1. Robert Covington is the ___ most talented player on the Sixers’ roster.
Eric Goldwein: 11th? This all depends on how you define talent. He’s 23, and was barely good enough to make this terrible team. He can shoot and play D, so maybe there’s a Danny Granger-ultra-lite in here somewhere. But I don’t think his odds of getting there are any better than say, Hollis Thompson’s.
Wesley Share: I’ll go 11th, ahead of what’s left of J-Rich, Drew Gordon and JaKarr Sampson.
Bryan Toporek: I’ll go with 10th, putting him above the corpse of Jason Richardson, Drew Gordon, JaKarr Sampson and, yes, Brandon Davies. It’s hard not to be intrigued by a 6’9” forward who shot 37.0 percent from deep and averaged 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks in the D-League last season. Doubt he develops into anything more than an end-of-the-bench rotation player, but why not take the gamble and find out?
Xylon Dimoff: Agree with Eric that he’s the 11th most talented player. Shved and Mbah a Moute both get an edge over him by default due to their veteran experience, but that might not last much longer at the rate they’re currently playing.
Ben Smolen: 10th. Congrats Drew Gordon and JaKarr Sampson, you get the dubious honor of being the players on the Sixers that are worse than Robert Covington. Let’s not get carried away here on Covington: When the Sixers are the only team in the NBA hitting you up, you aren’t very good. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he can develop into something of note, but, realistically, in three years he will just be part of the answer to a trivia question: Name the 82 undrafted players who played on the Sixers between 2013-2015.
2. Elephant in the room: when will the Sixers win?
Goldwein: Tonight. They’re home. They’re rested. And it’s a RIVALRY GAME. As bad as this season’s been, they’ve played well enough to be a 1-9/2-8 team. I expect them to continue hanging around against average/subpar teams when they’re at home. And even a broken roster gets it right 10 or so times a year.
Share: Tonight against Boston should be their best chance yet, but who knows, really. They’re the worst team in basketball, so any game they win – and that’s assuming they do in fact win this year – it will be an upset.
Toporek: Nov. 26, at home against Brooklyn. Last year’s squad stopped one game short of making history with the NBA’s longest-ever losing streak; this year’s team will stop one game short of tying the franchise record for worst-ever start to a season. The Nets don’t have the personnel to bully the Sixers down low, and MCW should be back up to full speed by that point, allowing him to hold his own against Deron Williams.
Dimoff: Honestly, I have no idea. I would agree with Eric that they could snag a W tonight, but after watching their putrid pick-and-roll defense in San Antonio I predict that Rondo will completely pick Philly apart. They’re just going to have to catch a team sleeping at this point, like they nearly did in Houston (and if not, they play the Lakers on March 22nd).
Smolen: 0-82! But honestly, I’ll go with tonight. The fact is the Sixers will be the underdog (rightly so) in every single game they play this year. But if the film Little Giants taught me anything, it’s that the underdog can win sometimes!! The Celtics are bad, it’s at home, it’s time for a Philly win.
3. What is Nerlens Noel’s floor and ceiling?
Goldwein: Floor: Larry Sanders. Ceiling: KG-lite. He’s frustrating to watch, perhaps moreso than other top prospects. But that may be because of overexposure. Noel is third among all rookies in minutes per game (27.4), and that has as more to do with desperation than merit. For now, he’s a talented but raw defender with no offensive game. He’ll improve, but it may take a little while.
Share: His floor, given his offensive skill set (or the lack thereof) is probably closer to Bismack Biyombo than Larry Sanders, but his ceiling, at least defensively, is probably Garnett. I have no clue about the offensive side of things though. Through ten games there’s no way to accurately project if he can be a poor man’s Garnett with a semi-competent mid-range game, or a completely one-dimensional player who’s a complete net minus on offense.
Toporek: His floor is Larry Sanders, a great athlete who relies on his physical tools more than a refined set of basketball skills. I’m seeing a ceiling of a Joakim Noah-esque player—someone who’s unlikely to ever become a true offensive threat, but a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who’s also a sneaky good passer. If Noel can develop a halfway reliable mid-range jump shot, you can play Embiid in the paint while sticking Noel at the high post to help facilitate the offense. Game, set, match, 2016-17 Sixers.
Dimoff: Floor: Brandan Wright, but only if he stays as jumpy as he is defensively and never learns anything outside of catching alley-oops on offense. I think his ceiling defensively is just a notch under Garnett, but he’ll have to learn to become that same communication anchor that KG was. I think it’s too early to guess his offensive ceiling; I’ve liked his passing ability so far, but he’s still very raw in terms of dribbling, posting up, and shooting.
Smolen: I agree that his floor is Sanders–an athlete that impacts the game on the defensive end, but never really develops as a fully-rounded basketball player. Ceiling: A rich man’s Marcus Camby–a perennial defensive player of the year candidate, a multi-year block king, and limited but productive offensive game. I know that rich man’s Marcus Camby may not sound too desirable, but if he’s the third best player on your team (Embiid plus top 3 pick this year), you can win A LOT of games that way.
4. What’s wrong with Hollis Thompson?
Goldwein: Variance. His 36 percent field goal shooting (33 percent 3pt.) are down from last year (46, 40), but he’s played only 10 games, most of them without the starting point guard. If a few of those 3pt. attempts bounced in, he’d be in line with the 2013-14 efficiency numbers. Also, worth considering that last season was somewhat of an aberration. This is an undrafted free agent we’re talking about.
Share: Part of it, as Eric said, is variance, but playing in a lineup with a pass-first point guard consistently should help him get some more looks. He’s also been pretty passive after an aggressive preseason – he receives 32.5 passes per game and makes 30.8 passes per game, according to SportVU tracking data.
Toporek: This is who Hollis Thompson is, dating back to his college days. He has the potential of becoming an above-average shooter, but remains wildly inconsistent. He’s not a guy capable of consistently creating his own looks—nearly 80 percent of his made shots this season have been assisted, per NBA.com—so the early-season absence of MCW didn’t help, either.
Dimoff: Honestly, this might just be regression to the mean. Nylon Calculus says it takes 750 shots for us to learn what kind of shooter a player really is, and it could very well be that Hollis is just league-average and last season was just a fluke. Brown has suspiciously drawn up very few plays for him this year though, so I remain hopeful that he can improve if he gets a larger role in the offense.
Smolen: Skill set. Hollis Thompson isn’t a very good basketball player. Not very good basketball players often do not very good basketball things. With MCW’s return, Thompson hopefully should see his numbers rebound slightly with more open looks, but, at the end of the day, we need to make our peace with the idea that he is a fringe-level NBA player.
5. What do you think Casper Ware is doing right now?
Goldwein: Apparently he just signed with a German team. So, ummm, eating a schnitzel.
Share: He signed in Germany on Nov. 1, narrowly missing Oktoberfest, so….yeah, Eric was on to something here, definitely eating a schnitzel.
Toporek: Becoming Germany’s favorite American since David Hasselhoff.
Dimoff: The following is (sadly) not a joke: I had a dream the other night that Philly bought out Ware’s contract with his German club and re-signed him to a four-year completely unguaranteed deal. I was legitimately upset when I woke up and realized it was a dream. I… I don’t want to talk about this right now…
Smolen: Casper Ware, physically, is in Germany. Emotionally though? He never left Philadelphia.