In this week's edition of the mailbag, I answer questions on Joel Embiid as a three-point shooting threat, Ben Simmons not being able to shoot, T.J. McConnell's future in Philadelphia and Michael Carter-Williams current trade value. If you missed any previous installments, you can find them right here.
@montydwe: How good of a three-point shooter will Joel Embiid be? Compared to other 7-footers who shoot, will he be closer to Kirstaps Porzingis or Demarcus Cousins?
For what it's worth, Cousins is actually shooting better from beyond the arc this season than Porzingis is, but I think the sake in comparing these two is that Boogie is a low post threat that pulls up from deep on occasion, while Porzingis is more of a true shooter. If that's to be the case, then I would go with the Cousins comparison. Three-point shooting has clearly been something the Sixers staff has worked with Embiid to improve, and I think he's got the touch and the mechanics to force defenders to guard him from the outside. However, it's important that Embiid keeps in mind why the Sixers drafted him in the first place two years ago, and it wasn't to shoot threes. What people saw of Embiid at Kansas was a dominant post player with an array of moves on the low block that made comparing his ceiling to Hakeem Olajuwon not all that crazy. Any perimeter shooting skills Embiid has is an added bonus, but he did only take five threes during his time at Kansas. If Brett Brown is cool with Embiid taking a couple three's a night as a trailer coming up the floor like Cousins does, I've seen enough of his shooting stroke to think that could be effective. But his effectiveness is around the rim, and taking him out of the post so he can hunt down perimeter shots would be a detriment to him and his potential on the low block.
@twitterlesjame5: After watching the most recent LSU games, do you think Ben Simmons has a shooting ability?
No, I still don't trust his shooting ability. He isn't taking a ton of outside shots, and when he does, I don't like what I see form wise.
Good morning. Here's Ben Simmons making a jump shot from last night's game: pic.twitter.com/B8yBjPUqwU— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 3, 2016
There's a couple issues I have here. He takes forever to get the ball out of his hands, making it easy for defenders to close out on him. Part of the reason for that is because Simmons releases the ball on his way down as opposed to the top of his jump. Between the aforementioned issues and Simmons insistence on not really trying to get jump shots up during the course of his games, it's part of the reason I find it hard to imagine him immediately slotting into the small forward role when he gets drafted. His shot is gonna take a lot of work to make it passable at the NBA level, which doesn't mean it's impossible, but he would really struggle as the primary swingman on any team. Similar to Embiid, if you want to get the most out of him, the best thing to do is play him at the four. He's shooting 74% around the rim (according to ShotAnalytics.com), a strong rebounder and based off his size and quickness, probably best suited for guarding fellow power forwards. If he were to end up in Philadelphia, I think the best thing they could do for him and the team would be to plug him in as a power forward and work on his mid-range game for the purpose of a little floor spacing. A Noel-Simmons front court pairing would look a whole lot better than trying to put Simmons, Noel and Okafor all on the floor at the same time.
@brettm_23: Is there a future for TJ in the next few years for Philly?
I would anticipate him being here for at least next season. I covered it in more detail earlier in the week, but McConnell has done a really solid job as the team's backup point guard. Some of the team's best shooters are playing better when he's on the court, and he's also finding ways to create scoring opportunities for himself. I never expected McConnell to contribute much at all when he made the team out of training camp, but I've been pleasantly surprised with how effective he's been in some quality minutes with the Sixers. He's definitely not a longterm solution as a backup point guard based off his limited skill set and 24.9% turnover rate this season, but a guy like him slots in perfectly as the team's third guard. He brings it on every play, and Brett Brown seems to be in love with him. Philadelphia took a shot on an undrafted free agent, and it has paid off pretty nicely. He at least deserves one more season with the team.
@toglesby27: With rumors of Michael Carter-Williams being available, what is his market value compared to last year?
I would imagine that considering how bad this draft class is, Carter-Williams is probably worth a first-round pick somewhere in the 20s. That's probably a far cry from what Philadelphia will end up getting value wise from the Los Angeles Lakers pick, but the Sixers were in an extremely unique situation at the time that allowed them to really maximize Carter-Williams' value. ESPN's Brian Windhorst wrote a really good article on how that entire situation went down. Philadelphia never would've got that type of return in a deal straight up with Milwaukee. Phoenix trading Goran Dragic for two first-round picks to Miami made them much more willing to part with the Lakers pick than before, and thus the Sixers walked away with the return that they wanted. Also, Milwaukee's interest in retaining Kris Middleton over Brandon Knight had them on the prowl for a point guard of the future, and Carter-Williams Rookie of the Year pedigree, as well as Jason Kidd's insistence on acquiring players who have the same agent as he does, all allowed Philadelphia to come out on top. It was an extremely rare set of circumstances, but as he typically does, Sam Hinkie was able to work his way into the middle of that deal and come out with what he wanted.
Carter-Williams numbers were pretty abysmal when the Sixers offloaded him, but his inability to take strides forward this season is going to make it tough to get any serious value for him. His usage rate this year has been the lowest of his three year career, but he currently has the highest turnover rate of his career. Not too many teams are going to value a point guard who can't shoot and turns the ball over a ton. If Milwaukee does end up moving on from Carter-Williams, I imagine the return won't be too hot in comparison to what the Sixers got a year ago. But Philadelphia found themselves in a rare spot, and Sam Hinkie should be commended for pulling the trigger when he did.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me your questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org