In this week's mailbag, I answer questions on Brett Brown's coaching and if I thought the rebuild would take this long, s if Jamal Murray or Jaylen Brown would be a better fit with the Lakers pick, and much more. You can catch up on previous installments here.
@Walk_With_Lyle: Do you think Brett Brown is a good coach? Is it justified to say he seems like a bad coach?
I don't think it's remotely close to say he's a bad coach, but it may be fair to start raising a couple of questions as we move past the rebuild next year. The talent level on this roster is just absolutely pitiful, but after two-plus years of keeping the team's roster mostly intact, I'd at least expect them to look like more of a cohesive unit. I haven't really seen that, especially this season. My biggest issue with Brown and the coaching staff right now is that I struggle to see anything in place that makes me feel like the transition into becoming a legitimate basketball team will be smooth.
There's essentially no offensive system in place. They get out and run on occasion when they can, but they have by far the blandest, most simple offense in the league. Outside of when Okafor creates for himself, if the Sixers can't get an open look off a dribble hand off or the pick and roll, then they don't score. At this point in the rebuild, I assumed they would run some more intricate half court sets. That should change over the next year as they add more talent, but that doesn't help core players like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor prepare for the future. The team is still experimenting with Noel's identity on offense, and Okafor continues to play very isolation minded basketball. Neither one can continue to play like that going forward, and the fact that the team hasn't taken steps to correct it is disappointing. They're going to be on the same exact learning curve as the 2016 draft class and Dario Saric will be, and that helps nobody.
Defensively, the team is an absolute disaster. There are a lot of mismatching pieces that are making things more difficult, but they continue to make remarkably simple mistakes that should not happen at this point. I can't tell if that's because the players are just so bad they can't pick up on simple things or if they're just not being coached well enough, but last season they did show they had the potential to be a quality defensive team. It's very hard to pinpoint the exact problems, but it doesn't make me all that optimistic they'll be able to quickly turn things around.
To bring this back to Brown, we'll all have a clearer idea of his real strengths and weaknesses as a coach next year. But his inability to instill any real offensive system along with the downturn of their defense is extremely troubling, and it won't help guys like Noel and Okafor become better players.
@_spmcdonald: Did you think the rebuild would take this long to show any signs of success?
Definitely not, and the Sixers would be more than willing to say the same thing. Half of the reason things have taken so long to get off the ground is luck. The other half is strategy. Obviously, the last two draft lotteries have not been the kindest to them, which is where the luck comes into play. If the Sixers get a top two pick in 2014, they end up with Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker instead of Joel Embiid. Embiid could still turn out to be a really good player, but the past two years of injuries have put the longevity of his career in doubt, and Wiggins and Parker are having fine careers this far. Last year, a top two pick gets them Karl-Anthony Towns (who is far and away a better fit/player than Okafor), or D'Angelo Russell. Instead, they have Jahlil Okafor, and his presence on the team leaves a lot more questions than answers. Not to make anyone feel worse than they already do, but the Sixers very easily could be the Minnesota Timberwolves with a little better luck, and their outlook is a whole lot brighter than Philadelphia's.
The Sixers drafting strategy of best player available has also slowed things down. Seeing as how the Sixers already had Nerlens Noel, they very easily could've chosen to address other areas of need in the 2014 NBA Draft, but guys like Dante Exum or Aaron Gordon had a much lower ceiling than Embiid did. Last year's draft seemed like they may have deviated from the BPA strategy. Taking Jahlil Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis provided them a safer option rather than a player with a higher ceiling. That has certainly complicated things, and slowed down the rebuild's timeline.
Philadelphia certainly has the chance to get things right, as they still have plenty of assets and cap space. But bad luck and a changing draft strategy has caused things to move a little slower than anticipated.
@cjh7676: What is more surprising? Jakarr Sampson getting a two-year deal or Tony Wroten still being unsigned?
I'm pretty surprised Wroten hasn't landed anywhere yet. I assumed that at this point he'd at least be getting playing time in the D-League somewhere, but he must've felt like he did enough in Philadelphia to earn another NBA gig. That seems to have been a misstep. I always liked Wroten, but he was always a guy that was more fun than he was good. He's a volume shooter with limited passing skills and a high turnover rate. He's not going to be an effective player unless he's getting a lot of minutes, and he was never going to see that anywhere other than Philadelphia. Guys like Phil Pressey and Lorenzo Brown continue to get chances over Wroten because they're quality passers who know their role. Still, I figured somebody would've recognized the raw talent and given him a ten-day contract at this point.
Sampson's a quality glue guy who brings energy, bounce and some quality defense. Denver's not going anywhere fast, so they might as well take chances on guys like him. So far, he's played pretty well for them.
@SteveTurnUp: Who would be a better fit with the Lakers pick if we got it, Jaylen Brown or Jamal Murray?
Jamal Murray would not only be a better fit for the Sixers, but I think he's a better player in general. Outside of the Arizona game, Jaylen Brown has played well as of late, but I think his effectiveness at the next level is going to be much more of a question than Murray. His ball handling is fine for the college level but he'll be a turnover machine with how loose his dribbling is. He's very good around the rim, but outside of that he's pretty terrible everywhere else on the floor. He's shooting just 31.9% from beyond the arc and it already looks like his range is pretty maxed out. He can't pull up off the dribble, and you can't run him off screens.
Murray, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He's shown he can be a good pull up shooter, but where he's most effective is as a catch-and-shoot guy. Now that John Calipari has realized it, he's making sure to get Murray more touches in catch-and-shoot situations, and it's resulted in really high three-point shooting numbers for the 19-year-old.
Brown has the raw skills and potential to eventually be effective at the next level, but you're looking at a multi-year project with him. Murray will certainly have his own struggles, but his ability to be an effective outside shooter who can play off ball will allow him to likely have a long NBA career. He fits what the Sixers need at the two guard position.
Mason Marsico (via email): Name one player outside of Noel, Okafor and Embiid that you'd like to keep on the team as the process ends, and one non-star you'd like to add to the team.
It would have to be Robert Covington, although my confidence in him being an effective piece post-rebuild is much lower than it was a year ago. Philadelphia desperately needs shooters to stretch the floor, and Robert Covington is probably their best bet on the current roster, despite Hollis Thompson's somehow high three-point percentage. My hope is that with a little added talent on the roster that can actually fit with each other, Covington won't be forced into taking as many long, contested threes, and we'll see his numbers rise a bit. But he can certainly help himself by working on his ball handling over the summer, because his effectiveness is severely limited by exclusively being a catch-and-shoot threat.
I think a point guard like Mike Conley who knows how to distribute the ball and score efficiently would be a perfect fit for this team. He's had a bit of a down year this season for his standards, but having a smart, veteran guard like him would take a lot of the pressure off the young guys to create offense, and a Conley-Noel pick-and-roll tandem would be pretty deadly. It would be a serious long shot for him to sign in Philly this summer, but as the Sixers brass identify what they need in a point guard, Mike Conley's skill set would likely fit that description.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me your questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.