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Sixers Mailbag Volume 4 - K.J. McDaniels contract, Stanley Johnson and more

In Volume 4 of LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag, we talk about the 2015 NBA draft, K.J. McDaniels dwindling playing time, the fit of Tony Wroten and Michael Carter-Williams, and more.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of the week again, where we return for volume 4 of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbags.

You can check out our previous installments of the Sixers Mailbags at our Story Stream.

After last night's home loss to the Celtics, the Sixers stand at 0-11, with a legitimate chance to go 0-November. Perhaps just as importantly, the college basketball season has started, including a couple of very good games from Duke's Jahlil Okafor, and an early season marquee (although not very competitive)  matchup between Kansas and Kentucky.


Q: What, if anything, is Brett Brown trying to do to address our atrocious perimeter D? Any new schemes or touches, or is he hoping the players grow into their roles?


Q: Are you concerned with the sixers being awful at defending the 3?

Grouping these two together since they're so closely related.

I think the biggest problem with the Sixers perimeter defense is less about scheme and more about crisp defensive rotations. When the defense collapses -- due to doubling down on a post player, a wing slashing, offensive rebound, or even a simple pick and roll -- the rotations are slow and indecisive. I think Brett Brown's biggest goal right now is to make sure these guys know their responsibility, and to run these guys through enough varying situations in practice so that it becomes second nature.

I don't think he's really going to be looking to address this through a new defensive scheme. I think this is primarily due to youth and basketball IQ.

Is it concerning? Yeah, it's a little concerning. Last year, I think the problems were more scheme related. I think they over-helped last season to make up for their lack of interior shot blocking presence. There's still a little bit of that, but not nearly as much, in my opinion. This year, I think it's mostly indecisiveness and youth. That's still concerning, because you want the players to eventually have this be second nature. But it's partly expected, considering the teams youth and lack of familiarity with each other.


Q: Are you getting any rumblings that coaching/management is upset with a start this bad (probably worse than they expected)?

Not really, no.

I think Brett Brown's only real concern with this is keeping the locker room together and positive. I don't think he fears for his job or his own resume (at this point), so I don't think the losing really gets to him in that regard. Where it will get to him is if it starts to show in the players attitudes and effort level, but I don't think we're at this stage yet.

It's a little harder to get a read on ownership/management, and they would never really admit to it even if they did. But, by and large, I think they all realized this would happen.


Q: Whats your semi-realistic dream starting lineup for the 2016 season?

Joel Embiid, Karl Towns, K.J. McDaniels, Caris LeVert, Michael Carter-Williams.

(Editors note: I misread this and assumed the question was about 2015. It's really hard to project out to 2016. That being said, as it relates specifically to Dario Saric, I see him more as a power forward, and if the team has Embiid and Towns on roster, I think he comes off the bench as a 6th man.)


Q: The Sixes lack of spacing on offense has worsened as teams pack the paint more and more. In order for MCW to function and Noel to try his post moves, how can we increase spacing? Wings standing at the 3pt line is clearly not enough. Should BB consider replacing Sims with Noel at the high post?

Well, I don't think Noel trying out post moves is really one of the goals of this season. I'd much rather he spend that time trying out face-up drives, like he did last game against the Celtics. I think that's more his future.

But I don't think you can really pin the spacing on Henry Sims being at the high post. Heading into last night's game, Sims is shooting 53.3% from mid-range. He's been making that shot.

I'm just not sure there's a whole lot you can do to improve spacing when you're regularly putting Michael Carter-Williams (23.1% on shots beyond 5 feet), Tony Wroten (27.4%), Luc Mbah a Moute (32.7%), and Nerlens Noel (21.4%) on the court. And if I did have an answer on how to fix that, scheme wise, I'd probably be on an NBA sideline, not doing a weekly Sixers mailbag on a blog.


Q: Has Hinkie's balls-out approach tainted him as a GM forever?


I still contend that in the minds of other GM's, even if they wouldn't necessarily do this exactly like Hinkie is, it's more jealousy that they don't have the kind of leeway Hinkie has rather than disdain.

For Philadelphia 76ers fans and media, if it works in 3-5 years and the Sixers are contenders, this period will be a footnote. If it doesn't, then perhaps. But his legacy will be determined based on what happens in 3-5 years, not what is happening now.


Q: Can MCW+Wroten work as a pair for long stretches?

Long term? As a combination to build your team around?

No. Not at all.

And it's not just the shooting that's a concern, although that is obviously a major one, and probably a fatal flaw in the pairing. It's defense as well.  I think MCW and Wroten's ability to force turnovers masks some of their defensive flaws. They're not good enough as a defensive pairing, either.

Horrible shooting, turnovers, poor defense, I don't think there's any question that this pair is far from ideal.

Perhaps more importantly, they're a horrible pairing for what the team will need to surround Joel Embiid with when it's finally time for him to play.

Now, might they play quite a bit together right now just because Brown needs somebody, anybody, that can score? Yes. But if this is the Sixers starting backcourt in 2 years, this rebuild has gone horribly wrong. Wroten's future on this team is, at most, a spark off the bench, in my opinion.


Q: Favorite wing prospect?

Probably Stanley Johnson of Arizona.

I love his combination of quick first step, strength, and defensive potential, and I think if he becomes more consistent with his shot he can become a good offensive option as well. Not a #1 scorer, but I think he can grow into that #3 (and potentially #2) role.

Justise Winslow has also been really impressive for Duke, and he's largely in the same mold as Johnson. It will be interesting to see how these two develop as the season goes on.

Mario Hezonja is another extremely talented guy, and has more offensive skill than either Johnson or Winslow. The problem is, it's going to be really hard to rate him come draft time. He's barely playing, a kid stuck on an extremely deep and experienced Barcelona team, playing in the ACB, arguably the toughest non-NBA league in the world. I wrote about him a little during the offseason.

But all of those guys would be considered disappointments for the Sixers top pick, in my opinion, and also have little chance of being available for when the Miami pick comes up. That's why I think Caris LeVert is really interesting. I think he's extremely underrated right now, and would be a steal in the middle of the first round. His spot-up jump shot is something the Sixers desperately need, not only for the current roster but also to add to the collection of pieces that team has that look to be long term staples. He also has skills creating, both for himself and as a passer, and has the chance to be a really well rounded wing player.


Q: What are the chances next offseason the sixers offer either Jimmy Butler or Kawahi Leonard a max contract?


And not because I can't see Sam Hinkie having interest, or because I think he's absolutely going to hold onto his cap space, but because I can't see either San Antonio or Chicago letting them walk.

The Bulls already reportedly offered Butler a very lucrative contract extension, and if push came to shove I can't see them not budging that extra inch to keep him around. And with the way his offensive game has gradually progressed over the years, combined with his very good defense, I think it's a slam dunk he stays in Chicago.

Kawhi's struggled a bit this year from the perimeter, but that's just early season, small sample size stuff. I fully expect him to bounce back. And he seems like the type that is more valuable to San Antonio than anybody else. I'd be really surprised if he left.

@guesssobrah (and @ShellySalv)

Q: Why the minutes cutback for KJ? Especially against C's tonight?

I wish I knew.

It seemed like Brown was visibly upset at some of K.J.'s defensive rotations in the Dallas and Houston games, and his time has slowly dwindled since. Experience is great, and long term K.J. is going to need that this season to take the next step as a player, but playing time is still the greatest leverage an NBA coach has over players. I'm not sure if this is a short-term learning experience Brown is trying to use with K.J., or if it's indicative of some frustration. Or perhaps Brown just realizes that K.J. is going to be here all year and he's evaluating others early in the season.

My guess would be that Brown is trying thinks K.J. is missing some detail, and he's using playing time to get the young kids attention.

Brown did say after the Boston game that he could have found more time for K.J., and mentioned playing more small-ball lineups with Mbah a Moute at the 4, so perhaps that would alleviate some of the logjam on the wing. But K.J. has been the best wing player on the team so far this year, so for him to be limited to just 11 minutes is odd, despite his inexperience.

I think K.J. should be starting, so you got me. But there are still 71 games left in the season and plenty of time for K.J. to get experience, so hopefully this situation fixes itself as time goes on.

One thing that I unequivocally do not believe is the cause of the playing time is his contract situation. I think the teams first priorities is the evaluation, and development, of K.J. Worrying about his contract is putting the cart before the horse.

That will wrap it up. Thanks to everybody who submitted questions, and my apologies if I didn't answer yours. If you want to submit a question for next week, either hit me up on twitter (include #sixersmailbag in the tweet) or send me an email.

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