In this week's mailbag, I take questions on the Brandon Ingram-Kevin Durant comparison, Elton Brand, Dragan Bender, and Jahlil Okafor not playing in crunch time against the New York Knicks. You can catch up on previous mailbag editions here.
@Whats_Up: Is Kevin Durant a fair comparison for Brandon Ingram?
I think it's sort of a lazy one. They're both long, skinny swingmen that can shoot, so naturally it leads Ingram to be compared to Durant. I think there's a couple main differences in their respective games. For one, Ingram's shooting numbers won't come anywhere close to touching what Durant did at Texas. Durant shot 47.3% from the field on 647 attempts, including 203 attempts from beyond the arc. If Ingram were to stay on the same pace and play the same number of games, he'd have just 426 attempts from the field, 179 of which would have been threes. Simply put, Durant was an assassin at Texas. It may have to do with Duke's system, but Ingram is never going to take over the offense in a way that Durant did. If he did, I imagine he wouldn't be shooting the ball nearly as efficiently as he is right now.
Ingram also has pretty decent handles, but it really doesn't compare to what Durant can do with the ball in his hands. The latter basically kept the ball on a string, and is capable of pulling up from anywhere on the floor, something Ingram hasn't really shown an ability to do. A majority of Ingram's scoring comes either in catch-and-shoot situations or on drives to the rim. I also think Ingram lacks the same first step that Durant has off the dribble, which may go hand in hand with his ability to handle the ball. Durant was also a monster rebounder at Texas, averaging just over 11 boards a game.
I see some of the Durant comparisons from a measurements standpoint, but game wise I don't find them to be that similar. I've heard Giannis Antetokounmpo with a jump shot, and I like that comparison better. I think it suits his playing style much better.
@PoeJapp: Is Elton Brand ever going to play? If not, what was the point of using a roster spot?
My understanding is that Elton Brand has a little too much pride just to sit on the end of the bench for the rest of the season. He's going to play at some point, but I doubt he's going to be logging anything more than some garbage time minutes here and there, unless somebody gets hurt. Regardless of whether he plays or not, Philadelphia felt that they needed someone to play the mentor role for Jahlil Okafor and the rest of the young players. I do find it interesting that the popular refrain about Carl Landry not qualifying as a veteran leader was because it's not the same if he isn't on the court, and now we have Elton Brand, who hasn't played despite signing three weeks ago. However, it's clearly something that Jerry Colangelo highly prioritized.
The point of using a roster spot on Brand instead of bringing him in as a coach is because there's a different type of camaraderie. It allows for a much more personal connection in a way that a coach-player relationship just doesn't have. While Brand will probably be able to pass along some on-court tips, his main goal is to help these young guys handle themselves off the court on their way to becoming successful pros. And if that means it helps keep Jahlil Okafor out of further trouble, it could be worth the roster spot.
@EaglesFly74: What's your opinion on Jahlil Okafor not playing the 4th quarter or both overtimes against the Knicks?
I'll preface this by saying that the Knicks game was probably one of Okafor's best efforts on both ends of the floor, but I didn't have much of an issue with him sitting. He carried them offensively through the first half, but as soon as they sat him for the fourth quarter, the floor immediately opened up. Ish Smith finally had the space to get into the lane for some easy layups and some jumpers, which he struggled with in the beginning of the game. Noel also becomes so much more aggressive when the two of them aren't on the floor. He's throwing down monster lobs, and slashing to the rim (which he should do when Okafor is on the floor, but doesn't) for more easy dunks. Okafor has done a better job of the late protecting the rim, but he doesn't even come close to replicating Noel's ability to block shots and pull down rebounds. Smith and Noel alone combined for 18 points in the fourth quarter, and turned a 13-point deficit into overtime.
I'm cool with riding the hot hand, but Noel was certainly gassed by the second overtime, and Brown could've thrown in Okafor for a couple minutes just to give Nerlens a breather. That's certainly on Brett. But based off of the spacing of Okafor's absence created, as well as the improved rim protection, I think it's hard to make the case that playing Jahlil would have won them that game.
Matthew Courtney (via. email): Given the odds that the Sixers may not get the first or second pick, could you explain Dragon Bender's 4+3 seven-year deal he signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv? How soon could he play for the Sixers? What would the Sixers options be when it comes to buying out his contract?
Bender signed a seven-year contract back in 2014, but it's broken up into two different parts. Similar to the contract Dario Saric signed with Anadolu Efes that was two years with an option for a third season, Bender's deal is four years long, with an option for another three years after the end of the 2017-2018 season. If Bender were to decline the final three years of his deal, the earliest he could come stateside would be the 2018-19 season. The Sixers could try and buy out his contract at some point, but that would likely be very expensive. Saric's buyout was over $1 million, and there were reports that Philadelphia was interested in trying to bring him over early, but that never happened. There are also stipulations within the CBA that restrict how much money a team can spend on a buyout, so a lot of the money is coming out of the player's pocket. It makes breaking that contract early much less enticing of an option. There's been no reports about how much it would cost to buy out Bender, but the sooner a team tries to do it, the more expensive it would be for Bender. Despite his talent, it would be tough to see a team in the top three willing to wait four years for their top pick to come over. I don't think it's out of the question for him to pull his name out of this year's draft, similar to what Saric did in 2013.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me your questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org