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.

Apr 15 2015

Finding Playoff Destinations For The 15 Sixers

This once-fun regular season is finally coming to an end, and after doing some number crunching, it’s become apparent that the 2015 76ers will not be getting one of those coveted 16 playoff spots.

But here’s a fun hypothetical: if the Sixers disbanded and their players were put in a playoff draft pool, who would be the best fit where?

We’ll start with …

Henry Sims, Atlanta Hawks. Sims probably isn’t cracking Atlanta’s rotation. (Note: recurring theme.) But think of all the garbage time minutes the most boring Sixer could potentially get on the most boringly good team in the league in a first round series with the resoundingly boring Nets/Pacers. Henry Sims sees that NBA Channel limelight, and he wants to bask in it, damn it.

Nerlens Noel, Cleveland Cavaliers. The only thing the Cavs are lacking – though it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest they’re lacking anything, really – is a big rim protector who can come off the bench and anchor the defense while Mozgov is out of the game. WHOOPS. The Cavs have done a commendable job of building a roster around LeBron that already has them in a position to win this year. But you know Cavs fans are lamenting the first preview of the Iriving/Wiggins/James/Noel lineup that very well could have been.

Ish Smith, Toronto Raptors. Purely for Kyle Lowry insurance purposes. Greivis Vasquez is a solid backup, and so is sixth man of the year candidate Lou Williams. But the latter isn’t exactly a dish-first guard, and if Lowry goes down, Ish could work his way into the role of the distributor the North needs. (In transitioning from Nerlens Noel to Jonas Valanciunas, he may need to soften up his lobs accordingly.)

Thomas Robinson, Chicago Bulls. It’s understandable the Bulls never took a flier on T-Rob – the back of their bench is to Tom Thibodeau what Platform 9 3/4 is to non-wizards – but if he managed to stumble into some playing time, Robinson would be such a Bull. Can you imagine him and Noah crashing the boards at the same time, specifically the bone-chilling, United Center-threatening sound that would create? Would the Bucks/Wizards even bother going for rebounds?

Brett Brown, Washington Wizards. Cheating a bit, sure, but note that we can’t help out all 16 playoff teams with a 15-man roster. In a way, Brown is the most immediate improvement on this list. John Wall and Bradley Beal are still young enough that Brown and his relentless enthusiasm could get through to them in a way that perhaps Randy “I hate 3-pointers and walk off the court before the game ends” Wittman can’t.

Luc Mbah a Moute, Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee’s already been gifted Michael Carter-Williams, and last night’s 30-point outburst in Philly notwithstanding, many Bucks fans are wishing to re-gift Michael Carter-Williams. So what better way to mend the situation than by giving them back their 2008 second-round pick? The Young Bucks amassed plenty of athletic freaks – Greek and otherwise – since LRMAM’s departure in 2013, and his triumphant return could provide a healthy does of reality as to what your standard NBA player looks like.

Glenn Robinson III, Boston Celtics. The Celtics have a good chance of being swept by Cleveland in the first round, but at least one day GR3 will be able to tell GR5 about the time he played against LeBron — or, more accurately, the Cavs bench — in the 2015 playoffs.

Tony Wroten, Brooklyn Nets. Between Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack, the Nets’ backcourt isn’t exactly what you’d call a flight risk. Though the Nets obviously won’t have Wroten for this season’s playoffs – appropriate, as there’s no point wasting an active player on this sweep-to-be – he’d score 20 a game if healthy, disorienting defenses while also ruining his own offense’s efficiency. (This applies to Indiana as well.)

Furkan Aldemir, Golden State Warriors.  The Warriros don’t need another big man. They don’t need another anything. But can you imagine Furkan grabbing offensive boards on multiple possessions and sending them back out to open Splash Brothers 3’s? Oracle Arena would absolutely love this guy. I can already see them erecting his statue outside the stadium, much to Steph’s befuddlement.

Hollis Thompson, San Antonio Spurs. Since the All-Star break, Hollis is fifth in the NBA in 3-point percentage among players with over 100 attempts. In the Spurs’ system, he’d nail five 3s a night and become an elite defender. You know this but you cannot stop it.

Jason Richardson, Los Angeles Clippers. Gives the vet a chance to chase a ring, adds some leadership to the always weird Clippers chemistry, and gives their bench – one of the weakest in the playoffs – some density. Plus, it re-unites J-Rich with old teammate Spencer Hawes!

Isaiah Canaan, Portland Trail Blazers. The recent injuries to C.J. McCollum and Nicolas Batum — along with Wes Matthews’ from March — leaves Portland in desperate need of backcourt help. Canaan might not be able to provide that in any extended role, but a few timely Canaan balls wouldn’t hurt.

Jerami Grant, Houston Rockets. Jerami goes to Houston, still gets more playing time than K.J., and K.J.’s mom single-handedly raises the national security level.

Robert Covington, Memphis Grizzlies. Why is a team that’s so perennially in contention, always seemingly at the cusp of the next level, so reluctant to add this basic, fundamental need of bench perimeter sccoring? You can’t say this about many guys on this list, but if Memphis added RoCo today, they’re a better team.

Jakarr Sampson, Dallas Mavericks. I want to see JaKarr interact with Rajon Rondo. I want to see JaKarr interact with Monta Ellis. I want to see JaKarr interact with Dirk, and Tyson Chandler, and Mark Cuban — he could Shark Tank pitch him a new section of the stadium called the “Dallas High-Flyers’ Club.” I want 13 photos of JaKarr clubbing with Chandler Parsons and Amar’e to drop at once like a Netflix show. Jakarr to the Mavs – I have a weird hunch it could lead them to a first-round upset.

Joel Embiid, New Orleans Pelicans/OKC Thunder. A Joel Embiid-Anthony Davis frontcourt — even with Joel Embiid in a walking boot on the bench — might be the NBA’s most exciting big man duo. Second to Enes Kanter and Joel Embiid…

Apr 12 2015

Sixers Lose To Bulls, Season Almost Over

Philadelphia 76ers 107 Final
Recap | Box Score
114 Chicago Bulls
Robert Covington, SF 37 MIN | 8-19 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTS | -3 +/-If you squint and un-focus your eyes while looking at his box score, it’s pretty good! However, once you put on your glasses and you notice that ugly 1-9 mark from deep, things get a lot less rosy. That being said, with the season almost (mercifully) over, I think we all can agree that Covington has been one of its brightest spots.

Jason Richardson, SG 25 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +8 +/-Just the fact that Richardson is still playing warrants his receiving such a high grade. But beyond even that mini-miracle, he played well. Effective from deep, Richardson was a relevant offensive presence the entirety of the game and helped to keep this one respectable.

JaKarr Sampson, SG 28 MIN | 7-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | -23 +/-I’m gonna miss JaKarr Sampson in two years when he is no longer in the NBA.

Thomas Robinson, PF 22 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -5 +/-New rule: Thomas Robinson isn’t allowed to shoot. Just dunks and rebounds for you, Thomas. I know you read this, so don’t let me down.

Hollis Thompson, SG 33 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +2 +/-Hollis has continued to shoot well in the second half of the season, after looking, frankly speaking, consistently terrible up until the all star break. I’m curious to see whether or not this hot stretch was enough to keep him in Sam Hinkie’s plans going forward.

By the Numbers: 2. There are two games left in the season. Just two. We’ve made it so far. The finish line is in sight. Two!

Parting Shots: The season is incredibly long, and the close of it has been rather depressing. The Heat have experienced a nosedive. The Thunder pick won’t convey either. These are still future assets, but it’s painful to know that they will remain in the future. If anybody wants to offer a pick-me-up in the comments, I could use it right now, because while I have hope that Embiid will be awesome and Noel will be a force, it’s tough to imagine stomaching another season of such futility.

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