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Feb 07 2014

5-on-5: The Sixer Podium

1. Who is on your 2013-14 Sixer podium?

Daniel Christian: Josh Harris, Sam Hinkie, Brett Brown, and Michael Carter-Williams. You might as well just go from the top down, right? Harris is the savvy owner who was willing to make the necessary changes for a franchise course correction, Hinkie is the mastermind behind Philly’s version of tankonia, Brown is the Xs and Os, San Antonio-style coach ready to build a culture, and Carter-Williams is the first building block of that culture.

Eric Goldwein: Michael Carter-Williams, Sam Hinkie, and Thad Young. Hinkie is the easy choice, but keep in mind the Sixers haven’t done anything yet. They’re not even tanking right and here at Hoop76, we don’t give out imaginary gold medals based on the future. MCW has been nothing short of spectacular, winning Rookie of the Month twice and exceeding all expectations. He and Thad Young are the only reasons why this a watchable basketball team (on some nights).

Kyle Neubeck: Joshua Harris. It all starts at the top. No longer the red-headed stepchild of the Comcast group that owns the Flyers, the Sixers have a clear vision for the first time in what feels like forever. That’s because they have an owner that took a hard look at the franchise and decided status quo was not good enough. The Iguodala trade was the first, albeit unsuccessful step in a new direction, and everything since has followed suit. There is no Sam Hinkie, no Brett Brown, and probably no Michael Carter-Williams without Harris. And no, there’s no chance in hell he ever moves the team.

Wesley Share: Josh Harris and Sam Hinkie. While coaches take most of the credit (and blame) for a team’s performance, it all starts at the top. Replacing the future-allergenic Ed Snider, Harris has injected optimism into a once unsettled fan base with changes all across the board. Those changes start and end with the risk-taking, forward looking Hinkie.

Tom Sunnergren: Sam Hinkie. There is, for the first time since Allen Iverson heroically, triumphantly, contemptuously stepped over Tyone Lue in Game One of the 2001 NBA Finals, a reason to feel optimistic about the future of Philadelphia’s basketball team. For me, it’s all about the general manager. He’s a smart, shrewd guy with a good plan and an ownership group that is, by all indications, sufficiently patient to let him see it through. Today, hope is spelled H-I-N-K-I-E. (Drops mic, walks off.)

2. Is the Sixers defense bad by design?

Christian: I don’t think so. You have to realize that this team’s defensive personnel just isn’t very talented most of the time. The bigs aren’t capable rim-protectors and the guards outside of Carter-Williams can’t hold their own on the wings; so I think it’s just too early to establish the opinion that the defense is bad by design. I think we should wait until Brown gets a roster he’s more comfortable with. Also, Nerlens Noel hasn’t played a game yet, and, adding him to the mix, assuming he’s healthy and fully ready to contribute, gives the 76ers’ D a whole new dynamic

Goldwein: How about “not good by design.” The defense, with this personnel, isn’t working. Spencer Hawes can’t provide sufficient help-defense and they don’t have the athleticism at the guards to close out on 3-point shooters. That all leads perimeter explosions and 120-point outings. Could a different approach yield better results? Maybe in the short-term. But I suspect they’re going with this defensive strategy because they’re thinking about 2015. A future when they can utilize, instead of hide, their 7-foot center.

Neubeck: I hesitate to answer now, but I lean toward no. They have the same limited defenders on the back line, and so a new coach is trying out an alternative strategy. When they’ve had athletic bigs on the court, the need to help has been lessened, so I’m patiently waiting for Noel’s return to cast judgment on Brown’s system. I just find it hard to believe that a coach who has been experimental and borderline brilliant at drawing up offensive sets is equally poor on the other end.

Share: It wasn’t designed to deliberately be bad, but the system certainly hasn’t yielded, erm, “tangible” dividends. They purposely sag off the three, and in a league with teams that increasingly rely on their perimeter games, that design has proven to be problematic, to say the least.

Sunnergren: Yes. While Brett Brown says–I suppose to his credit–that he’s wholly focused on fielding a competitive basketball team in 2013-14, it’s hard to square that with the product on the floor. The Sixers constructed  a defense that deliberately neglects the perimeter at a time when the league is hurling more threes than ever before. The Sixers designed it, and it’s bad, and, unless they’re a lot dumber than we think, they knew it was going to play out this way.

3. Can Evan Turner be a plus-player on a playoff team?

Christian: Absolutely, but on a team where he’s basically the number one offensive option, you’re going to see some of the struggles you’ve seen this year. But in a reduced role with reduced defensive attention– maybe leading a bench unit– I think Turner could really excel and immensely help a playoff team with some pieces already in place.

Goldwein: With the right coach and the right system, yes. Evan Turner does a lot of things, some of them respectably. He can kinda shoot. He can rebound. He occasionally plays defense. He can finish. He’s got a nice midrange game. He’s got tools.

As a top scorer on a weapon-less lottery-bound team, his flaws are exposed. But have him come off the bench on a veteran-laden competitive team, and he could make a difference.

Neubeck: On the right playoff team, I think he absolutely can. He’s got serious potential as a sixth man on a really good team, someone who can be a ballhandler for the second unit, crash the boards, and do a little bit of everything as the scenario dictates. Any team that’s going to hand him a starting job is a different story. Will he accept a bench role? I’d rather let someone else deal with that headache.

Share: With an attitude makeover, yes. If he can deal with a minimized role in which he plays 15-18 minutes and doesn’t try to score in Kobe-esque volumes, he can definitely be a net positive player.

Sunnergren: Probably not. Turner has some useful skills–he’s a talented passer and was, at one point, one of the greatest rebounding guards ever–but it’s hard to be a productive wing in 2014 if you can’t shoot the basketball. And Evan Turner can’t shoot the basketball.

4. Are the Lakers/Cavs tank threats?

Christian: I still think, for some reason unbeknownst to me, that the Cavs have a good run in them. I get that all the signs are pointing to a complete train wreck, but this team has legitimate talent on the roster and given the right leadership, could possibly make some noise late in the season. The East is so bad they could ev.en make a playoff push. The Lakers, well, there’s no hope for them. Even with Kobe’s imminent return, I think they’re a very real tanking threat.

Goldwein: They’re close in the standings and we’re past the halfway point, so, yeah. They’re threats. Lakers are decimated by injuries and playing in the competitive Western Conference and the Cavs are a mess, now with a new GM. That said, I wouldn’t be too concerned since neither team seems like it would raise the white flags. I’d put them at yellow.

Neubeck: I think the Lakers are bigger threats than the Cavs. Cleveland has to be so, so close to firing Mike Brown, and I’ve seen too many teams rip off wins after canning an unpopular coach to say they’re totally cooked. The Lakers, on the other hand, aren’t under the same playoff illusions as the Cavs, and are dealing with a boatload of injuries to boot. Prediction: they announce Kobe is done for the rest of the season in the semi-near future, bottom out, and against all odds, win the draft lottery. (Please don’t let this happen basketball gods)

Share: Lakers yes, Cavs no. LA has been absolutely decimated by injuries this season and they’re mighty thin at just about every position. A Pau trade at the deadline would all but seal their fate as a bottom-five team. The Cavs, however, still have a lot of talent, a good coach and an impatient ownership. Even if they still miss the playoffs, there’s a late-season run left in this squad.

Sunnergren: Yes, though the Lakers worry me a lot more than the Cavs do. There’s talent in Cleveland–wildly underachieving talent–but the cupboard is shocking bare in LA. Consider this: once the Lakers move Pau Gasol, their two leading scorers will be Jodie Meeks and Nick Young. That’s not a tank, that’s an M26 Pershing.

5. Tweet of the week:

Christian: A week old, but too good to pass up.

Goldwein: 

(Slow week). Neubeck: 

Nothing else is even close. Related question: Is that jersey for Jabba the Hutt?

Share: 

This tweet – likely courtesy of Turner’s agent, David Falk – has already garnered plenty of attention this week, but it’s hysterical. There are probably 15-20 players in the NBA that are both “pricey” and “attractive”.  Evan Turner is not one of them.
Sunnergren: