he fits next to both Embiid and Noel better than they fit together. He’s probably the best offensive player of the bunch and that opens up the possibility of trading one of the other two. The only reason the percentage isn’t higher is because someone is going to be shipped off eventually. I’m not sure who it will be, but it makes more sense to keep Okafor for the time being to see what you’re working with.

Marc Nemcik: 75 percent. I don’t see anyone creating an offer intriguing enough for Hinkie to move Okafor. Aside from all of the Boogie trade rumors, which are probably more smoke than fire, does Boston really have the firepower to make a “Godfather offer?” My guess would be that Nerlens Noel is the one getting shipped out, particularly with Embiid’s value at an all-time low. Hinkie has time to make this decision with no pressure to be a good basketball team next season and Embiid potentially missing.

2. Can an Okafor/Embiid/Noel frontcourt work?

Goldwein: It’s certainly not ideal. Though a healthy Embiid could theoretically play at the four and five, Noel and Okafor are more limited; the former being an offensive liability, and the latter being a defensive liability. That said, there’s 96 minutes to go around. Embiid, I suspect, will be on a minutes restriction, and it can’t hurt to keep the mileage down on the other two. Given the focus is still presumably on development — and not Ws — this can work for now. Down the line there may be some tough calls.

Toporek: Unless Noel and/or Okafor extend their shooting range significantly, I don’t see how it could, especially when you throw Saric into the mix. Okafor would work best with a 4 like Serge Ibaka — a weak-side shot-blocker who stretches the floor offensively. Nerlens doesn’t have the shooting range to make that pairing work, and I’m not convinced Embiid is laterally quick enough to guard 4s defensively. Brett Brown was already stressing about the Embiid/Noel fit… I feel even worse for him now.

Smolen: Remember all the positive things I said to answer the first question? Well, I (almost) take them back. No, it can’t work. And that sucks. But it won’t need to long-term. If Sixer fans are willing to adopt “Optionality” as a catch-phrase six months ago, they need to hold onto it now. Okafor gives us options. I’m disheartened, because this was anti-climactic and next season may not be much fun, but I am certain that this gives us the best chance to be better down the road.

Christian: No, it can’t, and that’s why one of them eventually will have to go. There just isn’t enough space on the floor for everyone to operate. But there is no rush to make this work. The Sixers can take their time and see who actually fits best together and move from there. I don’t think we’ll see Hinkie’s resolution for this conundrum for a good while.

Nemcik: No, not at all – but the Sixers don’t need that frontcourt to work. At least one of these three will get traded eventually, although I’m concerned about drafting for value to this extent. Okafor was clearly the best player available at that point, but other teams know that Philadelphia will eventually have to move one of their big men. Does that hurt their value? Maybe.


3. What grade would you give the draft?

Goldwein: C+. It didn’t go how some might’ve hoped, but they didn’t screw up, and they very well might’ve come away with the rookie of the year.

Toporek: C. Despite the fit concerns, Okafor was the right pick at No. 3 once the Lakers took Russell second. He was the best player on the board — the presumptive No. 1 for much of the year — and if Embiid’s foot is a long-term concern, he’s about the best contingency plan the Sixers could ask for. That said, it’s hard not to feel at least somewhat deflated after Towns and Okafor looked like the clear-cut top two for much of the draft process. Trading Guillermo Hernangomez gets two thumbs up from me, but I’m extremely bummed Hinkie couldn’t move into the 20s and get a guy like Jerian Grant, Delon Wright or RJ Hunter to round out the perimeter rotation. Lady Luck was not on the Sixers’ side tonight.

Smolen: C+. It’s not all doom and gloom–Okafor is still a hell of a prospect–but, more than any other time, this feels like kicking the proverbial can down the road. The Sixers essentially have a mission statement to improve through the draft, and this draft, while giving them a great talent, didn’t do much to help build their roster in the short term. We weren’t able to get back into the first round, we still have no guards, we still are just collecting and waiting. All in all, even if individual decisions were mostly alright, it’s nearly impossible to walk away from this draft feeling anything but a little deflated.

Christian: C. The Sixers really needed a nice guard prospect for their vision to take the next step, and Russell seemed like the perfect guy. Watching LA take him after weeks of penciling in Okafor at number 2 was certainly a swift kick to the gut, but the 76ers were right taking him third. This certainly delays the process. Where is Philadelphia getting backcourt real, useful backcourt talent? Probably not free agency. Maybe via trade of one of the bigs, but it’s going to take some time to determine what big needs to be traded. If anything, this draft only raises more roster questions, but I don’t think there was anything the team could have done about it.

Nemcik: C. Not many things went right for the Sixers – but that really isn’t all their fault. If the Lakers take Okafor instead of Russell the outlook would be different. I think it’s easy to get distracted by fit, but Philadelphia still got one hell of a prospect that realistically could have gone first overall.


4. What’s next for the Sixers?

Goldwein: Free agency. At some point they’ll have to start spending, and what better time than now. A player like Danny Green would give a lot of credibility (and more importantly, floor spacing) to a team that’s been one of the NBA’s worst the last couple years. The Sixers have the cap space and roster spots to pull off that type of move.

Toporek: First and foremost, figure out what’s up with Embiid. If there’s no reason to worry about his long-term health, sort out this frontcourt logjam, presumably by trading either Nerlens or Okafor. From there, use free agency to load up on guards and wings. Point guard is still a glaring hole that needs to be addressed — maybe throw an offer sheet at Cory Joseph, who Brett Brown should know well from his San Antonio days? The Sixers clearly aren’t gunning for a playoff spot next season — nor should they be — but they’ll need to begin making some tangible progress or they’ll be on the outside looking in during the 2016 free-agency bonanza.

Smolen: Forgive the unoriginality, but Bryan really nailed it. The major thing is to figure out, as soon as humanly possible, what Embiid’s outlook is. If healthy, he still has the highest ceiling out of our….Triplet Towers (?). If he is healthy, I mean, I start looking for trade partners for one of them. There’s no rush, but you never know what opportunity might present itself. From there, I suppose it would be hard to have a basketball team without any guards? So, yeah, let’s sign some of those why not.

Christian: The first thing the Sixers need to address is their non-existent backcourt. It’s painful on the eyes to keep trotting undrafted free agents and second round picks out there in starting roles, so I wouldn’t be against the 76ers looking to sign some legit NBA players.The team’s current construction is still in such disarray, however, that it would be difficult to attract even average role players. The reality of the situation is that Philadelphia will continue to rely on project players to handle the guard duties. It’s probably not what most fans want to see, but this is the biggest remaining hurdle in Hinkie’s build-through-the-draft plan. The 76ers were supposed to find the young balance in this draft through D’Angelo Russell. Instead, things are more confusing than ever. Everything takes time, whether it’s awaiting Saric’s arrival, Embiid’s healing process or figuring out which heralded center will be traded, but eventually things have to begin to take shape. The backcourt is the furthest behind in that regard.

Nemcik: The abundance of second-round picks is clogging the roster. Guys like J.P. Tokoto may have to endure the same fate as Jordan McRae last season, so signing an abundance of players in free agency realistically isn’t in the cards. It’ll be difficult to convince players to sign for the Sixers unless they overpay, which isn’t something that Hinkie would do. Despite that, this free agency may provide a great opportunity for Philadelphia to pick up solid players on deals that will look like grand theft in a year or two. As previously mentioned, figuring out the frontcourt logjam will be a pressing concern.

 5. What does this draft say about the value of 1st- and 2nd-round picks?

Goldwein: That their value fluctuates year to year. The Hardaway for Jerian Grant (No. 19) trade suggests that mid/low first-round picks didn’t have a ton of value this draft. Is that because of this particularly draft class? Is it because of the expiring CBA? None of that’s clear, but Hardaway and Greivis freakin’ Vasquez just netted first-round picks .. Robert Covington could’ve probably gotten the Sixers into the lottery.

Toporek: I don’t know that we learned anything we didn’t know already. Some teams will always make panic trades — see: the Atlanta Hawks punting No. 15 for Tim Hardaway Jr. and two future second-rounders — so, theoretically, teams that have compiled a bunch of assets stand to benefit. The fact the Sixers couldn’t capitalize on Thursday is somewhat surprising — I, for one, expected Hinkie to package OKC’s first-rounder next year with either 35, 37 or 47 to move into the 20s — but the potential of having four first-round picks next year, two of which figure to be top-10 selections, remains insane. Let’s just hope we don’t have to endure another lost year before enjoying that prospective scenario.

Smolen: Far beyond picking Okafor, this is what upset me the most tonight. You’re telling me that the Raptors can get a first rounder for one year of Vasquez, the Knicks can get the 19th pick for Hardaway Jr., and the T-Wolves can get 25 for two early seconds, but the Sixers couldn’t make any noise? I guess what it shows me is two-fold: One, Hinkie HIGHLY values his future picks; and/or Two, he just didn’t think too highly of the talent in the tail-end of the first round this year. Either way, woof.

Christian: I think it reinforces ideas we’ve always known to some degree. Teams looking to make a leap will sacrifice assets for what they perceive to be an immediate benefit. I think when you have teams who don’t necessarily need that first round pick like Atlanta and Milwaukee, you get some funky, if not irrational, deals from their end. That’s always been the case on some level. I, like everyone else, am surprised that Hinkie couldn’t match the seemingly skimpy offers that netted the Knicks and Raptors first round picks. But it could just be that none of the remaining prospects within reach enthused Hinkie enough to lose anything. Not surrendering any of his plethora of future first rounders shows that the team places immense value in them, and that’s because this team really does need those first round picks. But the fact that teams were likely rejecting offers full of second round picks left and right might reveal some waning value in picks after 30.

Nemcik: The value of draft picks swings on a year-to-year basis. Hinkie couldn’t capitalize on teams trying to trade their way into the second round – other than the Knicks. Fewer teams were willing to part with higher relative value to grab a player this year, resulting in a number of draft-and-stash selections. The trades resulting in the affluence of picks were opportunistic and didn’t hurt the team in the long run, but it still indicates lower overall second-round value.

Jun 25 2015

Third Annual Hoop76 Mock Draft

Tonight, 30 incredibly high-skilled workers will lock themselves into multi-year contracts in cities that they don’t necessarily want to live in. And we, the viewers, will love every second of this morally questionable event known as the NBA Draft. Below — for the third straight year (here’s 2013 and 2014) — the Hoop76 staff put together a mock draft of the first round. Happy draft day, readers.

1. Minnesota: Karl-Anthony Towns
He’ll fit well alongside Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio, because, well, he’d fit well alongside just about anyone. Versatile big man can defend, space the floor, and body up inside. Flip Saunders won’t screw this up.
– Eric Goldwein

2. Lakers: Jahlil Okafor
Despite the concerns about his defensive deficiencies and fit with Julius Randle, the Lakers can’t pass up the best low-post scorer to come around in years. If nothing else, he’ll be solid trade bait to entice Sacramento into trading Boogie Cousins.
– Bryan Toporek

3. Philadelphia: D’Angelo Russell
Let’s not get cute with this. I’m not willing to gamble this pick on the Lean Latvian or the Cocky Croatian with Jojo’s health up in the air, and I’ll pass on Mudiay after the two years we just spent on Point Guard That Can’t Shoot Island. Russ brings some much-needed spacing and playmaking, plus he and Nerlens are already pals.
– Xylon Dimoff

4. New York: Mario Hezonja
Haven’t heard of any rumors connecting Mario and the Knicks but New York needs excitement and someone willing/able to handle the pressure of playing at MSG. Over/under on how many games it takes for Melo and Mario to go at each other: 10.
– Alex MacMullan

5. Orlando: Kristaps Porzingis
Ignoring for a moment that “The Zinger and Vuc” sounds like the title of an 80’s cop drama, pairing Porzingis with Nic Vucevic would give the Magic a chance at one of the highest-scoring frontcourts in the league. This leaves Orlando’s mosaic roster with a backcourt that serves as its primary form of defense, effectively completing the team’s transformation into the opposite of what basketball used to be.
– Drew Stone

6. Sacramento: Emmanuel Mudiay
In my mind, Emmanuel Mudiay is a tier one player. Not only that, he fits a glaring need in Sacramento. So if I were the Kings, I’d need less than 30 seconds to make this pick. That said, the Kings are the Kings, so don’t be too surprised if instead they trade Boogie, drop back to 8 somehow, and draft Jimmer again.
– Ben Smolen

7. Denver: Justise Winslow

At this point Winslow is the best available player left, but he’s also a pretty good fit for the re-tooling Nuggets. With the recent news that Danilo Gallinari is on the trading block, this pick makes all the more sense. He’d be a nice young replacement– a wing shot maker, albeit less offensively capable, with more defensive upside. That’s just the type of guy new head coach Mike Malone would covet. Malone is a hard-nosed, defense-first coach, and Winslow might be the best defensive wing in the draft.

– Daniel Christian

8. Detroit: Stanley Johnson

Detroit needs any help they can get on the wing, and Stanley Johnson provides the highest upside with players like Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja off the board. Although Devin Booker and his sweet shooting will be intriguing for the Pistons, Johnson’s potential on both ends of the court are unmatched at this point.

– Marc Nemcik

9. Charlotte: Devin Booker
The Bobcats’ 3-point shooting is terrible (ranked 30th) and Booker’s shooting is great, making the 6-foot-6 shooting guard a solid fit between Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (update: and Nicolas Batum!)

10. Miami: Myles Turner
If the Heat re-sign D-Wade and Goran Dragic to huge deals this summer, they’re almost certain to lose Hassan Whiteside in 2016 free agency. Pat Riley, knowing this, takes Turner — a shot-blocking machine who hit over 80 percent of his free throws and can knock down an occasional triple — as Whiteside’s heir apparent.

11. Indiana: Willie Cauley-Stein
It pains me to do this as the captain of the S.S. Hibbert, but I’ll do my fellow Nap Town-ians — Hoosiers? Indianapolites? Whatever. — a solid and grant their longstanding wishes of exiling Roy from America’s Crossroads. After Indy somewhat rediscovered itself as an up-tempo outfit last season, W(T)CS slots in perfectly to replace Hibbs.

12. Utah: Kelly Oubre
There might not be a player available outside of the Top 10 with Oubre’s upside. But with surefire NBA rotation guys like Bobby Portis and Trey Lyles still on the board this selection is not without risk. Utah sports a young, well-balanced roster so they can afford to swing for the fences with this pick.

13. Phoenix: Trey Lyles
By now you’ve seen so many mock drafts with Frank Kaminsky going to Phoenix and some variation of the sentence “he’ll slot into the Channing Frye role” that Kaminsky in a Suns uni seems too likely to actually happen. Frank the Tank is the safe pick here, but Lyles has a comparable skill set and a better chance of turning into something more than a role player.

14. Oklahoma City: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
May be a little bit of a reach, but I think the fit is perfect (shades of Thabo). Once you get to this point of the draft, I’m looking for concrete ability, and Hollis-Jefferson can be an elite wing defender from day one. Between Westbrook and KD, they don’t need another creator. They do need an elite stopper though.

15. Atlanta: Bobby Portis

Portis has one of the most well-rounded games of any big in the draft, and for a team that has had so much success with multi-faceted forwards, this seems like an ideal fit for him. He has all the tools to be an NBA rotation player: a jump shot good enough to space the floor, an above average face-up and post game, a decent knack for rebounds and at the very least passable defense. He’s not great at any one thing, but he projects to be good at a few different things.

16. Boston: Cameron Payne

Danny Ainge is in asset-collection mode and can’t believe that Cameron Payne is still on the board. Pundits have labeled him as the highest riser in the pre-draft process, so the Celtics are getting the best value at this point – regardless of position.


17. Milwaukee: Frank Kaminsky
Over/under on “Kaminsky” mentions in ESPN broadcast: 28.5

18. Houston: Jerian Grant
James Harden wasn’t shy about how much he wants a player to take some ball-handling responsibility off his hands. While Grant’s age works against him in most cases — he’ll turn 23 in October — the Rockets, in full win-now mode, will see his experience as a positive.

19. Washington: Rashad Vaughn
Might be reaching a bit here, but the Wiz will need insurance for when Bradley Beal inevitably misses 40 games for stubbing his toe. Vaughn may also be utilized as a second-unit ball handler as well, which is good so that Ramon Sessions and Garrett Temple can just stop.

20. Toronto: Kevon Looney
Possibly the only player still on the board who could play in multiple all-star games. For a team stuck in post-lottery/playoff purgatory in a city unlikely to draw major free agent talent it makes sense to take a chance on Looney’s potential.

21. Dallas: Sam Dekker
Given the Rondo/Ellis debacle, R.J. Hunter or Tyus Jones might be the Mavs’ best option here. But Dekker became a first-round prospect by embodying the blue collar drive that Mark Cuban clearly values, as seen in players like J.J. Barea, Chandler Parsons, and Jae Crowder. I can’t see Dallas passing on Dekker if he slips this far into an area of the draft where the chances of getting a legitimate playmaker are generally slim.

22. Chicago: R.J. Hunter
As much as I enjoy a watching a Bulls offense that frequently has two guys in the paint and three guys directly outside of the paint, I’ve taken someone who can, ya know, actually shoot. His dip in three point percentage last season doesn’t scare me at all; I doubt he will be the focus of any defensive game plans in the NBA. He may be primarily a spot-up guy, but there are far worse things you can be in today’s league.

23. Portland: Montrezl Harrell

With indications that Portland might be changing things up (Batum trade, Aldridge discontent), it makes sense to take a flier on a high-energy, uber-athletic prospect in Harrell. He’s a bit undersized, but at this point in the draft no one’s going to check all the boxes.

24. Cleveland: Tyus Jones

The Cavaliers need all the backcourt help they can get and Jones provides great value this late in the first round. Plus LeBron probably loves his competitiveness. Doesn’t this just scream “Shabazz Napier?”


25. Memphis: Delon Wright
Mike Conley broken face insurance.

26. San Antonio: Justin Anderson
With Danny Green potentially departing in free agency, the Spurs grab Anderson as a three-and-D backup plan. He knocked down 45.2 percent of his triples as a junior at Virginia, and few players in this draft class project to be better wing defenders. Pairing him with Kawhi Leonard is just mean.

27. Lakers: Chris McCullough
I like his defensive potential if he can get some proper coaching (sup, Byron) and with a starting lineup that features Kobe, Randle and Okafor, McCullough’s presence on that end could be sorely needed off the pine.

28. Boston: Terry Rozier
This is strictly a best player available selection. If Boston ends up keeping this pick and taking Rozier he ensures that when Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart are out of the game Boston doesn’t lose any of its defensive intensity.

29. Brooklyn: Andrew Harrison
I like to believe that simply watching March Madness eats up a good chunk of Billy King’s scouting process. Now it’s just a matter of whether he can get the right Harrison’s name in the commissioner’s hands. Maybe Mason Plumlee can help out.

30. Golden State: Joseph Young
I will be brutally honest. I don’t know much about Joseph Young. From what I’ve read, he can shoot the ball alright? I don’t know. I guess their second unit could use more shooting? They are pretty good. Frankly, it seems unfair that they even get a pick.

Jun 14 2015

Joel Embiid Is A Really, Really Slow Healer

It’s been almost a full year since Joel Embiid had two screws inserted into his right foot, and the Sixers’ big man has suffered a setback in his recovery.

Here’s the team statement from Sam Hinkie (via ESPN):

“As part of the conservative approach focused on the long-term health, recovery and care of Joel, we have been closely monitoring his progress, regularly evaluating his status and adjusting our plans accordingly,” team president and general manager Sam Hinkie said in a statement. “Recently, Joel and Sixers personnel traveled to Los Angeles for a series of routine exams with a number of physicians who have been actively involved throughout this process.

“During his visit with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a standard CT scan on Joel’s right foot revealed less healing than anticipated at this point. Our priority remains providing Joel with every opportunity to ensure he has a long and successful NBA career, and as such, these findings cause us to pause and reassess his current activities.

“Together with Joel and his representatives, we will continue to consult with the experienced team of doctors who have been an integral part of his evaluations, while also engaging in dialogue with a broader set of experts and specialists. Discussions regarding the appropriate next steps are currently ongoing and we will share an update once it becomes available.”

This is potentially very very very bad, and it’s particularly troubling given the time it’s been since the surgery and the context of his other injuries. But like the boot sighting in March, this could also mean nothing. Setbacks happen, and not all of them result in Andrew Bynum scenarios. Pessimism is warranted, though it might be best to avoid playing doctor without an M.D. and access to the 7-footer’s medical records.

One thing that’s clear: Embiid’s health, for better or worse, will play a huge role in this team’s future. If healthy, he’s the type of talent that could turn around a franchise.  D’Angelo Russell, Mario Hezonja, Kristaps Porzingis, 3-6-11, future picks, cap room — they’re important too, but trivial compared to the status of Embiid’s right foot. So here’s to a full and permanent recovery — and to this being a small stepback, rather than a major one.

May 19 2015

Sixers Land Third Pick, Chance To Play Again

The Sixers got the third pick, and the … well, that’s it. The draft lottery was a bit of a letdown, and far from the #OneSixEleven .28% long-shot ya’ll were dreaming about. But worry not, people who just spent an hour watching people open envelopes, because your team is slated to get a top prospect in a draft where, supposedly, there are several very good prospects.

There’s still a ways to go before the June 25 NBA Draft, and as we learned last year with Joel Embiid, all it takes is one injury to throw off everything. But as it looks now, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor will go to either Minnesota or Los Angeles, picking first and second. For the Sixers, that leaves (in no order), D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow, or someone not on the (my) radar.

As for the Lakers (top-5 protected) and Heat (top-10) picks? Well, they’re not going anywhere. The L.A. first will be top-3 protected in 2016, and while you might hear otherwise, they’re still not any good. Even with Okafor/Towns, the return of Julius Randle/Kobe, AND a decent/good free agent signing, I still don’t think they’ll be all that different from the team that went 21-61 in 2014-15, let alone a playoff contender in the big bad Western Conference.

The Heat pick — top-10 protected next year and unprotected after that — has a lower floor but just as high a ceiling. They went 37-45 despite Chris Bosh only playing 44 games, and Josh McRoberts playing just 17. With those two, along with a full season of Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, and their 10th pick, and Dwyane Wade, that could be a top-tier Eastern Conference team — if everything goes right. Then again, those guys are freakin’ old, and old players miss games. Not ruling out a 50-win season, but a lot would have to go the Heat’s way for that to happen. Given the state of the bottom tier Eastern Conference teams — Pacers, Celtics, Magic, Sixers, Knicks, Pistons, Hornets — Miami may be just as likely to play the lotto again.

Either way, the Sixers will get something from Miami in the future. If next season, the pick could be anywhere from late lotto to 30. If it stays protected, though, it WILL convey to Philly in 2017, and that possibility is worth getting excited about.

All in all, the pingpong results weren’t ideal. Though it’s not as simple as, prospect in hand > pick in the bush. Those picks still belong to the Sixers, and their values are volatile. That could be good, could be bad.

Meanwhile, the Sixers first — the one pick they were getting regardless — landed at its most likely destination; they avoided the real worst case scenario of that dropping to fifth/sixth. That’s not insignificant.

So cheer up, Sixers fans. You didn’t win, but you’ll get to play again next year.

May 14 2015

The Sixers’ Offseason Point Guard Options

The Sixers are in desperate need of a point guard this offseason. While Tony Wroten, Isaiah Canaan, Ish Smith or Pierre Jackson are possible backup material, Sam Hinkie and Co. will almost certainly be looking to acquire a prospective full-time floor general, perhaps multiple.

Tuesday’s draft lottery will go a long way toward determining how they go about doing that. If the Sixers land a top-four pick — there’s a 69.5 percent chance of that happening — they’ll almost assuredly have a shot at drafting either Emmanuel Mudiay or D’Angelo Russell on June 25. It’s currently unclear which prospect they prefer — a league executive told Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer that Russell is “the guy they want,” while Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler says they’re high on Mudiay. Back in February, former Sixers coach and current SMU coach Larry Brown told Marc Narducci of the Inquirer that the team had “been interested” in Mudiay, who originally committed to playing at SMU before ultimately going abroad instead.

In other words, no one has any firm idea about the Sixers’ draft plans at this point in the process. Considering the team has yet to work out any prospects, anyone saying they know who Hinkie prefers should be taken with an enormous helping of salt.

Drafting either Mudiay or Russell might be the Sixers’ preferred scenario, but there are options — albeit limited ones — if they go the free-agent route.

Two of the top-tier point guards on the market—Brandon Knight and Reggie Jackson—are restricted free agents whose teams are likely to match any offer sheet they receive. Goran Dragic, meanwhile, hasn’t been shy about his desire to re-sign with the Miami Heat after he officially declines his player option. And unless Rajon Rondo suddenly develops a jumper overnight, the Sixers would be certifiably insane to dump huge money into a long-term contract for the 29-year-old.

That leaves the Sixers with few other free-agent options. Here’s a brief look at what they’ll be sorting through.

Jeremy Lin, 26, UFA

If the Los Angeles Lakers don’t fire Byron Scott this offseason, Jeremy Lin will almost assuredly be leaving in free agency. The two frequently butted heads, most notably about the frequency of pick-and-rolls, which led to Scott misusing Lin for much of the year.

While “Linsanity” may be a thing of the past, Lin’s skill set may be of interest to the Sixers. Nearly 40 percent of his possessions this past season were as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and he finished in the 72.5th percentile in terms of scoring in those sets, per Synergy Sports. He’s also increased his 3-point shooting percentage over each of his five seasons in the league, knocking down 36.9 percent of his attempted triples in 2014-15.

No one will mistake Lin for a lockdown defender, however. The Lakers gave up 108.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, and his defensive box plus/minus decreased from 3.0 as a rookie to a career-worst minus-1.3 with L.A. Because of those defensive deficiencies, the Sixers likely wouldn’t consider Lin a franchise-caliber point guard, but he’d be a potential asset off the bench if he doesn’t command a gigantic salary.


Cory Joseph, 23, RFA

With both Patty Mills and Tony Parker signed through the 2016-17 season and a number of other high-priority free agents to tend to, the San Antonio Spurs may be forced to allow Cory Joseph to walk. Thus, if the Sixers are genuinely intent on stealing Joseph from San Antonio, they should sign him to an offer sheet ASAP after the July Moratorium lifts, officially putting the Spurs on the 72-hour clock.

The question becomes: Have they seen enough from him in limited minutes to merit such an interest? During the 14 games in which Joseph started this season, he averaged 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting 56.2 percent overall and 44.4 percent from 3-point range. However, he’s not a prolific long-range shooter, having attempted only 118 treys over his four-year career.

The Spurs allowed 2.0 fewer points per 100 possessions with the 6-3 Joseph on the court this season, and he’s had a positive mark in defensive box plus/minus for each of the past three years. However, he was essentially average at defending pick-and-roll ball-handlers, per Synergy. Luckily, Brett Brown will have intricate knowledge of Joseph, having worked with him for two years before coming to Philadelphia, thus giving the Sixers an informational advantage over other free-agent suitors.


Patrick Beverley, 26, RFA

Every discussion about Patrick Beverley begins with his defense, and rightfully so. He’s the definition of a defensive pest, particularly adept at hounding pick-and-roll ball-handlers and opponents in isolation settings, per Synergy. To wit: Opponents only shot 26.8 percent against him in isolation this past season, which put him just outside the 88th percentile among all players.

Offensively, he’s a none-too-shabby 3-point shooter, having knocked in 35.6 percent of his 323 attempted treys in 2014-15. However, his overall field-goal percentage has dropped over each of the past three seasons, going from 41.8 percent as a rookie to 38.3 percent this past year. The Houston Rockets also rarely use him as a “traditional” point guard, as James Harden is often responsible for handling the ball and initiating offense. Over his three-year career, he’s averaged just 3.0 dimes per game, which may be cause for concern if the Sixers view him as a potential long-term answer at the 1.

Beverley is coming off torn ligaments in his left wrist that required season-ending surgery, which may drive his price down a bit in restricted free agency. With Sam Hinkie having come to the Sixers from Houston, he should have some inside insights about Beverley that other GMs don’t. To date, however, there’s nothing suggesting the former Arkansas Razorback is franchise point guard material.


Norris Cole, 26, RFA

See how quickly the free-agent point guard pool thins out? When Norris Cole is one of the five best options, you know you’re dealing with a shallow position beyond the top-tier options — none of whom are likely to take their talents to Philadelphia this summer.

Cole isn’t an efficient shooter — he’s yet to knock down more than 42.1 percent of his shots in a given year, and his 3-point percentage has dipped over each of the past two seasons, going from 35.7 percent in 2012-13 to 31.3 percent this year. He’s never averaged more than 5.0 assists per 36 minutes, and he has yet to come anywhere close to a league-average player efficiency rating. Cole also has negative marks in both offensive and defensive box plus/minus in each of his four NBA seasons.

So… yeah. Brown might be somewhat of a point guard whisperer, based on what he got out of Wroten, Canaan and Smith, but Cole doesn’t exactly scream long-term starting point guard.


Shane Larkin, 22, UFA

Do you see Hinkie building around a 5-11 floor general who’s been a defensive minus during each of his two years in the NBA? Not unless he’s capable of consistently hitting above 40 percent from deep.

Shane Larkin, however, doesn’t quite fit that mold. It took a slew of injuries for him to get regular rotation minutes on a dismal New York Knicks team, where he shot just 30.2 percent from 3-point range on the year. The Knicks’ offense only averaged 95.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor this year, which should be a major red flag given the Sixers’ struggles on that end.

Larkin may carve out a long-term NBA role as a J.J. Barea-esque backup, but the Sixers already have a wealth of backup floor generals to sort through. Hard pass.


Other options?

Beyond these five, the free-agent point guard market is largely filled with players in their late 20s and early 30s, none of whom would be in their prime when the Sixers begin making a push toward title contention. Matthew Dellavedova is out there, too, but given his play backing up Kyrie Irving during the playoffs, one can only assume the Cleveland Cavaliers will manage to bring him back in the fold.

In terms of finding a franchise point guard this offseason, in other words, the draft is the best avenue to do so.

Does that mean it’s Mudiay, Russell, or bust? Not necessarily. Perhaps the Sixers consider trading down — particularly if they fall to Nos. 5 or 6, likely missing out on both top-tier floor generals — to acquire a mid-first-round pick and some additional assets. They could always attempt to flip one of the future first-round picks owed to them (from the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder) for an additional first-rounder. Maybe they manage to package a few of their 18,000 future second-round picks to move back into the 20s, opening the door for someone like Jerian Grant, Delon Wright, Tyus Jones or Terry Rozier.

The Sixers have already met with Murray State point guard Cameron Payne, according to Kyler, so it’s clear they’ll be doing their due diligence on a number of point guard prospects beyond just Mudiay and Russell. Based on their limited options in free agency, it makes perfect sense to do so. With no presumptive franchise point guard in the fold, leaving the draft without a high-upside floor general wouldn’t bode well for the Sixers’ chances of advancing their rebuild significantly in 2015-16.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via NBA.com or Synergy Sports. All lottery scenarios via LotteryBucket.com.

Apr 15 2015

Sixers Lose (Win?) Tank Finale, Which Turned Out Not To Matter

Miami Heat 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Philadelphia 76ers
Robert Covington, SF 29 MIN | 4-14 FG | 9-10 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | -15 +/-Covington took an unfortunate shot at the end of the fourth quarter to seal the victory for Miami, but ultimately played a better game than the stat sheet might suggest. Despite some subpar outside shooting, he was able to get to the line where he converted his opportunities efficiently.

Jerami Grant, SF 41 MIN | 3-13 FG | 2-5 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -4 +/-Grant hit the rookie wall at some point after the All-Star break, demonstrated again by his performance tonight. Although he played the most minutes for Philadelphia, a low point came when he airballed a finger roll in the first half.

JaKarr Sampson, SG 35 MIN | 8-15 FG | 6-7 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 22 PTS | -1 +/-JaKarr was thrown in the point guard role once again, setting a career-high in points and assists. He turned the ball over five times — not surprising from a player that played power forward in college.

Thomas Robinson, PF 26 MIN | 5-7 FG | 3-3 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 13 PTS | +6 +/-Robinson provided his usual prowess off the bench, rebounding and scoring inside the paint, despite his team-high six turnovers. It will be interesting to see whether he returns to the Sixers next season.

Hollis Thompson, SG 31 MIN | 8-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 19 PTS | 0 +/-Thompson was the Sixers’ only semi-reliable shooter, while also hilariously playing backup point guard. He turned it on during the final stretch, averaging almost 15 points per game over the last seven games.

Tweet of the Game:

By the Numbers:
• 33 days until the NBA Draft Lottery.
• 70 days until the NBA Draft.
• ~200 days until the first game of the 2015-16 NBA season.

Parting Shots:

The 2014-15 season is finally over, and the Sixers — after not getting help from the Knicks — finished with the third-worst record. They’re also unlikely to get the top-5 protected pick from the Lakers (17.2 percent chance of conveying) and the top-10 protected pick from the Heat (9.1 percent chance of conveying). A somber end to an exhausting season.

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