It’s been radio silent around here the last few days, as some of you have pointed out. And apologies for that. We’ll get the recaps back up and running for a strong late-season run. In the meantime, here’s a quick summary of everything you might’ve missed.
Embiid isn’t broken!
Joel Embiid was back in a boot last week, which scared the shit out of every last Sixers fan. Well, great news: turned out the “minor setback” was in fact, a minor setback. Embiid had experienced soreness in the foot and so the team him put the boot on for precautionary reasons. He met with the doctor in what was reportedly an already scheduled appointment, and the doctor said that everything’s on track. (Ideally, that means he’ll be good to go in summer leagues).
This is far and away the most important (and volatile) part of the Sixers future. Everything else — from draft pick positioning to the development of Jerami Grant’s jumper — is trivial compared to the status of the 7-footer’s foot. Which is an uneasy feeling, since that’s something nobody has full control over. But the docs and team seemingly are doing what they can to maximize his chances of being healthy.
Embiid could be anything from Hakeem Olajuwon to Greg Oden. If we’re to believe the scouting reports, his status as a future all-star (and maybe superstar) is going to come down almost entirely to his health. Until he’s out there for a full couple seasons, there’s going to be a lot of panic surrounding the prized big man.
Sixers are still bad!
On Friday, the Sixers came back from down 18 points to beat the Sacramento Kings. They showed grit and toughness and perseverance all those things you talk about after a win like that. It was awesome! But then the Wizards did the exact same thing on Saturday, making it not cool anymore. (DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most dysfunctional talented players there’s ever been. And the King are an all around disaster).
The Sixers dropped a close(r) game to the Nets on Saturday, and then got blown out by the Celtics last night. The Celtics by the way… yes, the 30-36 Celtics … have a shot at making the postseason and getting some #playoffexperience. Good luck to them.
Michael and K.J.
SAMPLE SIZE AND CONFOUNDING VARIABLE WARNING … but the Milwaukee Bucks have had the NBA’s worst offense since the trade deadline, per NBA.com/stats. Yes, worse than your Philadelphia 76ers. Mind you: the Bucks weren’t particularly good on offense before they acquired Michael Carter-Williams (ranking 14th) and their new point guard has missed a few games. (Update: Milwaukee’s offense has been even worse when MCW is on the bench, per Grantland’s Zach Lowe).
The Bucks have also had the fourth best defense since the break, which is in line with their pre-trade (ranked 2nd) performance. There’s lots going on here; the Bucks and MCW have had to make some major adjustments, and nine games doesn’t tell you much about MCW’s longterm fit. But all the evidence thus far suggests that at this point of his career, MCW is not yet a player who can run an offense efficiently.
K.J. McDaniels, meanwhile, has barely got off the bench in Houston. He’s played five games and nine total minutes, recording one field goal in his Rockets tenure. Free this man.
The Ish Smith/Isaiah Canaan show
The Sixers offense has been fine (relatively) since the trade. That’s in part because it couldn’t have got any worse, but it’s also because it added two point guards capable of draining 3-pointers and feeding the bigs. Canaan is attempting 7.8 3s a game (making 35.6%) while Smith is averaging 5.7 assists and 2.3 turnovers in 24 minutes. It’s too early to tell if this has led to any offensive improvement (post all-star break rating: 93.9, pre all-star: 91.5) but there certainly hasn’t been a drop off.
To be clear: Neither Smith nor Canaan have the looks of a future starting point guard. Their offensive skill sets are limited and their lack of size is somewhat problematic on defense. Both, however, have shown longterm potential as backups.
OK, this is getting out of hand. The former 5th overall pick is averaging a ridiculous 8.6 boards in 17.3 minutes. He’s not doing much of anything else, but if can continue bringing energy and limiting his jump shot attempts, that should get him some attention as a free agent this summer. Maybe even from the Sixers.
FUTURE DRAFT PICKS
Bad news here. Let’s start with the top-18 Oklahoma City pick. I’m officially in panic mode. The Thunder — missing Kevin Durant and now Serge Ibaka — are fighting for their playoff lives, and at 37-30 are a half-game up on the Pelicans. More concerning though, is that the Washington Wizards woke up and are on a four-game winning streak, rising to 39-28. The Thunder need to make the playoffs and pass either Washington, Chicago (40-28), or Toronto (40-27). There’s some serious ground to make up, and not a lot of time time to do it. If it delays to 2016, this could turn into a mid-20s pick. Not a disaster, but not ideal.
Now, the top-10 protected Heat pick. There is half a game separating the 16th and 10th picks, with the 9th pick (Brooklyn) not far behind. Miami, Indiana, Boston and Utah are all tied at 30-36. Charlotte is 29-36, and Brooklyn is 27-38. For the Sixers to get this pick, Miami would have to stay ahead of two of these teams. Keep in mind that the Sixers and Heat play in the season finale. Between playoffs and ping pong balls, that could game could have all sorts of bizarre incentives.
I wouldn’t have much hope for the top-5 Lakers pick. The Lakers are 17-49 and playing some half-decent basketball, but continuing to lose games. They have the fourth-worst record; 2.5 up of Sixers and three up of Minnesota, while four in the win column behind Orlando (21-47). At this point I’d call them staying at fourth a victory. That’d give the Sixers a 17.2% shot at getting a pick, and would all but ensure that the Sixers are in the top 3.
Speaking of … the Sixers (15-52) are sitting at third, a half-game up on Minnesota (14-52) and 1.5 ahead of New York. The second spot seems like a realistic best case scenario, given how weak the upcoming schedule is, and how they’ve been playing at a 25-win pace for most of the season. The cakewalk schedule includes two games against the Knicks, two against the Lakers, one against Detroit, and one against Sacramento. And you never know who will be sitting who in those last few games when the playoff positions are set. This could get ugly, folks.