Jul 11 2014

LeBron to Cleveland … Lin to Philly? (Update: No)

Update: Jeremy Lin to the Lakers, and Bosh back to Miami.

LeBron is going back to Cleveland, which means all sorts of crazy shit is about to go down. Starting with …

Chris Bosh possibly heading to Houston. If that happens, Daryl Morey will have to do whatever he can to clear cap space, which means Jeremy Lin and his $14.89 million contract (and $8.37 million cap hold) are probably headed elsewhere. Perhaps to Philadelphia.

As Liberty Ballers’ Jake Pavorsky reported a few days ago, the Rockets and Sixers have agreed in principle to a deal that would send Lin, and at least one first-rounder to Philly, in exchange for a bag of chips. Or protected second-round pick.

For what it’s worth, I think Lin would actually be a half-decent fit with the Sixers. He can score, he can handle the ball, and, well, that alone puts him ahead of most of the players currently on the roster. Details are still coming on the trade that may or may not happen (is it Houston’s first round pick? Is it New Orleans’? Is there another prospect involved). Either way, expect the Sixers to milk a first-rounder (or two) out of one of these teams that are desperate to shed salary.

Jul 03 2014

Sixers Thinking Globally

“[Basketball] is a global sport. The game’s played all over the world, and a lot of places, even better than it’s played here. I think our job is to look around and try to find the best talent we can anywhere in the world.” – Sam Hinkie

Though it may take years for the Sixers to reap the rewards, their 2014 draft haul was unprecedented.

From 1950 through 2013, the franchise drafted a grand total of seven internationally based players: Tornike Shengelia (No. 54, 2012), Petteri Koponen (No. 30, 2007), Kyrylo Fesenko (No. 38, 2007), Thabo Sefolosha (No. 13, 2006), Paccelis Morlende (No. 50, 2003), Jiri Welsch (No. 16, 2002) and Marko Milic (No. 33, 1997). Only one of those seven players, Milic, remained on the team past draft night.

Last Thursday, the Sixers drafted two international players—Dario Saric and Vasilije Micic—both of whom survived draft night without being traded. Throw in the 2013 draft-night acquisition of Arsalan Kazemi and last summer’s trade for Furkan Aldemir, perhaps the true prize in the Royce White deal, and it’s clear that Philly’s days of ignoring non-U.S. prospects have come to a swift and not-so-bitter end.

Without having spent time in the Sixers organization, it’s hard to know how much time or how many resources the franchise devoted to international scouting under past regimes. But since Sam Hinkie took over as GM last May (and hired Brett Brown1) the Sixers have seemingly taken a more global approach in acquiring talent. Here’s what Hinkie told reporters about Saric in his post-draft press conference:

Many of our people have been around him, have coached him over the years, many of our staff have. We’ve all flown around the world to see him. Several of our staff, including me, was at his first-ever game in Zagareb, which was a sight to behold in itself, the sort of fanfare with him being there in that game and the way he played that night.

During a draft-week edition of Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report podcast, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford revealed that the Sixers, via Brown’s Australian connections, had obtained tapes of 36 of Dante Exum’s high school games. That gave them a significant leg up in terms of scouting, and—if the rumors leading up to the draft are to be believed (perhaps they shouldn’t be)—had the squad seriously considering trading Michael Carter-Williams for another top-10 pick and drafting Exum third overall. Whether or not they they were truly interested in the Australian prospect, the Sixers had an informational advantage because Brown and Hinkie did their homework.

There’s no guarantee that Saric, Micic, Kazemi, Aldemir, or any other international prospect turn into the next Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili. The draft is a crapshoot, no matter where a player is from. By widely expanding the scope of players under serious consideration, though, Hinkie and Co. are upping their chances of fulfilling the mission they set out for themselves—finding the best talent they can anywhere in the world.

1. Brown spent over a decade coaching in Australia’s National Basketball League and served as the head coach of the Australian men’s national basketball team from 2009-12. He also coached alongside Gregg Popovich, a known international basketball supporter, for a decade in San Antonio before coming over to Philly.

Jun 27 2014

Remembering the Wiggins Rumors

End of night Wojbomb: the trade-up-for-Andrew-Wiggins rumors were bullshit.

As it turns out, Philadelphia never made a run at Cleveland’s No. 1 overall pick, league sources tell Yahoo.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2014

Wait … what? After all that, and nothing? Well, actually, it kinda makes sense.

Seems a little much, right?

Wtf?

Great.

Re: Reports that Cavs are asking for 3, 10 & 32 from Sixers for No. 1. If Sixers tanked all year for Wiggins, they have to say yes, right?

— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 26, 2014

So here’s where we all went wrong. People (Hoop76, partially included) assumed that Wiggins was the Sixers’ no. 1 target, because all the reports have been indicating that. Maybe the unnamed sources were right, and that the Sixers loved Wiggins. We’ll never know. But that doesn’t mean they tanked for him exclusively. Nor does that mean they’d sell the farm for him.

The point of the tank was to get a shot at a game-changing young player that’ll provide cheap labor for the next few years, and hopefully hang around a few more after that. In Embiid, and Dario Saric, the Sixers might’ve come away with two of those. The “3 + 10 + 32 (+ Thad and/or another first rounder)” rumors seem ridiculous in hindsight, but given that this is a team that’s all about buying low, selling high, and gathering assets, they didn’t really add up in the first place.

This was fun. Three final takeaways.. 1) the Cavs (or someone) put out a ton of smoke, 2) Hinkie won’t bend, and 3) No one on draft nights knows what Hinkie is really up to. Heck, not even Woj.

Jun 27 2014

Elfrid Payton’s 15 Minutes of Sixers

Elfrid Payton’s press conference began like all the others; the questions were part generic, part personal, part quote baiting. How does it feel to go to your favorite player’s (Allen Iverson) team. How do you think you’ll fit in alongside Michael Carter-Williams? What can you bring to the 76ers? Bleh Blah Bluh. Payton said all the right things about the Sixers and about Philadelphia. I was kinda starting to like him.

But then two minutes in, this happened:

“Elfrid. Steve Kyler, from Basketball Insiders. “There’s reports you’re going to be traded to Orlando Magic, how does it feel to go to Orlando?”

Payton laughed for a second.

“Uhh, I don’t know, I guess that would be nice too. Anything is a blessing, man.”

It was my favorite moment of the draft. Awkward as hell, sure; here’s a 20-year-old who just 30 minutes earlier, had thought he’d be living in Philadelphia for the next four years. Then, out of nowhere, he’s gone. Off to Orlando. But it wasn’t all that surprising.

Elfrid on the Sixers didn’t make sense. In college, per Draft Express, he was a high-usage player that couldn’t hit threes; he might turn into a good player, though he didn’t seem like a fit alongside Michael Carter-Williams, and he didn’t have the upside to justify that. With Hinkie’s asset exchange program, everybody is fair game.

So Hinkie dealt Payton to Orlando in exchange for Dario Saric (12th pick), a protected 2017 first rounder (Philly’s from the Bynum trade) and a second rounder. A great trade, especially if Saric opts out of his three-year contract by next season. And, hey, Payton said he’s cool with Orlando too. Everybody wins.

That was Hinkie’s only major deal of the night; but you can bet he’ll be making more calls this summer. Nobody is safe. Everyone’s a trade chip.

Elfrid Payton hat struggle on Twitpic
(GIF via Ben Golliver)

Jun 26 2014

5-on-5: Sixers thinking long-term, forever

1. Was Joel Embiid the right pick?

Anthony Calabro: Yes. As frustrating as it is to not get the immediate help the Sixers so desperately need, Embiid is the best player in this draft … and Hinkie got him without giving up assets. Now heal big fella’!

Eric Goldwein: We’ll see. From a value perspective, this was a buy-low opp. All it’ll take is a few months of healthy basketball for his stock to rise above what it is now.  It’s a gamble, but it would have been just as risky to pass him up.

Tom Sunnergren: Yes. Given the options that were available, yes. He isn’t Wiggins, and it’ll be difficult to stomach having the Sixers top pick in consecutive drafts spend the season on the shelf, and he might never really play NBA basketball given the shitty prognosis his injury carries for especially huge humans–but…I lost my train of thought there. Oh, yes. He also might transmogrify into the next Hakeem Olajuwon. That possibility makes him the right pick.

Marc Nemcik: I’d say so. Not getting to see their top selection for a second year in a row will be frustrating for Sixers fans, but it’ll be worth it. Hinkie and the Sixers brass know not to make a shortsighted decision, and they took the guy with the biggest upside for the future.

Daniel Christian: I think so. There was a compelling case to be made for Exum, but at the end of the day, Embiid is the best prospect in this draft class. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be special.

2. Dario Saric is ____

Calabro: Foreign?

Goldwein: Boris Tskitishvili Rentzias.

Sunnergren: I’ve read Dario Saric’s name, because I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months reading mock drafts. It’s a good name. Sounds like a winner. And Hinkie likes him. That’s fine. He won’t be playing in the NBA for the next two years, but, I guess that’s fine too. I’m assuming he’ll be good. Great even. The greatest, maybe.

Nemcik: Another guy we won’t see for a while. Philadelphia considered drafting him at 10, but got two picks in return for the trade with the Magic. It will be interesting to see Noel, Embiid and Saric play together; if they ever do play together.

Christian: Worth the wait. Hinkie is preaching patience with his picks this year, but Saric projects as a lethal playmaker down the road. He’ll be ready to go whenever he gets to Philadelphia, and should add another dimension to the offense.

3. What grade do you give the Sixers?

Calabro: Incomplete: The Embiid pick was the right call,

Goldwein: B. (Assuming they did their due diligence on Embiid). Best case, they get a superstar center, a highly skilled big that comes over next year, and they get their 2017 first round pick back. Worst case, shit hits the fan. Come back to me in three years.

Sunnergren: Incomplete. My head’s spinning. Exactly none of the things I thought would happen–Wiggins, Vonleh, Marcus Smart?–came to pass. I’m more surprised by this than I should be. We won’t be able to grade this draft, even begin grading this draft, for the better part of a decade.

Nemcik: A+ for the trade with Orlando. Hinkie took Payton without a deal in place and got two picks out of it. It’s virtually impossible to grade both Embiid and Saric knowing that neither of these guys will make an impact next season.

Christian: A-? Hard to say.  I love Embiid, but time will tell if he can be who we hope he can be. I love the Saric pick too, but we won’t be able to see if that pans out for another two years. It seems great on the surface, but also feels a little risky. Could go either way down the road, but the initial reaction is a positive one.

4. 10 years from now, we’ll remember this draft as …

Anthony: The Wiggins draft. I think Wiggins is going to be a star in this league. He will develop a jumper, and when he does, watch out world.

Goldwein: The night that divided the Sixers fan base. Tomorrow morning, if you’re crazy enough to turn on sports radio, you’ll hear from the pissed off season ticket holders “that work two jobs and mortgaged their house and sold their children” just to support their team. And as much as I want to make fun of those fans, they have a bit of a point. Losing sucks. And the Sixers are putting a losing team on the floor again. But at Barclays — where there’s a younger, more, internet-friendly crowd — there was a different vibe. That demographic is growing. And when the Sixers finally become good, they’ll be the majority.

Sunnergren: Sam Hinkie demonstrated–finally and fully–that he has testicles that are made of brass. We look back and recall that this was the draft that we learned, mostly through inference, that Hinkie had an accident as a child and his parents, as a purely cosmetic procedure, replaced the testicles that he lost with a pair made out of brass.

Nemcik: The one that worked out beautifully or totally flopped. Embiid is a risky selection with what we know as of now. He could be the next Olajuwon or the next Oden. I think Saric is more of a sure thing, but let’s hope he doesn’t turn into Ricky Sanchez.

Christian: The deepest draft in a long time. A ton of quality of players.

5. Is there more to come?

Anthony Calabro: Oh hell yeah.

Goldwein: Does a catfish have whiskers?

Sunnergren: Yes. Though it’s impossible to guess what. You don’t know Hinkie. I don’t know Hinkie. Hinkie is unknowable. He works in mysterious ways, vibrates at his own frequency, sees things that we’re not just incapable of seeing, but incapable of processing. The Sixers aren’t just going to win a title under Hinkie, the franchise is going to turn into pure energy and fly into the galaxy. A beautiful, bright vortex. So hot with light that it hurts your eyes, but you can’t look away.

Nemcik: We’re in for a long night. The Sixers still have five selections in this draft and you never know what Hinkie has up his sleeve, besides a pocket calculator.

Christian: I’m sure there is. Hinkie is never finished.

Jun 26 2014

For the Sixers, Plan B is Embiid. We think.

With their most anticipated selection since 1996, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted 7-foot center Joel Embiid.

We were a bit surprised, though perhaps we shouldn’t have been.

The Sixers reportedly offered the Cavs three picks — Nos. 3, 10 and 32 — for the No. 1 selection and the right to draft Andrew Wiggins. If that was true, the Sixers turned to Plan B. But maybe they wanted Embiid all along.

A broken navicular bone in his foot discovered late in the draft process will sideline the Kansas star for 4-6 months, and possibly the entire 2014-15 season. Despite the broken foot, a previous back injury sustained in early March, and a loaded draft class, most still felt as though Embiid had the highest upside in the draft. Some think picking him here is a reach — he was projected to slide to the Boston Celtics at No. 6 or the L.A Lakers at No. 7. But the upside was too big to pass up.

At 7-feet tall with a wingspan  of 7’5”, Embiid has the ability to post up in the paint, as well as hit the 10-15 foot jumper. He’s drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon and Serge Ibaka. But for Sixers fans, the easiest (and perhaps, faultiest) comparison here is Nerlens Noel. Yes, Sixers fans, expect more looped B-roll footage of a Sixers big man taking uncontested 5-foot hook shots.

But this isn’t an ACL injury. There’s a lot more unpredictability here. Best case, he’s a superstar center. Worst case, he’s Greg Oden. Hinkie gambled. We’ll see if it pans out.

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