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Sixers-Magic Preview - Rookie Battle Royale

Imagine the potential for dueling chants: "O-LA-DI-PO!" "M-C-W! M-C-W!"

Kevin C. Cox

Contests between two franchises without competitive aspirations don't generate much excitement for me. See: any 76ers game between January and April of last year. LeBron returning to Cleveland (yet again, but still) intrigues me much more. Even though the Cavs are awful, LeBron being there and playing and the fans' confusion over whether to cheer for him or boo him - because of an unlikely but theoretically possible comeback attempt - makes this a game with both storylines and actual on-court value.

But then I look back to the Sixers and Magic, and realize this might be the first of many times a pair of excellent young guards face off, and I feel like it's now a can't miss game.

Michael Carter-Williams, well, read my glowing profile and him and Brett Brown making the Sixers better than expected. It's hard to say more, and of course we should wait until he gets more games under his belt before calling him a franchise player (though he's certainly looked the part so far).

Victor Oladipo was the apple of LB's collective eye last season and over the summer. Initially, Oladipo struggled with handling point guard duties and a backup role. Recently, however, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn instituted a three guard starting lineup, with Oladipo, Jameer Nelson, and Arron Afflalo. Oladipo's minutes still aren't where I think they should be - really, he should be getting the same treatment MCW gets from Brett Brown - but in time (and probably with the help of a contract clearing trade) he'll get his PT.

And on a per-minute basis, they actually have very similar statistics. Both have trouble connecting on shots, but make up for it with their shot creation for others and defense. Neither is a finished product, but both look fairly productive already. Oladipo turns the ball way too often, even for a young guard. He doesn't have natural point guard ability like MCW - he does, however, display more athleticism.

In the meantime, despite starting at different nominal positions, expect the two to be paired up often. MCW has a full half foot (at least) on Jameer Nelson. That will not last long.

Other notes:

  • Thaddeus Young is back with the Sixers, and will play. He had been out attending to a personal matter. Tony Wroten will be out tonight with his injury. Get well soon, Tony! Spencer Hawes is a game-time decision with knee soreness.
  • For the Magic, Tobias Harris returned recently but did not play last night due to ankle soreness. We're not yet sure if he'll play tonight.
  • Nikola Vucevic is averaging about 13-12 and I don't want to hear a comment about keeping him. Not even once.
  • Andrew Nicholson is a player to watch: he's very skilled offensively, very terrible defensively, and also he's Canadian. Obviously that last part is important.
  • Game is at 7:10 or so. GameThread will be up at 6:30. In the aftermath of our civil war, I ask that for tonight we give thanks for comment threads and try to be civil. Even I've been failing at this recently.