Dec 10 2014

Sixers Lose to Hawks, MCW Misses Quadruple-Double

Philadelphia 76ers 79 Final
Recap | Box Score
95 Atlanta Hawks
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, PF 29 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -20LRMAM started off the night with a textbook missed long 2, but he actually played fairly well. He nailed a pair of 3s and was active on defense. He was named Sports Illustrated’s starting small forward on its “All-Atrocious Team” this afternoon though, so it wasn’t all positive for Luc today.

Henry Sims, C 13 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | -9He sat out the entire second half. He wasn’t injured. The Sixers even traded another big man in the middle of the game and Sims couldn’t get back in! Brett Brown seems to be really valuing Robert Covington’s floor spacing.

Michael Carter-Williams, PG 38 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 9 TO | 8 PTS | -15Carter-Williams would’ve earned a bit of a higher grade if he tallied a triple-double tonight for style points, but his near quadruple-double with nine turnovers was rough to watch. Turnovers are going to come on a team as devoid of offensive talent as this, but MCW is walking the fine line between that and just being careless with the ball.

Jerami Grant, SF 16 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +3I wasn’t as bullish on Grant as some after the draft, but he impressed tonight, hustling against Atlanta and putting up double-digit points efficiently off the bench. Can he take on Brandon Davies’ role as the guy who’s diving for loose balls with a non-step motor off the bench?

Brandon Davies, PF DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | Davies was traded while on the bench to the Nets IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME. Is he still just sitting on the bench staring aimlessly out in the abyss?

By the Numbers:

71.4%: What former Sixer Kyle Korver shot from beyond the arc tonight, going 5-7 on 3-point attempts with 17 total points, tied for a game-high.

Tweet of the Game:

Optimism: They’re 2-2 in their last four games. .500! Hooray for small-sample sizes! It’s tough to evaluate MCW at times because of the lack of capable offensive players around him, but the turnover rate (19.7% going into tonight) is troubling, as he’s losing the ball more frequently than even Tony Wroten. K.J. had a few dunks and a pair of blocks. His presence on the roster saves Sixers fans from complete misery. Big Shot Bob’s ability to knock down 3s is leaving Henry Sims on the bench. The Sixers haven’t won back-to-back games since April 14 and April 16. Helllloooooooooo Broooooklyyyynnnnn.

Dec 10 2014

Good Bye, Brandon

First Jimmy, and now Brandon Davies?!?!?!

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Sixers are shipping Davies to Brooklyn in exchange for Andrei Kirilenko, a 2020 2nd rounder, the rights to swap 2018 second rounders, cash, and a minor player (Jorge Guitierrez?). The deal will save the Nets a bunch of money, and cost the Sixers nothing.

In all likelihood, the Kirilenko and his $3.3 million contract are getting cut. That’ll mean more minutes for Covington, and eventually, Furkan Aldemir!

It’s been real, Davies. We’ll always have … **searches YouTube for memorable Davies moment** … yeah, good luck.

Update … Kirilenko might stick around.

Dec 10 2014

5-on-5: Hot Kirilenko Takes

1. Give me your scorching hot takes on the newly rumored Hinkie Special — Andrei Kirilenko (who would be waived) and a second-rounder to Philly.

Goldwein: They’re cutting their best player??? Well at least Sam Stinkie doesn’t have to worry about some commie screwing up his “plan.”

Share: You can put your fire extinguishers away because this take is ice cold: it’s the same no-risk, crapshoot-reward move they’ve made time and time again (hi, Arnett). Won’t hurt them and may not help them either, but there’s no reason not to do it.


In all seriousness, I love the trade. Why not use the Sixers’ massive amount of cap space to pick up assets? Laugh at a second-rounder all you want… but some of those dart throws turn into K.J. McDaniels.

Dimoff: There’s really no reason not to make this deal, right? That cap space is going to get spent anyway because the Sixers are approximately $4 billion under the cap floor, so it might as well get turned into a second-rounder and about five years of #FormerSixer Andrei Kirilenko tweets. I know, I know. Pure fire.

Clancy: With that $3 million needed to be paid at some point to reach the salary floor, the Sixers might as well smartly pick up a lottery ticket of an asset along the way. My actual hot take: I would’ve wanted them to keep AK47 around if not for his injury/personal issues that are currently keeping him off the court.

2. Is Robert Covington the best Sixer to wear the number 33?

Goldwein: I’ll still go with big shot Willie Green. Love the Cov, but let’s give it a few more weeks.

Share: @Dweebowitz, a Liberty Ballers commenter, pointed out Hersey Hawkins, who played in Philly from 1988-1993 and scored 15 points per game on better than 46 percent shooting. But Bobby is treading behind him, neck and neck with the great Willie Green.

Toporek: Craig Brackins — he of the 30 total points in two season — sure as hell doesn’t earn that distinction. Nor does Daniel Orton, who put up 65 points and 61 rebounds in 251 minutes over 22 games last season, with a whopping PER of 10.5 to boot. So yeah, Big Shot Bob basically wins this one by default.

Dimoff: I’ve blacked out most of the Willie Green/Daniel Orton/Andrew Bynum/Craig Brackins-era Sixers, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep it that way. Let’s never bring this up again.

Clancy: If broken hearts were tracked as a statistic, Andrew Bynum would be the franchise’s all-time leader. Covington is the year’s Hollis Thompson, taking advantage of the team’s massive need for floor spacing and its abundance of playing time, as a D-Leaguer who’s attempting to make it as an NBAer and looks like he could actually stick around.

3. Will Jason Richardson last the season?

Goldwein: 50/50. If he shows he has anything left, and the Sixers can get a decent second-round pick, I think they pull the trigger. But it doesn’t sound like he’s desperate to leave, so if there’s no trade market for him, he might end up hanging around.

Share: I’m going to go with most likely, because if they intended to waive him they probably would have already. But if a trade comes up and they badly need to free a roster spot, his contract shouldn’t get in the way of him being cut.

Toporek: Strangely, I think he does. In speaking with Gordie Jones of CSN Philly, he sounded legitimately excited about what the Sixers are building. Since he’s unlikely to help the team to a bunch of late-season victories (screwing up their high lottery pick in the process), I could see Brett Brown wanting to keep him as a veteran presence. Playing alongside J-Rich could also help MCW’s development, since he’s capable of, you know, occasionally hitting a 3-pointer.

Dimoff: Yep. I haven’t really understood the cries for him to be cut. Hinkie spoke pretty highly of him during a presser over the summer and discussed how good he’s been for the young players. It’s not like his place on the roster is keeping Philadelphia from signing a worth-while free agent. And if that’s a problem, I mean, JaKarr Sampson and Malcolm Lee are still here. There are financial reasons to keep him around too, which Derek Bodner went into further detail about here.

Clancy: Yes. The Bodner piece linked above demonstrates the financial basis for keeping him and that makes sense. I also don’t think Brett Brown minds having at least one stable, veteran presence on a roster full of youngins. They all grew up watching him do 360-degree dunks during All-Star weekend, right?

4. If you could pick one non-K.J. restricted free agent for the Sixers to make an offer to this summer, who would it be, and for how much?

Goldwein: Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. Don’t see any chance of the Bulls/Spurs let them go, but it’s worth a shot.

Share: Kawhi and Butler would be great, but in terms of actual realistic options, Draymond Green, please and thank you. Continually improving two-way player and a lethal outside shooter. Even if it costs in the neighborhood of $10-12 million per year, he’s worth the overpay, and the price will look just fine in 2017 when the cap skyrockets.

Toporek: No. 1 priority is a max deal to Jimmy Butler, although the Bulls are likely to match. Same goes for Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green, unfortunately. Thus, I’d like the Sixers to stick it to a fellow rebuilding Eastern Conference squad and fire out a four-year, $50 million offer for Tobias Harris. He’s only 22 and is averaging 19-8-2 while shooting 47.6 overall and 43.4 percent from three-point range. Consider this some long overdue payback for Nikola Vucevic.

Dimoff: The popular answer here is probably either Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler, but I have a feeling that their respective teams will try their damndest to keep those guys around. But please, give me every bit of Draymond Green. Golden State won’t have the cash to keep him around barring a future David Lee salary dump or if they want to go deep into the luxury tax. He’s a fantastic defender, can shoot from downtown, and is a really underrated passer, but his price tag is also basically rising with every game. He might command something around $12 million to steal away this summer, but he might also be worth it.

Clancy: Kawhi and Butler are obvious, but it seems increasingly likely with their stellar play that their respective teams will match all offers. Draymond and Harris have already been mentioned and are nice suggestions, so how about Kyle O’Quinn? Orlando will need money to match offers for Harris and have already extended Vucevic for $53 million, so maybe they let O’Quinn walk? He’s a better defensive player than Vuce and his career defensive rebounding rate of 24.9% is sorely needed on the Sixers. Team in the frontcourt with Embiid and Noel as the younger bigs develop and maybe he’s worth $18 million over three years, especially with the expected cap jump in 2016.

5. Who’s more likely to win a championship first: the Sixers or the Phillies?

Goldwein: Phillies, because MLB playoffs are random. The Phillies are spending enough that — assuming they can improve their personnel decisions (poor assumption) — they could get back in the postseason within a few years. Once you’re in, anything can happen. Too much has to go right to win an NBA championship.

Share: Sixers. The MLB playoffs are a crapshoot and if the Phils sneak in a few years down the line I suppose anything could happen, but I’ll err on the side of caution and go with the management I trust to get a rebuild right.

Toporek: Both teams are a tire fire right now, but only one seems to have a long-term plan in place. Neither team will win within the next three years, but the Sixers are far more likely to get back into championship contention. Sorry, Ryan Howard. At least you’ll always have 2008.

Dimoff: *Closes laptop* *Drives to nearest gas station* *Purchases pack of cigarettes* *Chain-smokes the whole pack in the parking lot while shouting expletives and repeatedly kicking car tires*

Clancy: The Sixers will make an Eastern Conference Finals before the Phillies even make the playoffs, so I’m going Sixers. Long-term plan > no plan.

Dec 10 2014

NBA Shot Visualization: Five Takeaways From Buckets

Peter Beshai created a new visualization tool, Buckets, which displays shooting data from the past four seasons. The site is done really well and provides easy access to a variety of charts and other information to analyze shooting performance.

Here are five takeaways concerning the Sixers:

1. Tony Wroten



Buckets supports much of what was written in Xylon Dimoff’s Wroten analysis. Fifty-six percent of his shots come from 0-2 feet away from the basket, more than the league average (29 percent) and guard average (24 percent). Though he can’t shoot 3s, he’s still firing away, with 28.2 percent of his shots coming from beyond the arc. That’s around the league average. Only 5 percent of his shots come from 5-23 feet.

2. Nerlens Noel


Shocker: the right-handed Noel prefers shooting from the right side of the court, particularly the right block. He has 45 shots on the right side of the 0-2 feet range, compared to only 12 on the left. That makes sense, since the rookie is shooting 59 percent from the right, compared to only 33 percent from the left.

3. Michael Carter-Williams


Much like last season, Carter-Williams ranks below average in FG% by distance across the board. His overall FG% this season is only 38 percent compared to 40.5 percent last season.

There’s no area that he stands out or succeeds in. Although he ranks around league average closer to the basket, he doesn’t particularly excel in any part of the court and remains a subpar, high-volume shooter. You probably didn’t need sexy charts to help you figure that out.

4. Robert Covington


Although Covington has played only 11 games for the Sixers, he has left quite an impression. That’s primarily because of his 3-point shooting. He has converted 53.1 percent of his 32 shots from beyond the arc. While he’s due for a regression, he has significantly outshot the league thus far.

Distance FG% League FG% Forwards FG%
24 ft.


36 36
25 ft. 47 35 35
26 ft. 53 34 34
27 ft. 52 33 33

5. K.J. McDaniels


Going into the season, the hope was that McDaniels could flash 3-and-D potential. Although much focus has been placed on the ‘D’ part of his game, his shot frequency % by distance further supports the idea that McDaniels could be an efficient shooter too.

He’s hitting 3-pointers at a league-average rate of 33.3 percent clip. But he’s taking more of them, as 3-pointers make up 40.8 percent of his field goal attempts. He currently averages more long-range attempts than the average guard.

There’s plenty more interesting Sixers/NBA stuff over at Buckets. If charts, graphs, and numbers are your thing, go check it out.

Dec 09 2014

Wrecking Ball Wroten

Tony Wroten is a special breed of basketball player. The 6-foot-6 ball of energy can turn his most ardent supporters into his harshest critics in mere seconds. One moment he’ll convert a dazzling double-clutch layup while barreling headfirst into a wall of defenders, and on his next possession he’ll chuck a no-look pass that ends up knocking over a fan’s beer in the third row. Watching Wroten is essentially basketball on LSD; his lively style is supremely entertaining, but is usually just an illusion that masks all of his inefficiencies and damage he does to his team.

Wroten, Memphis’ 25th pick in the 2012 draft, has been in the league for two-plus seasons now, playing 87 of his 122 games with the Sixers. He’s been all over the place, but this season there’ve been some clearer signs – both good and bad – of what he could become. The first couple weeks Wroten parlayed his amusing style into actually productive basketball, forcing all of his most avid doubters (myself included) to bite their collective tongues. But after a strong start, he went back to looking like the same old chaotic wrecking ball, before being sidelined with a knee sprain.

So what, then, is in store for the talented combo guard. Is he a super-sub in the making? A 12th man? An all-star? Let’s take a closer look, starting with …

The broken jumper

Wroten’s shot has been the epitome of Small Sample Size Theater. He was at a pleasantly surprising league-average clip from downtown through his first nine games, only to convert one of his 20 attempts since.

Wroten’s problem: his inconsistent shooting motion yields inconsistent results. Check out his six 3-point attempts (of which he converted four) from Nov. 5 in Orlando:

The blemishes are subtle, yet cause for concern. Whether it’s his follow-through (or lack thereof), his footing, his lift off the ground, or the use of his guide hand, Wroten’s jumper looks (at least) slightly different on every shot. This suggests that he still can’t find a form that he’s comfortable with, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any respectable shooters in the league with a shooting motion as inconsistent as Wroten’s.

The Sixers staff is working on this. Below is a video (compliments of Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers) of Wroten stringing together a few consistent shots in practice, which could be a sign of things to come. But applying methods learned in practice into a live game is easier said than done.


This hole in Wroten’s game is nothing new, but it is a bit discouraging that it hasn’t been addressed. His future with the Sixers — and the NBA — could be dependent on his jumper, especially considering that his deficiencies in that area could start affecting what he does best…

Attacking the basket

Wroten’s ability to effortlessly get to the rim is one of the most enigmatic qualities of any NBA player. He is almost a complete non-threat as a shooter and can only finish with his left, yet he’s scoring 8.1 points per game off of drives (second in the league, according to SportsVU) and draws fouls at an adequate rate of .441.

He only scores on 41.1 percent of his drives according to SportsVU, and he could find himself in some trouble once the rest of the league finds out that he basically has only one move (and hand). His go-to move is relatively simple: pump fake, Eurostep, and finish with an underhand lefty layup.

Wroten hasn’t shown many other moves when forced in other directions. That his right hand remains non-existent may be just as disappointing as his inconsistent jumper. Things get awkward whenever he’s forced to use it.

He’ll usually try to avoid using his right altogether, and create the shot with his left at an awkward angle.

And as the rest of the league eventually catches on, defenders will give Wroten more space at the 3-point line and close off his precious driving lanes. Wroten has one of the deadlier first steps in the league, and defenses should be much more willing to let him shoot than pressing close. Brooklyn smartly did so last week, going under every Wroten-led pick-and-roll and backing up on him at the arc.

Wroten is oozing with potential, but he won’t reach it if he’s unable to put the pieces together. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for him this year though, as he’s made improvements in some unexpected areas…

He can play point guard! Kind of!

I predicted earlier this season that Alexey Shved or even the legendary Casper Ware would be more qualified than Wroten as temporary replacements for Michael Carter-Williams. Since that post, Shved went back to his Timberwolvian ways of “I’ll prove to everybody that I’m a good scorer but oh wait I’m not” and Ware can probably be found somewhere in Germany eating a schnitzel.

Meanwhile, Wroten adjusted to his new role quite nicely. His assist numbers are up across the board, and his floor vision has been noticeably better. He looks much more aware making reads out of pick-and-rolls – an area where he really struggled last season.

He’s still not taking care of the rock, but we can take solace in the fact that his turnover percentage has seen a slight bump from 17.7 to 18.9 percent while handling the ball significantly more than he did last season. His 51.9 true usage percentage ranks in the top 10 in the league per Nylon Calculus, and his passes per game have doubled last year’s (from 31.6 to 64.4) per SportsVU.

And while his inconsistent shooting motion and lack of a right hand are mechanical issues, his high turnover rate is more easily correctable as it could be remedied by simply using better judgment — a quality that most players at Wroten’s age severely lack. He’s made improvements in this department since his first season, but he still has a long way to go over the next couple seasons if he ever wants to be considered even a replacement-level point guard.

Wroten’s time at the point has already taken an expected hit with Michael Carter-Williams back in the picture. He spent just over half of his minutes playing mostly off the ball with the reigning ROY before going down with the knee injury, and the results were underwhelming. Philadelphia’s net rating dropped from -11.8 down to a pitiful -20.7 when the two share the floor per, and the team is averaging just one assist per committed turnover –far below league average– in such situations. Wroten’s agility allows him to be a decent off-ball option as he can create opportunities off dribble handoffs or backdoor cuts. But his defenders know to cheat off him, and Philadelphia’s utter lack of floor spacing doesn’t do Wroten many favors in finding shots at the rim.

This places Wroten in the tormented “tweener” category; he’s not quite good enough to run an offense, and his inability to play off the ball marginalizes his production at the 2. He’s only 21 — he’d be a senior in college had he stayed at Washington — but his progression is moving at a snail’s pace and it’s possible he never does turn into a productive NBA rotation player. In the meantime, just enjoy him for what he is: an inefficient super-athlete that brings both watchability and comedic value to Sixers games.

Dec 08 2014

Are The Sixers The 2008-09 Thunder?

Image by William Brasington

Image by William Brasington

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s inaugural season started ugly. They dropped 16 of their first 17 games – P.J. Carlesimo was fired and replaced with Scott Brooks after 13 – and some of their fans began to wonder whether their new team, the former Sonics of Seattle, was the second coming of the 1972-73 Sixers.

“I think it did reach a certain point where it was like, holy crap,” said Royce Young, the founder who now writes for ESPN. “’What are we in for here? How bad is it going to be?’”

Six years later, Young has gone from blogger to NBA beat writer, and the franchise he covers – ya know, the one with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka – has gone from laughingstock to perennial championship contender. That transformation didn’t happen overnight, of course, but there was one game that Young sees as the turning point. The night where he and other Thunder fans started to believe that OKC – laden with talent, lacking experience – could one day compete for a title.

It was New Year’s Eve 2008, and the 3-29 Thunder were hosting Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, and the Golden State Warriors. Jeff Green, then a 22-year-old in his second season, scored a team-high 26 points, while Durant had 25, and Chris Wilcox added 23 to lead OKC to a 107-100 victory. Confetti dropped from the rafters and people honked their horns in the parking lot, celebrating the win.

“On a wild night in downtown Oklahoma City, with events going on all around Bricktown and beyond, the best show to be seen was in the Ford Center. Granted, I’m not really a Flaming Lips fan, but still,” Young wrote in the postgame recap. “The Thunder really looked like a basketball team. A team that wasn’t scrambling and searching for a way to just hang close. They looked like a team that knew what it was doing.


Last week, the winless Philadelphia 76ers (then 0-17) took on the Minnesota Timberwolves (then 4-12) in an attempt to avoid tying the record for most consecutive losses to start a season. Playing on the road, the Sixers did nothing to differentiate themselves from the NBA’s other bottom-feeders. Frankly, it was ugly. The teams started off facing the wrong direction and had to replay the first 15 seconds – this was fitting, as every blogger, sporstcaster, and journalist so cleverly noted. Philly managed just nine second quarter points and the halftime score (Minnesota led 34-32) resembled that of a college game. But Brett Brown’s squad kept the game close, and thanks to some timely 3-pointers from a newly acquired forward named Robert Covington (most famous for hitting some timely 3-pointers in this random December game), and other contributions from players you’ve never heard of, the Sixers escaped with an 85-77 victory.

While there wasn’t a parade down Broad Street, the game became one of night’s top sports stories. Sixers Twitter went crazy. The @DidTheSixersWin account’s “Yes.” – its first since Oct. 22 when the NBA failed to pass lottery reform – garnered nearly 10,000 retweets.

Even the lead singer of Maroon 5 posted about it.


Young was right about the Thunder. They played like an NBA team after that New Year’s Eve win, finishing that season a respectable 23-59. They were good enough to avoid infamy, yet bad enough to land James Harden in the ensuing draft. The next year they won 50 games and took the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers to six games in the first round. They followed that up with a conference finals appearance, an NBA finals appearance, a second-round exit, and another conference finals appearance. If they can stay healthy, they have as good a shot as any team in 2015.

Could Philly be headed in that same direction? And was Wednesday night a turning point?

The Sixers followed up that win with a 12-point loss to the Thunder, then a 108-101 overtime victory against the lowly Detroit Pistons – a road game on the second night of a back-to-back. As Grantland’s Zach Lowe noted, they’ve actually played respectable basketball for the last two weeks, a stretch that has coincided with Michael Carter-Williams’ return. writer Kevin Pelton’s system was less optimistic, giving the Sixers an average of 10.6 wins, and having them set the new league record in 24 percent of simulations, but this was before the Thunder and Pistons games.

That said, this isn’t quite the 2008-09 Thunder. The Sixers don’t have a pair of budding superstars and their recent “turnaround” can’t be attributed to a new coach. Like OKC, however, they have a young squad that should improve with time and personnel adjustments. Nerlens Noel is anchoring the 15th-ranked defense, despite playing like the 20-year-old with 17 NBA games under his belt that he is. MCW has keyed the turnaround, even though his jumper – 38 percent from the field, 24 percent from 3 – remains broken. Covington and K.J. McDaniels’ shooting is unsustainable, though their presence alone should improve the Sixers’ offensive efficiency. There’s also the coming of Furkan Aldemir and the impending adjustments in shot selection. Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers reported in November that players are granted freedom to shoot wherever and whenever. The team right now is more interested in experimenting and gathering information. But that’ll change shortly, Brown said, and a boost in efficiency could follow.

“We have told our team that if you’re open in the first third of the year, we want you shooting the ball,” Brown said. “That privilege will be refined, and defined, in the middle third after we look at your percentages and how it’s weighed up with development.”

It is also possible the Sixers revert to their mid-November form. Covington is not Ray Allen, and 20-year-olds with no track record of NBA success are unpredictable. The Thunder team that won 20 of its last 50 games was outscored by 9.1 points per game during its 3-29 start, according to Pelton. Even after the two victories, the Sixers have a -12.1 point differential. Prior to the Pistons win, Pelton told me that an OKC-esque turnaround would be pretty far out of the question.

But not impossible. The team is no longer the NBA’s laughingstock – thank you, Knicks – and we could be treated to some respectable basketball in 2015.

John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds project 17 wins while Arturo Galletti from Boxscore Geeks has them at 22 wins, giving them a 5.5 percent shot of winning 12 games or less, but a 2.2 percent shot at making the playoffs. So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yes. Things are looking good in Sixers land. Better than a week ago.


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