Last week's mailbag seemed to go off without a hitch, so I'm back again to give it another try. Let's get into the questions.
Stephanie M. via email: Will Nerlens get more than 30.8 minutes per game this season and at what positions?
I think right around the 30 minute mark is a good number for him. They need to find Jahlil Okafor 30 minutes, Furkan Aldemir 15-20 minutes, Richaun Holmes 10-15, and Jerami Grant will see some time in the front court as well. I think if you run with a rotation like that, 30 minutes a night for Nerlens is perfect. He's going to start the season playing power forward alongside Okafor. That's been the plan since the draft. The rotation will probably make Aldemir the first big off the bench, meaning Okafor will sub out and Noel will stay put at the four. If Holmes or Grant come in, Nerlens will have to slide over to the five because neither of those guys can protect the rim. Brett Brown will have to experiment a little, but this is a good problem for the team to have.
James W. via email: Are the Sixers paying for Embiid these last two years or is there insurance covering his salary? Could this be a sneaky brilliant tanking strategy as an owner? Get to the cap floor without paying out of pocket, tank, and keep the Embiid lottery ticket just in case?
ESPN's Darren Rovell reported the other day that insurance isn't covering a dime of Embiid's salary because his foot is considered a pre-existing injury prior to him joining the NBA. The Sixers front office is full of smart guys, but there's no elaborate plan here. They're on the hook for every cent.
Omer R. via email: Each and every anti-trust the process person I am arguing with gives me the "culture" argument, saying the Sixers develop a losing mentality and that the lack of veterans on our roster will harm our young talent in the long run (bad habits theory). What's your take?
Darryl B. via email: Are they too young to make the playoffs?
I thought I'd combine these two questions because they basically lead into one another. I'm one of those people who thinks that needing to have the presence of veterans in your locker room is bullshit, and it's lazy to cry out that this is what's holding the team back. Frankly, if the most important thing a player brings to your team is just "veteran leadership" and not his actual play/potential, I think it's a waste of a roster spot. Jason Richardson was great around the young guys, but if the Sixers weren't contractually forced to keep him around, they would have let him go because he can't really play anymore. These guys have coaches, and for the most part, all of them are former NBA/professional basketball players. They understand how the game works just as well as free agent veterans do. What's best for the team right now is to give the young guys an opportunity to perform and play through their mistakes, and that will do a whole lot more for them going forward than a player with a lot of years under his belt. How do you develop a winning culture? By letting your up-and-comers learn from defeats and reap the benefits of wins that they contributed to.
In regards to whether or not they're too young to make the playoffs, for now I say yes, but they're getting closer. Age isn't really indicative of your talent level, but really how experienced you are. Right now, Philadelphia has kids who are 19 and 20-years-old who are getting meaningful minutes in the NBA, and that means a whole lot more than anything else. I've said since after the 2014 draft ended that they're no longer tanking, but will go only as far as their newly acquired talent will take them. I think they're finally starting to knock on the door step of making the playoffs. Give Okafor a year, bring over a Eurostar in Dario Saric, and add four first-round picks into a core that already includes Nerlens Noel and others, I think you're looking at a playoff team in 2016-17.
@rimmy_da_ginger: Who other than Jah and Noel are you most excited to see in a Sixers uniform?
Think I'm gonna go with Hollis Thompson. After a solid rookie campaign, Thompson flew really under the radar last season after missing eleven games due to illness. But his numbers were pretty solid, shooting 40.1% from beyond the arc for the second season in a row. He's the first Sixer to ever shoot more than 40% from three in his first two seasons with the team. We all know he can shoot, but I really want to see if he can be more than that. He's got to be able to take defenders off the dribble and score at the rim, something he showed flashes of last year. He looks bulked up this summer, so maybe that's an indication he's ready to take more of a bruising in the paint. I'm looking forward to watching Hollis try and put everything together. It's a big season for him to stand out as a solid all-around offensive player, not a one trick pony.
@achillesheald: Sixers have some version of a pace and space offense with [Brett] Brown. That going to change to something slower?
It's going to have to now that they have Jahlil Okafor. I like the pace they played at last season, but if they want to make Jahlil the focal point of their offense, well, they're gonna have to wait a couple extra seconds for him to haul his 270 lbs. ass up the floor. I imagine two months of extra conditioning work has probably helped a little, but he looked pretty slow getting up and down the court during summer league. They're going to have to learn to wait for Jahlil to get positioning in the low block, and play much more half court ball than they have in the past. With him on the bench and Nerlens manning the five, I think you can do a whole lot more in regards to pushing the tempo and creating spacing on the floor.
@PaoliBulldog: What's your least favorite transaction of the Hinkie era?
The K.J. McDaniels trade has definitely been hard to supplant as my least favorite trade. I wrote a pretty long diatribe about it. I don't think Isaiah Canaan has really shown himself to be a worthy NBA player in any regards. While the second round pick the Sixers ended up getting turned out to be Richaun Holmes, even if they didn't have that selection they could have taken him with the 35th overall pick. Simply, I think they took pennies on the dollar for a player they just had no interest in negotiating with during the summer, and I think that's wrong. While his deal would probably look different if he spent a couple more months with the Sixers, I think he showed the potential to be worth it. And considering all the salary cap space Philadelphia has to work it, splurging a little on McDaniels could have been worth it, and wouldn't have hurt them that much even if the deal went south.
@shamus_clancy: Does Brett Brown finish with a record over .500?
Right now, Brett Brown's record is 37-127, so he's got 90 games to make up. Let's assume the Sixers make a small jump and win 25 games this year. That would put him at 122 games under .500. If Philadelphia were to go 50-32 for the next six seasons, Brett Brown still wouldn't have a winning record. I have some (minor) doubts that he's going to want to re-new his contract because these past four years might have been a little too strenuous for his liking. I imagine he'd like to see this through to it's conclusion where Philadelphia wins a lot of games, but from most of his quotes, this seems like it's been a lot harder on him than he originally thought.
Also, the last coach to spend more than six seasons with the Sixers organization? Billy Cunningham. I think Brett might have dug himself too deep a whole to get out of, even if he does win a title.
@KailZepeda: Is Embiid's ceiling/potential diminished now? If so, what new ceiling/set of expectations for him now?
As long as Joel Embiid still has feet, the potential for him is there. His injuries don't change the fact that he has a remarkable skill set, and had been dominating teammates during workouts. The potential for him to be a great player will always be there, but I think we need to be realistic in our expectations. He's now had two major foot surgeries in the past two years, and not once has been able to play 5-on-5 basketball (as far as we know). At this point, I'm not sure if he'll have the durability to play 82 games over the course of six months. If he finally does get on the court, I think they're going to have to seriously regulate his minutes until he can prove his foot is healed. I hate throwing out the name Greg Oden, but Joel is going to have to be restricted in a similar fashion. I have zero expectations for Joel going forward, but my hope for him now is he can play 15-20 minutes a game in 2016-17, and pray his metatarsals stay intact. If he can do that, then I think we can raise the bar a little.
Thanks for reading this week's mailbag. As always, you can send me questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org