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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.

  • NoJNoProb

    Do we really have to play the lottery again next year? Our team this year was a center who was only above average on defense, and various minimum contracts. Our team next year will hopefully be two consensus number 1 pick big men that dropped in the draft (Noel and Embiid), another top 3 player who hopefully is a point guard with a jump shot (please be Russell), young players who have had another whole offseason to develop (including but not limited to RoCo and Hollis Thompson) and perhaps a decent free agent wing player. That roster, in the Easter Conference, with Brett Brown, could pull of a Milwaukeelike or Bostonesque one-year turn around and be a low playoff seed that most likely exits first round, but establishes itself and gains playoff experience.
    I’d at least like to see us try…

    • robbybonfire23

      Russell cannot shoot, not at 2.19 PPX vs. the big boys in college. All this media hype about what a good shooter he is is crazy. He padded his stats early, against one the weakest major college pre-conference schedules in the country. Then he went flat when the games were for real. Hinkie will set this franchise back forever if he goes with Russell, simple as that.

      • Kevin Herman

        You are the king of using stats subjectively.

        • robbybonfire23

          No one here is employed by an NBA team. BUT, we put ourselves on the line with our evaluations as regards NBA and college players. My batting average is good enough. I hit a home run on trashing people like Stauskas and Gary Harris. Metrics gurus don’t like A. Wiggins, nor do I. but the media and most others do. Jury is still out on him is the best I can give him, for now.

          I was wrong with a capital W as regards Kyle Anderson. My point, Kevin, is that it’s ok to do voluminous research as a hobby, not as a livelihood or for betting purposes, and share our findings, when we draw different conclusions than popular opinion consensus.

          Hope this is ok with you.

          • Evan

            But you would have also suggested they take Marcus Smart and Dante Exum (for the earlier teams at least), and while those players may still pan out, they were major disappointments in year one as well. I remember you were very upset with Hinkie for taking Embiid over Exum after last years draft. Bottom line is that it is hard to predict NBA success. There will be busts and sleepers by any standards, nobody gets them all right. To say “Hinkie will set the franchise back forever” if he drafts Russell is far too extreme of a stance. Sure, say you prefer Mudiay over Russell, that is your opinion, and I am interested in hearing your opinion along with your stats to back it up. But people like Kevin get so frustrated because you are so absolute in drawing conclusions about players, which can make it difficult to have a discussion.

          • robbybonfire23

            There is a major difference between my endorsment of Smart and of Exum. I learned a good lesson, in going overboard as regards Exum, and that is, like most others, I was mesmerized by his highlight videos, with no access to his stat line. As you know, my entire modus operandi is evaluating players via the usage of metrics, and bypassing visual impressions along the lines of “athleticism,” and “length” and “rim protection,” which I don’t need to do because everyone else has already made those evaluations, anyway. So I deserve to be wrong on Exum, just for going against the grain of what I do best and where my comfort zone is. I will not repeat that mistake.

            As for Smart, I have often stated that he leaves much to be desired offensively, however, I like his stout emphasis on D, and his mental toughness, which a player really needs to establish himself at the NBA level. Smart is, to me, the antithesis of a soft player like Evan Turner.

            So I still like Smart a lot, for his budding, on-court leadership quality as well as for that part of his game he is good at. He’s not an all-star, but he is, as I see it, a winner. I doubt the Celtics would take Canaan for Smart, straight up.

          • JulianW

            That’s a straw-man argument, Robby. No one here is arguing that Canaan is better than Smart or that the Celtics would ever consider that trade.

          • robbybonfire23

            You never know, Hinkie might throw in a dish towel and get it done! lol.

          • NoJNoProb

            I like Smart quite a bit as well, but I don’t know if I’d quite go that far. Smart is already a good asset on the defensive end, and his offensive game is starting to develop (sort of the same way Nerlens is right now). However, I think Russell’s potential ceiling is higher than Smart’s.

            Currently, D’Angelo Russell is a gifted scorer but, as you pointed out, is an inefficient one. I don’t watch a lot of college basketball so this is a bit of an assumption, but considering he was one of the most highly touted players this year, yet his team was never that great, I’d assume that he had to carry the load offensively. A higher scoring burden does tend to lead to lower efficiency. Of course, the other way to explain his poor floor game and shooting efficiency is that he’s just a ball-stopped. Again, I wouldn’t really know as I’ve never even seen him play.

            However, I think those problems could both be remedied. If Noel and Embiid stay healthy and progress as expected (and that might be a big if), we could have a legitimate twin tower duo inside. I’d love to see this team turn into something similar to Memphis, with two large interior scorers that both can’t shoot a lick. The Sixers already have instilled a culture of tough defense, so I think they are trending in that general direction. However, if Noel and Embiid are our Randolph and Gasol, we need a Mike Conley. That’s where Russell would combine.

            With a 4-6 inch difference between the two, they obviously are different players. I’d say Russell’s superior length could give him the advantage to become a better defensive player, but Conley does have a knack for stripping the ball. Russell also would give us versatility, in that he could play the 2 at times. On offense, though, they are both playmaking guards with the ability to space the floor. Granted, Conley is a great assister. That’s the one hole in the whole plan. However, I think that is something that can be fixed within a better offensive system than the one in Memphis.

            Anyone who has watched the Grizzlies play knows how painful it can be to watch them work their stale offensive sets. They’re not exactly a very threatening team in the halfcourt; they win games because of defense. A lack of spacing tends to be an issue for them. In Philly, I don’t think that’d be as much of a problem. Maybe Hinkie is making them all shoot threes so he can evaluate them, but Brett Brown has made comments about playing now the way he wants to play later. As such, it can be assumed that he likes his teams to be taking a lot of 3’s. Also, as we all know, Brown is of Spursian descent. I don’t think he’ll have us playing with a motion offense that flows as well as the actual Spurs or the Spurs East down in Atlanta play with, and I know his calling card is defense, but I bet he knows more than a few tricks of the trade in offense.

            All in all, I think the Sixers could potentially be a new and improved Memphis North. Think Grizzlies + spacing + offensive flow. Granted, we might never be as good as them on the other end of the floor. Maybe more long and athletic, but probably never as technically sound There’s only one Mr. First Team All Defense (hats off to Tony Allen). But still, I think the future is bright for Philly, and I think Russell is a really good fit for the team.

          • robbybonfire23

            Outstanding, insightful analysis. Thank you. Interesting, the match-up for career accomplishment between Russell and Smart. I would say Russell will need to be much better offensively to win that comparison, because Smart has it on D.

            I look forward to monitoring their respective progress, one-on-one.

          • Evan

            I have seen Russell play many times, and I will try to contribute to your analysis. I can say from watching that the team around him is pretty awful. There is very little movement without the ball, and they seem to stare at Russell to make a play. Their big men are pretty awful. D’angelo splits time at point with Shannon Scott, who is decent. I would say that their best two way player other than Russell was Jae’Sean Tate, and he was limited offensively, much better on defense. For reference, Tate was their small forward: he was 6’4″. That is shorter than Russell, showing that this team is very undersized. Now, they could get away with these undersized lineups against weak teams such as PSU, where Eric Dickerson’s long clumsy arms are no match for anyone. This opened up spacing for Russell, and I watched him explode for 26 points on 50% shooting while I was in the stands.

            Russell might not have tallied a lot of assists, but I can assure you he is the craftiest passer in this draft. He isn’t only making easy passes around the perimeter to get his assists, something I saw a lot from Jerian Grant at Notre Dame (he would pass along the perimeter and their excellent shooters would knock down threes to add to his assist total). I like Jerian, but Russell’s passes were just more impressive to watch, and he looked for his big men A LOT, something that will be important on the Sixers. The problem was, many times his big men could not finish.

            Russell isn’t without his flaws though. You are correct in saying that he can get greedy at times, which is partly on him and partly on the supporting cast at OSU. He also is slow on rotations in defense and can check out on the defensive end at times. He can also not finish with his right hand in the slightest; even when he drives right, he finishes with his left, which might be a problem in the NBA (more of his shots blocked). But from seeing him play, I am not worried about his offense. He has great court vision, and can flat out shoot. With some better coaching, and some better big men, I would be excited to see what he can do, and I hope the Sixers draft him.

          • NoJNoProb

            Thanks for the contribution Evan, I’m definitely limited in my knowledge of college players so it’s good to have someone else like you or Robby or whoever that has actually seen them play as well as looked at the numbers.

            I think his checking out on defense sounds like a manageable problem. Elite guards like Kyrie Irving and James Harden have shown that you can go from lazy and bad on defense to at least passable. Russell has even more prototypical tools than them, so I’d love to see him really develop on that end, but if he purposefully is lazy on that end and never changes then that could be a legitimate concern. Hopefully Brett can motivate him to play within the system and put his abilities to real use.

            I’m glad to hear he can pass well. His inability to finish with his right hand, although not preferable, probably won’t limit him too much at the NBA level. I mean, we have a point guard (Tony Wroten) on our own roster that already can only finish lefty but he still gets to the rim well, and that’s even without a jump shot to keep defenses honest,

            Based on what you have said, it sounds like he’ll be dynamite on offense. I hope he can put in the work necessary to be at least decent on the other end as well.

          • Evan

            I am hoping I am seeing him right. I don’t expect either of these point guards to come into the pros and dominate right away, they each will have growing pains. Russell certainly isn’t as fast as Mudiay, or as athletic. However, three years down the road I believe we will be glad we took Russell, if we take him. Just my opinion though.

          • robbybonfire23

            Why would Russell mature and step up more than Mudiay, over the course of the next three years? The consensus (which is sometimes wrong), right now is that Mudiay has the higher upside between the two. If Mudiay realizes his upside potential, Russell will be left in the lurch. But, as you suggest, let’s wait and see, anyway.

          • egoldwein

            Whose consensus? “Upside” is a concept that in reality, we know very little about. Same with “potential.” Gun to my head, I’d argue that Mudiay has the higher floor and lower ceiling, because of his steady defense and his erratic jumper. But to me there’s not really a convincing argument on either side.

            Also: If you look back at Curry’s college numbers, he too did worse against stronger competition. Not saying Russell = Curry, but when considering his “upside” that’s something that should be taken into account.

          • robbybonfire23

            You are right, it really doesn’t matter whose consensus, and that’s why I mentioned that these consensus opinions are not always right.

            The more important point is how Sam Hinkie evaluates these two PG’s for “upside.” If he likes one more than the other, that will be his first pick, assuming the two big men are off the board, and no trade goes down, and I am seeing reports that we might trade our number 3. If we do that, my God, that would indicate yet another tanking season. Can Saric just defect here, or something?

            Yes, the weaker competition before getting into conference play is a factor. You can play Fairfield and St. Francis of PA, or you can play UCLA and Duke, out of conference. I just throw out all pre-conference opponents from my stat mix, rather than try to be fair, as to where I draw the line.

            Three weeks to draft day, really looking forward to it.

          • Evan

            From the numbers I just don’t know if Mudiay can develop a reliable jump shot (similar to MCW), and I think that might stunt his growth. Granted, I haven’t seen much of him, so his form might not be terrible, I am just going by his awful free throw percentage and other scouts opinions of him.

          • robbybonfire23

            The numbers, from 3-point land, of course, overseas, are going to be unimpressive relative to USA numbers, given the difference in distance. So who can say whether Russell will be a sharp-shooter from NBA three-point distance? And could can say how Mudiay’s numbers from three, overseas, will translate at the NBA level?

            Comparing these two over the years is going to be interesting, unless one of them attains stardom right off the bat, while the other bombs.

          • robbybonfire23

            Because it is hard to predict NBA success for young players coming out of college and from overseas, a great advantage accrues to the organization which has the best insight into the potential these players have. If it were easy it would just be a crap shoot. The rewards in life come from lapping the field in the critical departments, starting with values assessment and priorities, and scouting.

            Look at how Bill Walsh revolutionized the way football is approached and played. Look at how Bill James revolutionized how baseball players are evaluated, on merit, instead of merely for totals and frilly stats like batting average.

            You what everyone else knows, but no more, whether in sports, the stock market, etc. = you know nothing. Look at how Andy Beyer revolutionized the way race horses are evaluated for inherent speed rather than for class, via his remarkable speed ratings technology. Back in 1975 you could have made a 6-figure living via possession of that methodology. Now it ain’t worth spit, because the speed rating history for every horse in every race is published daily in the Daily Racing Form.

            This is where I am coming from. I diligently search for hidden advantages in the way players are evaluated, preferably 180 degrees removed from where the media, and casual and fantasy league “totals mania” fans are coming from.

            Keep those cards and letters coming. lol.

          • Evan

            You ignored my point. I have no problem with your methods of evaluating players. I get frustrated sometimes when you are outright rude when expressing your opinions.

        • robbybonfire23

          Actually, while I still like Delon a lot, I backed off quite a bit in my endorsement of him when he did not go pro following his junior year. This is, to my mind, a major mistake, significantly lowering his career development curve, prior to his career decline setting in, which happens for most players in their late 30’s.

        • robbybonfire23

          KJ, Grant, Canaan, not exactly blockbuster additions to the team, with one gone and the other two on borrowed time, here. But, if he drafts well this time around, I will give him his due.

        • robbybonfire23

          Come on, Kevin, I use stats OBJECTIVELY, to get an unbiased perspective on these players. A player grades well by my criterion, I pass that along. A player grades poorly and is over-rated, I don’t fudge on that, “to be nice.” OK?

      • CholloBlanco

        You should read this article: http://www.draftexpress.com/article/Analytics-Models-and-the-NBA-Draft-5021/

        TL;DR version: Russell ranked very highly in 5 different independent projection systems.

        • robbybonfire23

          Metrics guys, overall, think Russell is talented BUT, over-rated. I am in that camp. Mudiay is getting more and more support as regards the third pick in the draft, if he is even available at three, given the Lakers fondness for guards. Plus, bleacher report is raising the question as to whether he could be the #1 pick in this draft? If that doesn’t come to pass, it would still be really interesting if the Lakers bypass Okafor to draft Mudiay. That would say it all.

          By the way, I am emphatically declaring Devin Booker the ~WORST~ of the highly-regarded players in this draft. Even worse than Terry Rozier, Tyus Jones, and Trey Lyles, the other leading “plugs” on my board, at this time. Why? Because Booker is the most sleep walking, lazy-ass floor game player to come along in a decade, to go with his dreadful shooting/scoring deficiency. Sell me on the merits of Devin Booker, somebody, I am up for that. lol.

    • egoldwein

      I was referring to the other picks, not necessarily the Sixers pick. I think they could win 30+ games next season, and if they sign a legit free agent, could maybe make a run at the 8 seed. The sub-20 W season era, I hope, is over.

      • NoJNoProb

        My bad Eric I misread it.

        I agree with your assessment though, and I hope they do go after a free agent that can make a real difference. I think at this point though, even if they don’t sign any great players, the most important thing for this team is player development. If everyone takes a small step forward, it makes our team that much better (or at least makes that player a better trade chip).

  • robbybonfire23

    Adding Towns/Okafor and a healthy Randle to the Lakers, if it comes to that, will not upgrade the team? Wish we could suffer so much.

    Seems we are stuck with Russell. I say stuck, because his assist rate, combining Big Ten and Tournament play, was a measly 5 per 40 minutes. And his 2.19 PPX, total pts. divided by missed floor shots, is abysmal, I don’t care what they write about his prowess from the 3-point chip shot line in NCAA hoops. MCW lite is his best prognosis, definitely not good enough. So the Knicks will get Mudiay, and that really is not good, if he pans out better than Russell, which won’t be hard to do.

    At least in Mr. Silver’s first draft year the system looks above reproach, for a change. For now let me say he is a breath of fresh air compared with his slimy predecessor, with the hope that the networks don’t get to him and corrupt him, too, over time.

    • egoldwein

      Robby: I’d chill on the assumptions. We don’t know that A: Russell will be available; B: Hinkie would take Russell third; and C: whether we should read too much into that tiny sample.

      Here’s what we can be certain about. The Sixers are well aware of how Russell performed against the better competition. I know you like your formula, but they have better numbers, and better information to go on. You’re hitting the panic button before the pick is even made. That’s crazy.

      • robbybonfire23

        Eric –

        Russell’s mediocre rate of assists per 40 minutes of playing time, starting in January, is nothing to do with any formula of mine. I just looked it up and took note of it.

        Same for his scoring struggles, although this is more topical and subject to interpretation. Yes, Russell did well from 3, but we are talking NCAA three-point distance, not NBA distance. And this raises a further question as to how any player, shooting well from 3-point range, can have an accompanying LOW PPX to go with that? This leads me to surmise that he shoots blanks from 2-point range, and is not much of a threat to drive to the hoop for inside scoring and drawing fouls.

        Please notice that while I have expressed reservations re Russell, I am not fawning all over Mudiay, who could become a star, or fizzle, as per Dante Exum’s rookie season. This is a quandary for us to decipher, and I don’t think anyone can see Hinkie taking a flyer on Delon or Jerian Grant in place of drafting Russell or Mudiay.

        So let’s just agree that decisions as regards our back court future are going to be extremely difficult to make, with no guarantees, whatev er Hinkie decides. Or, he will make a blockbuster trade for an established PG. That would be ok with me, but will surely cost us Noel, if it comes about.

        • egoldwein

          Cool — I agree that tough decisions are ahead — just think you ought to tone down the certainty.

          • robbybonfire23

            After raving all over Dante Exum, just off his highlight reels, I think I can do that. But remember, I am also the guy who took the Stauskas-Gary Harris crowd to the woodshed. lol.

  • Kevin Herman

    Not a let down really. I think the Sixers actually bucked the odds drafting third. The likeliest outcome was drafting worse then 3 and not getting the protected picks. Look I don’t mean to split hairs but if you were looking at things logically this was not a let down even a small one.

  • Andrew Weiss

    I’m a big fan of this article and the points you brought up. Read how I think they can be even better come Opening Night at http://www.benchwarmerhoopstalk.com

    • robbybonfire23

      Nice, in-depth analysis article. Just two points he makes I see differently. 1. He thinks the KJ trade was a big mistake and that KJ showed a world of potential. I missed that, seeing just a one-dimensional shot blocker, vastly over-rated.

      As for his lamenting the MCW trade, I don’t, given his penchant for bricking too many shots making him expendable. But we will see what we come up with at PG, next season, and whether it is any better? I still like everything else about MCW’s game, but the shooting deficit is hard to overcome, no matter how well you do everything else.

  • Evan

    Eric, are any of the staff planning on doing some player breakdowns before the draft? Would really love to hear your guys thoughts on the players at the top of the board, even some of the later guys like Winslow, Porzingis, and Henzonja.

  • robbybonfire23

    OMG – The Damaged Goods syndrome just rendered Hinkie the biggest jerk on the planet. This is beyond devastating. Hinkie confuses damaged goods with “futures” by drafting or trading for these damaged goods players. It turns out damaged goods players are NOT futures, they are walking, chronic rehab basket cases. Now that Embiid is looking doubtful for any kind of impact NBA career, look for Noel will be the next one to suffer a major set-back.

    Anyone STILL think this organization is on course to dominate the NBA, in the next 2-3 years? Good luck with that. I give up on this franchise. Jesus, you have the 76ers in the same town with the Phillies crass ineptitude so that I have to say Philadelphia is the worst sports city in America, by far, with only Chip Kelly having a shot at saving the Titanic Philadelphia sports scene.

    • egoldwein

      Chill…