The mailbag is back this week, and I'm praying I won't have to write another one before the Sixers win a game. If you missed any previous installments, they're all neatly assorted right here. Let's begin.
@GFOSoul: [David] Aldridge had an interesting tidbit on Brett Brown worrying his job was on the line after last year's 0-17 start. Any thoughts on that?
I think that's pretty bizarre, because anything less than Brown finishing out his four-year deal would be an awful look for the Sixers organization. When Brown signed his contract, both he and the Sixers knew he was inheriting a pretty god awful team with a very little chance of success. They were a revolving door for ten-day contracts, and maybe half of the roster was filled with legitimate NBA talent. To fire Brown because the team was not producing wins would be absurd, because management hasn't really given him a ton of roster stability or talent to work with. This team has always been one to preach patience, and a move like that would be a legitimate reason for the anti-process crowd to be angry.
Despite how bad they are this year, there's still no good excuse for possibly removing Brown from his position. Injuries have taken its toll on the team to start the year, and if last year was any indication, they typically finish strong. Whatever Philadelphia wants to do with the coaching position after Brown's contract expires is up to them, but to get rid of him prior to that would be downright ridiculous.
@jp_melle: What is your sense of the mood internally; how are they handling the mounting losses?
From those who I've spoken to, some understood the team wouldn't be all that good, while others are pretty undeterred by the losses. But mostly, the vibe I get is that they're still a pretty cohesive unit, which I think speaks to the job the Sixers coaching staff has done. After two straight seasons of extended losing streaks to start the year, a lot of these guys could turn on each other or the coaches, and that doesn't seem to be the case whatsoever. They are all really committed to turning this team around, and it seems like only a matter until they get things together.
@DCorrigan: The Sixers land the no. 3 overall pick in 2016 and have the Lakers pick at 4. Who do you take?
There's still plenty of basketball to be played, but I would have to take Kentucky's Jamal Murray, and Duke's Brandon Ingram. Not only do both fill positions of need for the Sixers, but Murray and Ingram are pretty extraordinary talents. I was especially impressed with what I saw from Murray when he faced off against Duke earlier this month. He is the quintessential combo guard; you can run him around screens and he'll score in catch-and-shoot situations, or he can beat you off the dribble and finish at the rim. His behind the back dribble move and lob to Alex Poythress in the second half of that game shows the kind of point guard skill he has. Murray will most likely play as a two guard in the NBA, but it's good to know he can be trusted running an offense. Turnovers are one thing he really needs to cut down on, but otherwise I'm pretty impressed.
Ingram's numbers aren't overwhelming, but games like the one he had against Bryant University show that he's oozing with potential on offense. He has a really sweet looking shooting stroke, but off the dribble is where he does most of his damage. Ingram is a fantastic dribbler, and can weave his way into the paint, or pull up and hit a jumper. He's still working on adding weight to his frame, but he put on 25 lbs. over the past year alone. Defensive awareness is the biggest concern with Ingram, but he has the skill set to be a really good NBA player.
@KorverAintMe: Where would the Sixers be if they had Andrew Wiggins?
In a place so much better than where they are now. Revisionist history sucks, but I'll torture myself here. Provided the Sixers were able to take Wiggins instead of Embiid, not only would it have saved them two years worth of headaches, but it would give them the wing scoring talent this offense so desperately needs. Philadelphia really only has one consistent wing threat in Robert Covington, but he doesn't have the type ability to take over games like Wiggins can, and Wiggins is four years younger. He single handedly guided Minnesota through the fourth quarter on Monday night. The Sixers would kill for someone they could just give the ball to in tight games, and have him go to work.
Because of those attributes, his presence in Philadelphia would also drastically adjust the timeline for "The Process". There are some solid scorers in the draft this year, but not nearly with the same polish and pedigree Wiggins had when he entered the draft. Assuming the Sixers even get it right with the shooting/guard small forward they inevitably draft with one of their top picks, they're still -- at the very least -- two or three years away from the impact Wiggins has now. Having Andrew Wiggins in Philadelphia would have really shortened the time it would take for the Sixers to be competing again. Instead, they're still searching for their superstar.
Mike H. (via email): I am not on the "poor fit" bandwagon. What I am seeing instead is nothing more or less than Nerlens Noel has been playing poorly since the game he got ejected. Which view do you have, and/or the stats back up?
Since being ejected against Orlando on November 7, Noel has played in seven games, and is averaging 9.4 points on 42.3% shooting, and 7.3 rebounds per game. Those numbers aren't terrible, but they certainly aren't good, and I blame a lot of it on the fit. Taking him away from the rim has really hurt his production on both offense and defense.
It's clear that Noel's poor jumper is hurting his production, but another issue with him playing at the top of the key is that he's being forced to handle the ball more, and he's pretty poor at it. Last season when he was playing on the low block, his dribbles seemed confined and purposeful. Now, he's being asked to both score and create opportunities for teammates, and he's doing neither. He handles the ball very poorly, and is not seeing the floor nearly as well as he used to, which is resulting in a lot of turnovers. In the 12 games he played during November of his rookie season, Noel averaged 2.2 turnovers, and had three games without a single turnover. Through 11 games this month, he's averaging one more turnover a game, and has had at least two in every single game he played.
On the defensive end, he's no longer the shot blocking force he once was, and the impact he's having defending the perimeter pales in comparison to the damage he used to do defending the rim.
What is best for this team is to return Noel to a more natural position around the rim, and to pair him with a guy like Jerami Grant, who can space the floor but is also much more effective off the dribble. Jahlil Okafor can come off the bench, where he'll still get his minutes and feast off of opposing team's second units. Everyone's happy.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me your questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.