May 29 2014

Sixers Hit Jackpot With Pelicans Pick

While no one knew exactly what to expect from the Pelicans this season, their playoff intentions were made clear the moment they dealt Nerlens Noel and a top-five protected first-round pick to the Sixers in exchange for Jrue Holiday. They were supposed to be the up-and-coming Western Conference team. Anthony Davis would man the paint and Holiday would run the point, teaming up with Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to make one of the most dynamic lineups in the NBA.

But little of that blueprint came to fruition, and thanks to some questionable offseason decisions and poor injury luck,1 the Sixers hit the jackpot; the Pelicans won 34 games and ended up surrendering the 10th overall pick. Given the pick’s top-5 protection, New Orleans’ season couldn’t have played out much better for Philadelphia.

Exactly how much did the Sixers benefit from the Pelicans’ poor season — or, what’s the difference, value-wise, between a top-10 pick and the high-teens/low-20s pick that New Orleans hoped it would give up? Based on Aaron Barzilai’s study on Relative Value of Draft Position, which analyzes drafts from 1980-2006, the returns for the No. 10 slot have nearly doubled the returns for the 20th. The Wages of Wins model has similar findings; the average wins produced (over four years) for the 10th slot is 12.7 compared to 7.2 for No. 20. But that doesn’t even account for the exceptionally talented 2014 rookie prospects.

A draft class that entered 2013 as highly heralded foremost for the quality of its top five has become revered instead for its depth. While Wiggins and Julius Randle have not fulfilled their loftiest projections, other freshmen have exceeded preseason expectations. Joel Embiid, barring his back health, has emerged as a contender for the first overall pick; he was previously viewed by some as a multi-year project. Jabari Parker and Dante Exum may very well be the best rookies to come out of this draft. Noah Vonleh, Tyler Ennis, and Zach LaVine’s movement into the mid to late-lottery discussion, along with Nick Stauskas and Doug McDermott’s combine athletic testing results, have provided more viable options in that range. Not to mention Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Dario Saric, and Marcus Smart. Options are aplenty.

More subjectively, a 10-pick gain is huge in the hands of any general manager, but holds even more value in the hands of a savvy GM. Trading up, trading down, trading for a star; with Sam Hinkie, nothing is out of the question.

We’ll never know what the injury-plagued Pelicans were truly capable of, but their pick would have fallen had they been healthy, maybe even outside of the lottery. That New Orleans didn’t live up to expectations made this trade not just a win for the Sixers, but a landslide victory.

1. Injuries to Ryan Anderson and Holiday meant  that the Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis combination, which tied for the highest plus/minus of any New Orleans lineup with at least 10 total season appearances, saw the floor together only 12 times all year. For context, comparable lineups for playoff participants Dallas and Portland each made 69 appearances together.

  • robbybonfire23

    Thanks for the insightful information. To me, this draft represents a testing ground which will impact future drafts pecking order, mostly revolving around Wiggins and LaVine, both of whose “athleticism” scores much higher than anything they have actually accomplished, to this point.

    If these two make it big in the NBA, a drafting priority connected with athleticism will come to rule the day, from now on. BUT, if these two bomb, or as I see as a distinct possibility, if Wiggins becomes nothing special, and LaVine tanks badly, the focus, from here on in, will have to be centered upon accomplishment in the college ranks, rather than upon the miscast acrobats and gymnasts who cannot translate their physical dexterity into basic basketball skills. Might be a couple or three years before the jury that is out here, comes in. But the lesson we are all going to learn here is going to be highly instructional.

    • hk99

      In 2009-10, Evan Turner was better (significantly in some cases) than Paul George in just about every statistical category while playing in a tougher conference. The only thing George had over Turner when they entered the league together was his athleticism.

      • robbybonfire23

        Hey, HK, you and I look good, compared with ET. Better example, please. lol.

        • hk99

          But that’s the point. Sometimes, the better athlete (e.g. George) does not put up as good numbers in college than the lesser athlete (e.g. Turner), but when they get to the pros, the better athlete becomes the much better player. This is what will be interesting with the likes of Wiggins and Kyle Anderson, one is the better athlete while the other put up the better college statistics.

          • robbybonfire23

            HK –
            Your point is well taken. So well taken in fact I have to ask if the 76ers adjusted their drafting philosophy following the drafting of Turner, to account for his anomaly? And of course, Hinkie, being his own man, will not be difficult to peg, as a proponent of one school or the other, we just need some track record input from him, to categorize him in this respect.

            I am, to this point, as a stat guy, of course very much in the camp of those players who do well, statistically, vs. the “raw talent” athletic type. Therefore, going into this draft I rate Embiid, Smart, Anderson, Vonleh, Randall, and McDermott (although I do not like his being a senior), as my players of choice, along with Exum, as the “X” factor.

            As you know by now, I detest the likes of Wiggins, Harris, Hood, LaVine, Nik S., and the vastly over-rated Parker, whom we might get saddled with. ( I don’t understand Parker being ranked above Randall – they are similar except Randall is miles better, for both shooting game and floor game, if that makes any sense? Why the hell would we or anyone take Parker over Randall, primarily because Parker gets all the P.R? It’s nuts!)

            Trust me, some of these young men are going to bomb, big time, in the NBA, as not everyone of them is going to be able to adapt his innate athletic ability to the discipline of basketball skills.

            But still, I am open to learning new things, once we have an indelible grade we can stamp on all these young men. This is going to be a fun ride, for basketball fans, the sorting out this class of recruits….

            P.S. – What players in this draft, in your opinion, best personify a viable combination of athleticism and accomplishment, to this point? Those surely are the players to consider first, in the draft.

          • hk99

            I love Vonleh and Randle. I like them more than I like Parker. I have said before that, if Embiid and Wiggins are gone, I hope they can turn #3 and #10 into #5 and #7or #8 and get Vonleh or Randle and Marcus Smart.

          • robbybonfire23

            Right with you, HK, and completely perplexed as to why Parker is ranked, top-3, everywhere you look? Lousy shooter, lousy floor game, better than some, but not by much. He must be “athletic,” or something.

            Here’s hoping our G.M. sees it differently. We get Smart, Randle or Vonleh, we take over our division, next season. I do think the priority should be a forward, to take some pressure off Noel. I say that with the hope that Tony Wroten ramps up big time, in 2015, which, I know, is asking a lot, but talk about undeveloped “raw” talent, Wroten has that. Of course if we take Smart, Wroten is out of a job.

          • hk99

            My problem with Parker is that he does not play defense. He looks to me like he’ll be one of those players who will get his 20 or 25 or 30, but will give up 22 or 27 or 32 on the other end. Wiggins on the other hand is, by most or all accounts, already a lock-down defender. When I combine his elite defense with his offensive potential – knowing that he scored 71 points (on 14 xFG) in back-to-back Big 12 games – I see a superstar if they can unlock the offensive upside with a downside that’s somewhere around Andre Iguodala. Other than Embiid, I don’t see a potential superstar in this draft, so I want them to aim high. This is especially so since they also have the #10 pick and should be able to add a quality player at that spot.

          • robbybonfire23

            The above raises an interesting question? And that is, can a player, Parker, for example, grow on defense, or is “growth and maturity” limited to the offensive side?

            Not that I intend to play “Devil’s Advocate,” but I do have a serious question re Wiggins, and what he brought to the court, this past season. This question stems from my, admittedly, looking at these players from a different angle. So here goes…

            When you, HK, or anyone make the statement that “Wiggins is a lock-down defender,” I have three D stats I can refer to, for him, Steals and Blocks, and of course DR’s. In the Steals department, Wiggins logged 28 of them, over the course of 18.45 full 40-minute games, in-conference and NCAA. Smart totaled 55 in his nearly 16 qualifier games. Anderson had 40, Gary Harris, whom I detest for his being so over-rated, nevertheless totaled 51 steals in 21 1/2 full 40-minute qualifier games. Delon Wright, conspicuously absent from this draft, totaled 51 steals in 20+ games. Napier checked in with 48 in 24 games, etc. So that Wiggins, while not bad, is lost in the pack in this category.

            Wiggins gets a high grade in the Blocks category (22 in all), he ranks with some of the best ~forwards~ in this draft, in this respect, so that this may be where the “lock-down” term originates. Vonleh had 29 blocks, Embiid had 39, Randall just 21, Willie Cauley-Stein was a force with 53 blocks in just 13 full 40-minute games, etc. Among the guards, Smart had just 10 Blocks, Anderson had 16, Harris had 13, Delon had 29, Nik S. had just 9, etc. So that after Delon Wright, Wiggins led the rest of the big name guards, in this category

            In the DR category, again Wiggins is up the track, with just 79, total. Smart had 92, Anderson 175 (I take it his total is somewhat embellished by his “swingman” role), Harris had 75, Nik S., who otherwise displays a vacuum of a floor game, came in with 57 DR’s. Napier showed the way with a brilliant total of 129 DR’s, a higher total than most forwards in this draft.

            So that, apart from the Blocks total, and I do appreciate the effort there, Wiggins is just lost in the crowd.

            The problem I have here, IF the Blocks total is the primary source of the “lock-down” accolade for Wiggins, is that Blocks, while scoring high on a regression basis (in the NBA the value is 1.18 points/per Block), occupy a low-incidence rate in your typical basketball game. In stark contrast with Assist and Defensive Rebound totals, which, along with shooting prowess, determine the outcome of most games.

            When Wiggins ramps up his shooting percentage, along with his DR’s and Assists rates of production, I will emphatically move up to being in his camp. Until then, I am not buying so long as peripheral stats, starting with Blocks, are his best recommendation.

          • hk99

            My lock-down defender comments come from what I read and hear from coaches and scouts, not from stats. As you know, there’s more to defense than just the three statistics that you quote. For one thing – and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know the answer – what was the FG% of the players he guarded? For another, how often did he prevent the guy he was guarding from getting off a shot, taking their teams out of the offense and/or leading them to make bad passes. Like when you assess the lock-down CB in the NFL who gets very few INT’s or even
            breaks up very few passes because the opposing QB always throws to the
            other side of the field, I would be very leery of limiting analysis of a basketball player’s defense to just those three stats.

          • robbybonfire23

            We agree on that, HK. So if those in the know are saying Wiggins is a “lock-down” defender, they must have the data related to those parts of his game you are referring to. Either that or just visual impressions, which count, but really need to be quantified, for validation.

          • Evan

            Robby, you criticize Wiggins and Parker for having lousy shooting percentages, but they both have much higher percentages then Marcus Smart, who you love. I know he grades much better in your floor game stats, but I don’t know enough about that to determine whether its a good stat for predicting next level success. Even MCW’s shooting percentages in college are better than Smart’s and he is a pretty bad shooter.

          • robbybonfire23

            Nice to hear from you, Evan –

            Let me clarify a couple points. First, I am on record as stating that Wiggins is a ~mediocre~ shooter. If ever I deviated from that, I was exaggerating to make a point, which one should never do. I have Wiggins at 2.56 PPX ( all purpose points divided by missed FG attempts) for his conference and NCAA play. The NCAA major program leader in this PPX category, at a guard position, was Delon Wright, at 3.12. Now THAT is exceptional.

            Parker, as a forward, has NO excuse for his 2.28 PPX. Man, that is pathetic. Embiid came in at 4.41, to lead the nation by a country mile. McDermott graded at a nice 3.23. Vonleh at 2.80, Randall at 2.60, et al. Even guard Nik S. beats the tar out of Parker, in this category, at 2.87, but I am not on Nik’s bandwagon because he cannot even begin to spell “defense,” or “floor game.”

            I did state, in one post, that Smart is my lone exception, where a player not bringing a complete game to the mix is concerned. (Smart graded at 2.35 PPX, and a brilliant 17.73 floor game, even better than Delon who closed at 16.11, and they ranked 1-2 in the nation at the guard position.)

            The reason Smart is my one exception is because of his NFL- mentality toughness. We all painfully remember how “soft” Evan Turner was and is, if he still has some career remaining, which is a good question? Smart is Turner’s patty cake mental, physical, and emotional futility turned inside out.

            I see Marcus Smart as having leadership qualities, Evan. So that even if he never gets off the dime, where shooting efficiency is concerned, I predict an impact career for him, in the areas of defense and for his “gamesmanship.”

          • Evan

            I see what you mean. I certainly don’t want another player who thinks leading a team begins with arguing with the refs instead of running back on defense (which ET did multiple times a game). There are so many options for Hinkie to go (in terms of picks and trading) that I have absolutely no idea what draft day will bring, which makes it exciting. I just hope they get this right. From all accounts, Hinkie wants to tank next year as well so we don’t lose our first round next year, which I believe is lottery protected to the Heat from that Arnett Moultrie trade (glad that worked out).

            What I think will be most interesting, however, is if the NBA puts the age limit of 20 years old into affect next year, because I feel as though that could really stunt next year’s draft (although be good in the long run). Your man Delon Wright might be going in the top 5 if that’s the case.

          • robbybonfire23

            Yes, I have thought about MCW and Smart, and my conclusion, subject to input and skepticism from others as to whether it would work, is that Smart goes over to SG. This puts Wroten on the bench, which, too, could be an upgrade, although Wroten, given his still-youthful age of 21, next season, is still a factor on this team’s back court depth chart, at least as of now, I do believe.

            As for Delon, he missed the train, so to speak. MCW was a 23-year old rookie, we really don’t need a glut of those. I have not jumped off the D.W. bandwagon, but my NBA expectations for him are modest, given his belated professional career start.

            To me, the ideal is for these young men with the all-world potential talent, to come out after spending two years in college, not one year, as with Wiggins and LaVine, so many others so embarrassingly unpolished, yet attempting to make this career quantum leap, prematurely; and not four years as with Doug McDermott and Delon Wright.

            The timing as to when you launch your professional career is just as important as the skills you bring to your professional career. I think Delon would have been something special, had his NBA career decision been handled properly, but no more.

          • Bill

            Wroten will be that spark plug 6th man type of player. Doug McDermott is just not athletic enough to be a SF in this league I could see him as a small stretch 4 but being a senior is just not the right fit for a team building with youth. In my opinion the 76er’s need to take one of the “big 3” and trade a Thad and some second round options to move up to only get a Randle or Vonleh. I like LaVine ability however he is just too raw at this stage to take with the 10th pick. I would like to see a Noel,Randle,Parker,Richardson,MCW lineup or Embiid,Noel,Thad,Richardson,MCW with our 10 pick coming off the bench.

          • robbybonfire23

            Bill –

            I contend that LaVine has not shown any ability. He is 100 per cent “athleticism,” to date. His shooting game is the WORST of all the hyped-up draft picks. His floor game is abysmal, down there with three others who cannot play this game away from the ball.

            LaVine, at this stage, is a JOKE, Bill, with absolutely NOTHING to recommend, unless you are planning a trip to the circus and he is the main high-wire attraction, which could be the case.

          • Bill


            LaVine is a true project but his athleticism is up there with the Exum and Wiggins of the world but he is just too much of a project for the sixers but a team like the Spurs or Celtics with good development team could mold him into a productive player in 3 yearsyears and replace one of their aging stars. Part of the problem was UCLA limiting his playing time because of their veteran players. Plus, I think MCW and Smart could never because neither are legit perimater shooters yet but I am a fan of Smart just wish he shot better from the outside.

          • robbybonfire23

            Bill –

            Frankly, I don’t know if this is a good analogy, or not? Do you remember, years ago, when baseball was hiring specialist/track stars to be pinch runners and contribute stolen bases as their sole contribution to the team? The A’s, during their championship run in the 70’s, employed track star Herb Washington, who couldn’t hit or field or throw, etc, was a real drag on the flexibility of the A’s roster so that we no longer hear of teams hiring speed merchants like H.W.

            I am really interested in how the careers of Wiggins and LaVine progress, because, it seems to me that they are more athletic (and one-dimensional) than skilled on a basketball court. If they under-achieve, relative to their projected star billing, I guess I will have made a valid point, that basketball skills should come before gymnastic ability, in evaluating these players. But of course these two players could have productive careers and prove me wrong, too.

            I too, am a big fan of Smart, he was the best floor game guard, by my stats, in the country, plus he has leadership qualities. IF, he can get his shooting/scoring game up to par for his position, some lucky team will have one heck of a back court man to build its team around.

          • robbybonfire23

            Also, re Parker scoring AND allowing high point-total numbers, let’s not forget that to score 20-30 points, Parker has to take, and miss, far too many shots. So that he shows a low shooting percentage on offense, with virtually invisible D. So glad he went elsewhere, he has far to go and a lot to prove, before he can be considered a net asset to his new team.

  • David Ras

    I’m old so listen to me. I know more about this game then you.

    Players I like: Really like Wiggins. Think his figures from sports science are just ridiculous. If he can be half as good as projected he’ll be an all-star. Joel will be a good to great center, he’s young, super motive and has the size and mobility. You can’t worry about a history of injury at age 20. Parker is just a small guard and bad defender, he’ll never be a superstar, even if he gets to Carmelo status he’s not going to inspire teammates to play for him. Randle is way undersized for the NBA and I can’t see his game transitioning. I like McDermot stroke and he’ll be a fine compliment. Don’t know much about Vonahl (spelt wrong) but he looks like he has the bad size for a PF and could turn into more of a tweener.

    • Kevin

      Vonleh measured 6’9 1/2 in shoes at the combine, while coming in at 240 pounds. He will have no issues in terms of size against the PF’s in the NBA and his position on the court should be pretty clear cut. Unfortunately, it may remain a moot point because as of now he has clearly put himself out front of both Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle as the most desirable PF prospect in this draft.

      You are correct that the knock on Randle has been that he is undersized, but he measured 6’9 in shoes at the combine and has evidently eased concerns because of that. He for sure already has an “NBA Body”. Thaddeus Young achieves success at 6’8 225-230, and that is after putting on weight last offseason. Both of these players should be fine in terms of measurements.

    • robbybonfire23

      Parker is a guard, not a forward. Wiggins is a mediocrity who will be passed around by five teams before his NBA career is over. In fact, he could be the next Evan Turner – more holes in his game than a block of Swiss cheese.

  • Evan

    So even though this is a Sixers thread, I am so baffled by what I just watched Lebron James do I thought I would throw it out there. How can you leave the crunch time of the game with cramps. He was obviously in pain, but do you guys give him a pass? I can’t believe that just happened.

    • robbybonfire23

      Evan –

      Years ago, swimming in Lake Placid, while way out there on the lake, I came down with a cramp. I know I would have drowned, had my brother not been in a boat, nearby. Cramps are extremely painful and strip you of your agility and flexibility. I am with Lebron on this one, knowing what he was going through.

  • Alex

    how about this: we draft wiggins at 3 and mcdermott at 10, then this is our starting lineup:
    PG: MCW
    SG: Tony Wroten
    SF: Wiggins
    PF: McDermott
    C: Noel

    that’s a pretty good lineup if you ask me. raw for sure but imagine what could happen. Heck we have so much cap space we could probably sign a big time FA too.

    • Guest

      why draft McDermott when you young, the bigger need is a sg

    • Ben

      Why draft mcdermott when you have young, the bigger need is a Shooting guard

    • Josh Schwartz

      I would prefer Embiid, Parker and even Randle over Wiggins, to be honest. I just don’t see what’s so special about Wiggins. But I do love McDermott. And, I do like the idea of those five young players being in the Sixers’ lineup next season. Very raw indeed, but I would love the idea.