A new season means a couple of tiny changes to the Liberty Ballers mailbag. We're separating this year's mailbags from last year, hence why we're back to volume one. The mailbags will also be every Tuesday now, so make sure you get your questions in before that. Let's get things started.
@TheHubeAbides: Who gets to 5 wins first: Eagles or Sixers?
This is by far the most miserable question I've had to answer since overtaking the mailbag, and I'm saddened that this could be somewhat feasible, despite the fact the Sixers don't open their season for several more weeks. Here are the games I see as definite losses on the Eagles schedule: New Orleans, Carolina, New England, Buffalo, and Arizona. They'll certainly beat Miami and Tampa Bay in back-to-back games at home. I think they've got one more excruciatingly painful division loss, which right now I've pinpointed as the Cowboys game November 8th, and will probably manage to inexplicably lose to Detroit on Thanksgiving.
That would put the earliest possible date the Eagles could win their fifth game at December 26th. The Sixers didn't win five games until the first week of January last year, but they've got three likely wins against Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and Los Angeles Lakers by December 5th, and I can't see why they wouldn't be able to win two games out of a group of the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, and Indiana Pacers, all of whom they play by December 11th.
I have the utmost confidence in the Sixers being able to win five games over the course of two months. I can't say the same about the Eagles. I'll take the team of tankers over the pre-season Super Bowl champions.
@Lou_Lopez814: What's Scottie Wilbekin's chances of making this team?
Every day Pierre Jackson can't get out on the floor, Wilbekin's chances of making the roster improves. Jackson has been hampered by a groin injury since summer league, was an extremely limited participant in training camp, and has already been ruled out for the Sixers preseason opener Tuesday. Philadelphia's dealing with injuries to Tony Wroten and Kendall Marshall that could cost them the first couple weeks of the regular season, meaning they'll need a ball handler (outside of Isaiah Canaan) they can trust is healthy enough to stay on the court. Right now, Wilbekin is a much more reliable option.
Outside of health, I think Wilbekin is still the better player. He's a really good on-ball defender, and an above average three point shooter. Philadelphia could really use both of those things at the guard position. He'll need to have a solid preseason, but assuming Wroten and Marshall won't be ready to go for the season opener in Boston, I'd give Scottie a 70% chance to make the team.
@JCiseverything: What hope is there for developing the big men if Canaan is the PG?
I'm not a fan of Canaan's game by any means, but I actually think you could do a whole lot worse than him at the point. Unlike Tony Wroten, Canaan's first step is so bad that he can't even get into the lane, thus leading him to shoot 65.6% of his shots from beyond the arc last year. At the very least, that will give Jahlil Okafor and the other bigs enough space to operate in the paint. Canaan's far from a facilitator either, but if you play in the NBA, you should be capable of making post entry passes.
Another thing to consider with Canaan is that he's really just a stopgap until a more suitable guard like Kendall Marshall is available to play. Having to utilize him a little extra for several weeks isn't going to hurt anyone's development beyond repair.
Frankly, I'm not sure if any of the ball handlers on this roster are going to be here longterm, but they'll be suitable enough until the Sixers are able to draft their point guard of the future, without truly damaging anyone in the process.
@shepardwong: If the Okafor/Noel experiment doesn't work, which of the two would you keep to build around?
It's kind of unfair to make this decision without getting to see Okafor play an entire season, but I would have an extremely hard time parting with Nerlens Noel. In just one season, Noel has already proven there are few big men in the entire league who make as much of an impact on the defensive end as he does. Most teams in the NBA would kill for a solid rim protector, and the Sixers are fortunate to have one that's 21 years of age, and still has room for improvement. Jahlil Okafor is certainly going to be a good player in his own right, but any team with him as the anchor of their defense isn't a good one.
Noel is also so much more of a natural fit for this team and the fast paced system they've instituted over the past few seasons. Now that they've brought in a beheamoth of a center with conditioning quesiton marks, I think they'll have trouble moving at the same tempo they've had in past years. Slowing things down may not necessarily be a bad thing, but Brett Brown has made it seem like he has no plans to adjust the pace of play for Okafor. I have a feeling if the Sixers want to effectively use their latest first-round pick, then they might need a philosophical change to their offense.
I hope the two can play well enough together so the team won't have to decide between the two, but I think what Noel brings to this team is so much more valuable than what Okafor is (currently) capable of, and a much more natural fit for an up-tempo offense.
@NickLongo1: If you were buying a new Sixers jersey, who do you think are the safest bets to be here long term?
As long as Sam Hinkie is the general manager, I don't think anyone is safe, but if you're going to spend your hard earned money on a jersey, I would suggest Robert Covington's. While Okafor or Noel seem like a more obvious choice, I have my doubts that they'll be here for several years. That's not to say I think the Sixers will eventually trade both of them, but there may come a day they have to get rid of one, and I have no idea which way they'd lean. Neither of those would be a smart jersey investment.
I say Covington because he's the best wing player on the team, and not somebody they can really afford to get rid of any time soon. He's a solid two-way player on an extremely team friendly deal for three more seasons, and his teammates cannot stop signing his praises. Unless a team completely overwhelms the Sixers with an offer (and I doubt anybody would trade a mid-first for him), he's not going anywhere for several seasons.
Not to mention, you don't really see too many Robert Covington jerseys, allowing you to be a hipster while still making a sound financial investment.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.