We're back again for the 25th volume of Liberty Ballers' Sixers mailbag. If you've missed any previous editions, you can check them out in our story stream here. Let's get into the questions.
@simon_williams: Kendall Marshall - does he fit?
For those who may think Simon is picking Marshall's name out of the blue, he's apparently been working out at PCOM this week and seems like a candidate for a training camp invite. I'd be pretty intrigued if the Sixers do decide to add him, but his effectiveness is definitely dependent on how much they change their offensive system. Brett Brown has had his team playing a run-and-gun style offense at a sometimes nauseatingly quick pace over the past few years, but I think that's going to have to change with Jahlil Okafor in the fold. They're going to have to allow him to get position and play through the post, and that will slow things down considerably. In a post dominated offense, you're looking for a point guard who can feed the low block and space the floor, and Marshall fits that pretty well. He's an exceptional passer, and a pretty decent three-point shooter.
I think he's certainly a better option than TJ McConnell, and right now I'd give him the edge over Pierre Jackson. I'd take Wilbekin over Marshall because I like his positional versatility and think Wilbekin is a pretty strong defender.
Marshall's definitely worth the camp invite, and the preseason will show if he's fully recovered from his torn ACL. If the Sixers slow the tempo down, I think the former UNC guard can be a good fit. But if they continue to play like they have the past few years, I don't think it's gonna work out.
@PhillyFastBreak: If Stauskas and Covington both start, can Noel as the only plus defender be enough to prop up the defense?
You mean like he did from February through the end of the season?
But the team did finish 12th in defensive efficiency last season, and I don't see why they can't stay in the top half of the league in that category. Assuming Stauskas takes the starting shooting guard job over Hollis Thompson, it may not be a huge drop off. Thompson wasn't great on the defensive end last year, and apparently Stauskas has been defending really well while playing for Team Canada (which may be the only thing keeping him in the starting lineup considering he's in a rough shooting patch).
Covington started 49 games last year and I didn't think he was that bad. He's definitely been the best wing defending option they've had post-K.J. McDaniels.
Nerlens' positional change could definitely affect his and the team's defensive numbers -- he'll be on the low block far less than he was last year if they're going to keep him on the court with Okafor -- but they're not going to lock him into playing power forward. He'll still see a lot of time at the five and be able to showcase those defensive anchor skills when Jahlil goes to the bench.
I think the defense might dip a little this season, but they surprised a lot of people last season with how consistent they were on that end of the floor. Brett Brown just might be a magician.
@HewHue: Why do people keep assuming Stauskas is starting?
Fair question, and maybe it's because he's a new face with a first-round pedigree. But I know the Sixers were really high on Stauskas going into the 2014 draft. Brett Brown basically re-affirmed this summer, so I imagine he wants to give him a legitimate shot at getting a starting job. Stauskas is definitely not in the conversation to play point guard, and they seemed pretty locked into Covington being the starting small forward, so two guard seems like the most obvious spot to throw him in.
I definitely think Hollis Thompson won't go down without a fight, though. He's shot the ball really well during his first two years in Philly, and I think this is the season where he really puts most of his game together. I'd be pretty stunned if Brown named a starter there before the end of the preseason. Best to let them duke it out and see who comes out on top. Considering Stauskas can't hit a three for team Canada and Thompson is much more familiar with the Sixers' system, it wouldn't be a shock to see Hollis starting this season.
There are worse things than Stauskas running with the second-unit for a while.
@GarrettCatalana: Which players from the "Hinkie-Specials" will be a part of the long-term future? (Hollis, JaKarr, RoCo, etc.)
I think out of all those guys in that list, Covington has by far the best chance to be a part of the team for years to come, mostly because he's one of the more well rounded guys on the roster. He's a good shooter (although the numbers didn't really show it last year), a decent defender, and a willing rebounder. The problem some of the other players on Hinkie specials might have is that so far in their careers they've really been reliant on just one skill. Thompson hasn't show much more than being a three-point shooter, and one bad shooting season could be the end of him. As much as I love him, JaKarr Sampson is still just a ball of energy right now, and is going to need to show a lot of improvement on both ends of the floor to keep a spot on this roster.
But it really does seem like Philadelphia got a steal in Covington, and he'll be a contributing factor on this team for years to come.
@ayoitsjordan: Is 2017 FA a realistic target to expect the Sixers to get traction in signing free agents?
It will definitely depend on the type of player they target. Even if guys like Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook do hit the open market, Philadelphia definitely won't be in the picture for a couple reasons. For one, they won't be anywhere close to competing for a championship, but they'll still be evaluating what their recent batch of top draft picks can do and how they fit into the team's future.
Considering that Philadelphia has never been a real free agent attraction in the past, they're fighting an uphill battle already. But one key component of the Sixers rebuild is being able to find enough top players in the draft so they're not pressed to sign a high-end free agent to compete. Out of the 9 first-round picks they'll have between 2013-2017 (for now), hitting on just one-third of those guys would be enough to get them in the conversation of the NBA's elite teams. It's certainly feasible.
They've invested a lot into giving their young guys the reins, and I think 2017 is still too early for the Sixers to turn the team over to pricey free agents. I could see them finding a couple niche players -- Thabo Sefolosha if he's healthy and J.J. Redick are two names that come to mind -- just to see how they gel with the team's core for a year or two.
There's an outside chance the Sixers front office will have enough in-house talent where they don't have to hit the free agent market hard, but if they do have to look for outside help, I can't see them luring any big names as early as 2017.
Thanks for reading. As always, send me your questions on Twitter (@JakePavorsky), or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org