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Feb 12 2015

Embrace The Unknown And Root Against The Heat

Would you rather have:

A: $1,000 right now.
B: $1,000 in 2016.
C: The opportunity to pick one of five unlabeled envelopes in 2017, stuffed with the following: $700, $1,000, $1,500, $2,500, $4,000.

For those of you following the Miami Heat and their Sixers-owned draft pick, that’s the question you should be asking yourself.

Miami’s 1st rounder — acquired from Minnesota in the Thaddeus Young trade — is top 10 protected in 2015 and 2016, and unprotected in 2017. If the season were to end today, the Heat (22-30) would have the 15th overall pick, and would have to give it to the Sixers. But with Miami in danger of missing the playoffs — and dropping below Indiana, Detroit, Boston, Brooklyn, and the two Western Conference bubble teams — that pick has a chance of staying with the Heat.

This wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Actually, it’s what you — fans of Sixers and asset accumulation — should be rooting for. That’s because the Heat, led by Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and apparently, Hassan Whiteside (25), aren’t particularly good. Given their age, they might be on the decline. They’ll go into next season with a similar roster that carries the same injury risks. While a full season of Whiteside and Josh McRoberts will help, they have a realistic shot of missing the playoffs again. If the Heat protect their pick again next season, they’d end up having to surrender their 2017 1st rounder, regardless of where it landed.

This is where it’d get exciting. The Heat are old. Bosh will be 32 in 2016 and Wade (35), whose contract expires after next season – assuming he picks up his player option — might not even be in Miami by then. Now, it’s possible the Heat will position themselves for a free agent splash and that they end up making the postseason – that’d be the $700 envelope. But it’s also possible that at that point, the Heat will be in the early stage of a rebuild, and headed for a third straight lottery season. Given that there’s exponential decay in the expected value of draft picks — the difference between picks 1 and 10 is much larger than the difference between picks 11 and 20 — this is a high floor, high ceiling scenario. Worst case, the Sixers would get a pick in the 20s. Best case, they’d get Anthony Davis. In both cases – and everything in between — the Sixers would get to open a mystery envelope. That prize could be well worth the wait.

  • lefoe

    I am about done with pleasure deferred. I expect the sixers to be a playoff team by 2017, and that team would be better off if the Miami pick is entering his third year as apposed to being a rookie. Keep in mind that the lottery rules are likely to get longer in the next few years and I don’t see that the two year deferment is worth the slight bump in odds of getting a higher pick who may or may not be a better talent.

    • egoldwein

      These are fair points. I agree that we should put a premium on present value of this pick. (One of the reasons why, as you stated, is that there could be a lotto rule change).

      And yes, even a top pick is a crapshoot. But simply having possession of that pick could be huge. A top-5 pick can be the centerpiece of a Kevin Love-esque trade. That 15th pick in year 3 can also be that centerpiece too (and could even become a star). But mid first-rounders typically aren’t as coveted as top 5 picks, even when they pan out.

      • lefoe

        Solid point, Wiggens might be available from the wolves by then, provided he doesn’t sign an extension.

        • robbybonfire23

          Wiggins might be available for what – Zamboni guy if he moves back to Canada and takes up hockey? Actually, you could say he is playing hockey while wearing sneakers in Minny, and not be too far off the mark.

          You still don’t know how TERRIBLE a “basketball player” Wiggins is? Good grief.

          • Evan

            You also have to remember the T-wolves are playing Wiggins as much as possible. His game score isn’t going to be good because they are not a team worried about efficiency, they are a team worried about his development, having him shoot any shot he wants, and playing him a ton of minutes (nearly 35 MPG). Marcus smart is playing 24.4 MPG while Kyle Anderson is playing 12.6 MPG and hasn’t played a minute in weeks. Neither of your two pre-draft stars (Smart and Anderson) are playing well. Marcus Smart’s PPX is actually WORSE than Wiggins, but he has a higher game score because he is a ball dominant point guard who is bound to get assists. And Anderson can’t even find a spot in the rotation of a Spurs team that goes 10-12 players deep on a nightly basis.

            So far this draft has been a huge disappointment, but this draft had a number of athletic prospects with good parts to their game and bad parts to their game. Parker was the one player who was supposed to be more NBA ready, and I think he showed that in his short time before injury. Wiggins is obviously terrible in the zip category, but he has the time and the ability to develop in that area. Considering his putrid start to the season, I would say he is already making strides (although he has regressed again recently).

            Lets give this draft class some time before determining certain players are “terrible.” Kevin Durant had a 2.07 PPX his rookie year, Wiggins is at a 2.02 right now. Not saying Wiggins is the next Durant, just showing that rookie years don’t define a player’s career.

          • robbybonfire23

            Thanks for the input, Evan, and let me address, as best I can, what we have here.

            First of all, yes, these are all developmental stage rookies we are talking about, some will ramp up, some will flame out of the NBA. I do think Stauskas, Anderson, Ennis, and maybe even Gary Harris, could be on the bubble, but again, given a second year in the NBA, they could demonstrate that they belong. But will they get that?

            In so far as the differential in minutes played, this is exactly why I do what I do – equalize for that significant difference by emphasizing efficiency, not totals. Wiggins has a mile advantage over the field if you just consider totals, which, to me, is a ludicrous way of evaluating any athlete in any sport.

            Markus Smart is at 44 on my seasonal game score, that is slightly higher than Noel (42 1/2) and miles ahead of Wiggins, who grades at 28 1/2 right now, receding, as you observe, a bit – he was up to 31 a week or so ago, but threw in a couple really bad games thereafter. Smart is on pace to play and significantly contribute at the NBA level, for a long time to come.

            I have to ask if Wiggins even has a passion for the game. Something is badly amiss with him, but I don’t know what that is?

            Anderson frustrates me, yes, I touted him highly for a solid NBA career. Even with his pathetic shooting he has a 36 current game score, so, to my mind he is ahead of Wiggins at this stage,as well as Grant (31), and K.J. (29), who get lauded all the time here for their “progress.” But, he is out of playing time, now, and was in D-League, last I looked. I think his coach has quit on him.

            He is a fascinating and rare case – an “A” grade floor game, but an “F” grade for shooting and scoring. He was a productive scorer at UCLA, so I certainly would not quit on him, but I won’t excuse his miserable offense tanking, either. As a number 30 first round choice, I don’t think he will get much more latitude to do better.

            Jabari Parker was around 30 game score, when he went down, but I was warming up to him because Wiggins, at that time was hanging in the 13-17 range.

            Re Wiggins being allowed to “shoot any shot he wants,” that is all he has ever done, Evan, and his lack of a team-first game accounts for most of his poor floor game numbers. In my grading system, you MUST be a team-first player because, if not, that will drag down your score, however impressive your offensive efficiency. Wiggins just is not excelling yet, in any category you can name, and is lagging in some.

            Finally, I did trash, and still do trash Zach LaVine, however, unlike Wiggins, LaVine is assuredly making impressive progress, up to the Marcus Smart 44 seasonal game score, in fact. Interestingly, Minny, on most nights, doesn’t want LaVine to get major developmental minutes, like Wiggins. Go figure, because that, to me, doesn’t make sense. LaVine improves any more, I will have to admit, I was wrong about him. Considering what a bust he was at UCLA, apart from the world class dunking exhibitions, I have to say more power to him, for his work ethic, his focus and, unlike Wiggins, his all-around maturity development.

          • Evan

            You make some good points. I think it is just too early to determine whether a player will be good or bad. We’ll just have to wait and see.

          • robbybonfire23

            Also, it will be interesting to see what Parker, Vonleh, and Randle have, when they are up and running? And Aaron Gordon, too. I liked Vonleh and Randle quite a bit coming out of college, but their major rehabilitation status puts their career stardom on hold, if they now can even get back to that level?

            Parker I didn’t like for his NBA prospects, at all, but I have to say that until his season-ending injury, he deserves credit for playing at a level it took Smart and LaVine more than half a season to reach. So that I have to upgrade my opinion of him, and it would be sad if my original evaluation turned out to be correct because of his injury situation.

            Hopefully the severe injuries for so many young players in the league are just a temporary set-back, and not of career-jeopardizing import.

          • lefoe

            Clearly you have put a lot of work into this statistical analysis and there is something there. However, I also see that Wiggins is already a better than average perimeter defender, can get to the rim when he wants, and has a shot that will improve a ton with better shot selection. He looks like a guy who is going to be a top 20 player to me.

          • robbybonfire23

            Thank you for your cogent reply. I see we look at different thinks, you more at D, while I am more offensive-minded, which lends itself better to statistical analysis. And that is fine.

            So I have problems with Wiggins where it comes to his paltry assist totals, he is one selfish, gunner young man. His rebounding is ordinary, and his shooting and scoring, going by efficiency here, not totals, is mostly mediocre, with an occasional “break out” game.

            Maybe we can agree, 1. He has a long way to go to reach his potential, whatever that is; and 2. For now, I have NEVER seen a more over-rated young athlete in my life. BUT, if he does ramp up to true all star, or even HOF level, I will give him credit for attaining maturing and a team-first orientation, to go with his basis athleticism. For now, I am waiting for that day to arrive. In fact, his teammate Zach LaVine is maturing and developing at a faster pace, with a lot less publicity and less pressure to, I will admit that.

          • CholloBlanco

            Are you using stats that you made up yourself? If so, I think they need to be tweeked.

            Wiggins is 7th in rookie PER while playing twice the minutes of most of the guys ahead of him. He’s asked to carry a huge load as a 19 year old with a usage rate of 20.2 (second among rookies below Jordan Clarkson and right above your boy Zach Lavine). His 1-1 assist/TO isn’t bad for a rookie wing asked to do as much as he is.

            Rookies just don’t put up efficient numbers. It’s a function of their lack of experience, polish, strength, stamina, etc. not a measure of their talent level.

  • Danny Trauger

    I am routing for the pick coming this year. I think with a young, developing team, the 76ers will be a force to recon with in the upcoming years. Brown has proven he can get the most out of this team, and they are playing themselves out of a top 3 pick because of it (though I am not upset about this). My worry coming into the year was that the best prospects were all centers, and we are center heavy. I want a SG and I think we can get a solid one with a pick that is between 11-15. I don’t think the Heat will be bad enough to get into the top 10, so my hope is for it to be closer to 11 and the Pacers moving into the 8th seed in the East.
    Either way, I am proud of what they are doing and I see great things on the horizon. Pretty soon, Philly will be a basketball town again and players will want to come and play with the young talent we have. Maybe even Durant would choose us over his hometown in DC. Who knows?!
    Love the article Eric. I have been looking for one that spelled it all out. Thank you!

    • egoldwein

      Yeah, don’t blame you for rooting for the pick to come this year. Now > later. Thanks for reading.

  • robbybonfire23

    Not a deep draft, this year, where it comes to the high-profile picks. The Kentucky big guys, after WCS, are huffing and puffing, way below expectations. Most interesting aspect of this draft, to me, will be who takes Sabonis of Gonzaga, if he is drafted? Also, Ochefu of Villanova has looked really enticing for a season and a half, now, on an efficiency basis, although he is not taking many shots per game, lately, for some obscure reason?

    We seem to like high-profile, over-rated guys, the K.J.’s and Jerami Grant’s of the world. I wish, just once, we would take a shot with a player of the “sleeper” variety with “lights out” numbers, and forget about “playing it safe” with the hot-shot program guys who all seem to turn out to be “works in progress.” Except for JaKarr, who is NOT a work in progress, because, unlike K.J. and Grant, he is REALLY progressing.

  • robbybonfire23

    Here’s the deal re Dom. Sabonis of Gonzaga. He’s a freshman-Forward, 6-10 & 231 lbs. So far this season he has scored 257 total points, while missing 42 shots from the floor on 99-141 shooting, a 70 per cent shooting clip.

    257/42 = Sabonis is scoring at the rate of 6.12 points per missed shot, in a world wherein scoring at the rate of 3 points per missed shot is excellent. His seasonal game score (Points scored / missed FGA x zips / minutes played) is an outstanding 172. Again, zips are a player’s total of DR’s and assists.

    So why not take a shot on a player like this with one of these many draft picks we have? Even discounting the fact that Sabonis plays against the Santa Clara’s, the San Francisco’s, Loyola Marymount, and the St. Mary’s Gaels, etc., it seems to me that you cut his production in half, you still have an all-star level talent.

  • CholloBlanco

    I disagree that a pick in the teens has the same value next year as it does this season. This years draft is too deep to not want the pick this year. A guy like Portis, Turner, Poetl (or even Kaminsky) will be available at 15. The decent chance that the pick is 11 or 12 and our ability to potentially move up (or down) with our many assets makes having the pick this year even more attractive. Imagine Johnson or Hezonja at 8 or 9.

    I also disagree on the floor and ceiling of the pick in 2017. With the cap soon growing (vastly) and tax-free south beach to entice free agents Miami can reload in a hurry need be. A pick in the 20’s is worth way less than “$700” and a top 5 or so selection just doesn’t seem realistic. Nor do I foresee a once in a generation talent like Davis coming out in a few years.

    So yeah, let’s hope Miami finishes 9 or 10 in the East. The #11 2015 pick is our realistic best chance at an impact player.

    • egoldwein

      Idk enough about the strength of this year’s draft compared to next year’s. But all else equal, an xth pick in 2015 is worth more than an xth pick in 2016, so I’ll give you that.

      The $$ amounts are rough estimates — 700 might be a bit high. Main point I was making was that 25 compared to 15 isn’t as big a game changer as 15 to 10.

      You bring up good points about the 2017 pick. I still think you might be overestimating Miami’s odds of being a free agent destination, and underestimating their odds of being terrible. But I could very well be off. Guess we’ll find out in 2017..

      • CholloBlanco

        Yeah, I get the $$’s are just a rough analogy, I didn’t mean to seem like I was nitpicking you there. I guess I’m just valuing the certainty of a pick 11-15 this year more highly than a lottery ticket in 2017.

        But if Miami does keep their pick this year and drafts a top 10 guy I would also be very surprised if they end up bottom 10 in 2016 as well. I won’t pretend to know much about current high school seniors, but given the depth this year, I would rather pick in the teens in 2015 than 2016 as well.

      • BrickByBrick76

        I would not sell your self short. If I read it correctly, the overall theme is that this pick is a good “asset” the Sixers acquired. No matter how you cut we have another first round pick in one of the next 3 drafts. I think it is better than having two second round picks which seems to be the only viable “assets” Hinkie can acquire these days. The general optimism seems appropriate and realistic.

        The most likely scenario is that the Sixers keep the 2015 1st round pick at 16th spot. This article lets us know that even if they somehow lose the pick this year all hope is not lost. They have next year and if not one the year after, not including the ones the Sixers own already.

        I personally believe picks beyond this year maybe more crucial. I do not expect the Sixers to be in the playoffs next year. Most likely they will be like the Sixers of old, just two spots outside the playoffs. The 1st round picks in 2016 and 17 draft will be the cards that make or break the hand (outside of future free agents).

        They will have to be a continuation of the culture and players that can contribute in some form. Yes, this 2016 will set the tone but it won’t matter unless in tune. It will be the ultimate culture test and, honestly, scouting test. Can the Sixers find great talent when the pick is in the low teens and high 20’s?

        • robbybonfire23

          If Embiid is the real deal, we take over the division sooner, rather than later, it seems to me. We do need a couple more big upgrade pieces but Embiid, Noel, MCW, plus a Russell or an Okafor if our lotto number comes up, or one of a handful of other really promising professionals, and we will be right there, my guess is 8-10 in the league in terms of overall ability, this time next year.

          Some of the hot-shot Western Conference teams are getting on, age-wise, now. You look at Dallas, San Antonio, GS, and the Clippers, plus the Lakers have already tanked, but not on purpose. We could be the team to pick up the pieces of many other teams crashing, inside of two years. Again, for this to happen Embiid must be the real deal, or we must land Okafor, who must be the real deal if Embiid doesn’t make the grade.

          But what if Embiid is the real deal AND we hit the Okafor jackpot? Stay tuned.

    • robbybonfire23

      You really nailed it beautifully, my friend. Thanks for all that insightful clarification!