1. How much longer can you take this?
Goldwein: Games like last night’s? I mean, the basketball was presumably bad (I didn’t watch), but the reaction from the anti-tankers on Twitter was insufferable. The 2014-15 Sixers are a terrible team. Terrible teams lose the occasional 50-point game. It’ll get better.
Dimoff: Believe it or not, I’m actually enjoying this! The Sixers are hanging tough in basically every game they play (for at least three quarters), and and the last two contests against Toronto and Dallas were really the first two hard-to-watch games of the season thus far. As long as K.J. McDaniels and Nerlens Noel are making highlight-reel plays on a nightly basis and Tony Wroten isn’t making some incessantly stupid decisions, I’m all in on this season.
Smolen: 74 more games. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve actually enjoyed watching them this season (not counting the recent tire fires against Toronto and Dallas), and they can lose as many games as their heart desires, but at the end of this year, enough will be enough. I don’t expect them to be a playoff team next year, or any good really, but I will expect progress. I will expect more wins, more skill, more everything. All hail Hinkie, but if the tank motors its way into a third year, whew, that will be a tough pill to swallow.
Nemcik: It’s pretty bad when you’ve gotten to the point where you are used to watching bad basketball on a consistent basis. At the end of the day the real question should be how much longer the players can take it. We’re still early in the season, but the Toronto and Dallas games were ugly. Obviously this is a young team and Brett Brown is going to have to do a good job to keep it focused.
Clancy: Tonight was the first time I felt my seemingly impenetrable Sixers’ happiness shield begin to crack. I can’t ever recall being as irate as I was watching Dallas destroy them during my years watching the Sixers, especially in the Hinkie and Brown era. If the next 74 games are more like last week’s closely-contested defeats, where McDaniels and Noel look like rising stars? I’ll definitely make it. Any more 50-point losses may send me to an asylum.
2. What is Robert Covington?
Eric Goldwein: A concept. He’s a “D-level” prospect with a chance to turn into say, the next Brandon Davies. He can shoot and allegedly do a few other things; that’s why he was the D-League ROY. But he’s also turning 24 in December, and hasn’t been particularly impressive against NBA competition. Though he probably won’t pan out, the Sixers are playing with house money. There’s 100 Robert Covingtons out there, and they’ll test run each one until they find a player.
Xylon Dimoff: He’s exactly what the Sixers need right now. He’s a typical “Hinkie prospect that he has a huge wingspan (7-2) and can attack the basket. But more importantly, he can be used as a stretch-four and should really help the floor spacing on offense (he shot 37 percent from 3 in the D-League last season). He might be a bit of a tweener defensively as a guy who’s not quick enough to guard 3s and a bit too small to guard 4s, but he should be a nice fit alongside Nerlens Noel.
Ben Smolen: To the best of my understanding, he is a basketball player. He was the D-League Rookie of the Year last year, and, as Xylon mentioned, with a decent long-range game, Convington will certainly help with the spacing on the offensive end. But to be realistic, like most recent additions, he can be best described as a lottery ticket. The odds of his being a part of the next relevant Sixers team are long, but, with practically no risk involved, it’s certainly a shot worth taking.
Marc Nemcik: He’s not big enough to guard power forwards and not athletic enough to guard wings, but offensively he could be an upgrade over what we have seen at the position. He can score, as he showed that in the D-League last year. Perhaps that’ll translate in the NBA.
Shamus Clancy: The way, the truth and the light. He’s someone who may feel out of place with his standing as one of the few people on the team who can actually shoot a basketball into the net (37 percent from 3 in the D-League last season). He seems to have the upside of a reliable rotation forward can stretch the floor. That might be enough to earn the starting spot next to Noel.
3. How many of these Sixers will be around in the 2020 championship parade?
Goldwein: Five of the six between MCW, Wroten, Noel, McDaniels, Embiid, and Saric; also, one of the other randos. I’m a bit optimistic here, but there’s value in continuity (see: Spurs, San Antonio). Though players are getting traded left and right, the moves are being done with the intent of positioning the team for the future. When the core players are due for extensions in a few years, there’ll be plenty of cap room to retain them.
Dimoff: I agree with Derek Bodner that McDaniels and Embiid are both keepers, but I’d like to throw Nerlens Noel into that category as well. People may be quick to cite the awkward Dwight-Asik pairing in Houston as evidence that two bigs like Embiid and Noel won’t work long term, but if one of them develops a jumper I think they could fit together quite nicely. I’d consider MCW a keeper too, but only if he can develop a league-average shot.
Smolen: I’m going wild here. Three: Embiid, Saric, and McDaniels. I think MCW and Noel will be good enough to be real contributors on a championship level team in 2020, but my gut tells me that Smokin’ Sam Hinkie deals both in the coming years. Point guard is the most replaceable part in today’s NBA, and, if the Sixers end up with the top pick and Okafor is as good as advertised, that front court will get awfully crowded awfully fast. As far as the keepers, in my mind, if we’re assuming a championship, Embiid is the key cog that will take us there. McDaniels is the 3 and D guy that every good team needs. And Saric? He might still be on his rookie deal by then.
Nemcik: Hinkie is going to listen to any offer that comes his way, so I don’t know if anyone is safe. The player I’m most worried about is K.J. McDaniels. If he continues his current level of production it wouldn’t surprise me if a team with cap space offers him $4-5 million a year. Hinkie could take a hard look at moving him in a sign-and-trade if he can get assets out of a deal and doesn’t want to pay McDaniels this early in his career.
Clancy: Three: Embiid, McDaniels and, if we’re including him, Saric. Embiid possesses more potential as a franchise-changing player than both Noel and Carter-Williams, each of whom would space the floor poorly in an offense predicated on working Embiid out of the post. 2020 isn’t coming soon. The Sixers could have successful, contending teams with both Noel and MCW in the seasons leading to 2020, but it is still a while away with significant time for roster improvements and shakeups.
4. Where will the Sixers-owned Miami pick land?
Goldwein: Twenty. Chris Bosh is a borderline top-10 player, and regular season Dwyane Wade is still an all-star. But the injury-prone Wade could miss a good chunk of the season; and if he doesn’t rest, his efficiency will drop. And Bosh 3.0 looks great now, but he’s 29 and could get worn down. It’s a 50-win team when healthy (thanks, Eastern Conference). But this roster will have a hard time surviving the 82-game grind.
Dimoff: Somewhere in the low 20s. Miami has been a pleasant surprise despite having some awkward fits on its roster, and Chris Bosh is more than proving that he can be a number one option. The team is quite limited in its depth though, and one major injury could potentially mean Miami handing over a high lottery pick to the Sixers.
Smolen: 22-25. Reports of Miami’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Chris Bosh is a 20 and 10 machine and is a legit superstar. Dwyane Wade (when playing) is still an all-star caliber player, and as far as third bananas go, Deng is a….good third banana (I was hoping a banana joke would come to me, I really was). Mix that together, add in a dash of Spo, and you have a team that easily makes it to at least the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Nemcik: Miami has looked presentable thus far, but it’s a team that’s bound to break down. Wade is going to get a nagging injury, and as much as I love Chris Bosh, I doubt he’s going to be able to keep that ship afloat by himself. They’ll make the playoffs in the East but I could see the pick landing in the late teens.
Clancy: Somewhere in the 17-20 range. Miami has played well in its 5-3 start, as Chris Bosh is putting up his 2010 numbers.. Western Conference teams will likely dominate the top of the league standings, leaving the Heat and their roster of oft-injured veterans among the second-tier teams in the East just below both Cleveland and Chicago.
5. Will MCW’s return make a difference?
Goldwein: Yes! Not only is he an upgrade at point guard, but his return could also improve Wroten’s and Shved’s efficiency. It might take a little while (last night was an all-around disaster) but the reigning ROY may be the team’s most important player.
Dimoff: Definitely. Despite Tony Wroten doing much better than I predicted, Carter-Williams is an upgrade as a floor general and is significantly more attentive defensively. And even better, MCW’s return probably means we’ll be seeing a lot less of Alexey Shved, who had an abominable start to the season (sorry, Wesley).
Smolen: Big picture: no. The team was going to lose a bunch of games without him, and they are going to lose a bunch of games with him. Small picture: He is more talented than anyone else on this Sixers team, and every once in awhile he might put up a triple-double and steal a win. So that’s fun, I guess?
Nemcik: *Takes a look at the Dallas box score* *Starts laughing hysterically* On a serious note, MCW will make the Sixers more exciting, but this team will lose a lot of games with or without him.
Clancy: The Sixers’ main problem (aside from talent) has been depth, and while it didn’t show against the Mavericks, but MCW’s return will help. Without their starting point guard, the Sixers were left with just two ball handlers (Wroten and Shved). In today’s NBA with frequent two-point guard attacks and in Brett Brown’s fast-paced system, the Sixers would benefit from having more than one ball handler on the court as much as possible.