After a two month long hiatus, the Liberty Ballers mailbag is back and ready for a very big summer. A lot has changed since our last edition, and this mailbag will discuss the future of the Sixers under Bryan Colangelo, among other things. Let's get to the questions.
@twitterlesjame5: Should we be more optimistic/excited or concern about the future of this team?
With Bryan Colangelo now calling the shots (so we're told), I would teeter more towards the side of concern than optimism. The good news for the Sixers is that Colangelo has a rather solid draft history (including Andrea Bargnani, as the real mistake regarding him was re-signing him), and with all the future selections Philadelphia has, there should be some confidence in his ability to find some quality young talent. Colangelo's weaknesses seem to be in the form of trading for players and signing free agents to complete the team's core, and those mistakes doomed his ability to achieve success in Toronto. In his introductory press conference, he repeatedly used the buzzword "process" as his way of showing his understanding of the slow, calculated approach it takes to build a winner, but his moves with the Raptors never echoed that sentiment.
As Raptors HQ's Daniel Reynolds told us when Colangelo was hired, "there was always this sense of urgency in his moves, like had to race to get the team from Point A to Point B". The situation is a tad bit different in Philadelphia, but it feels like the Sixers are trying to do that same exact thing. Ownership wants to speed up this rebuild by taking the team from perennial loser to at least watchable, but the tone in which they express those sentiments makes me afraid that they may toss around big money this offseason just for the sake of shaking off the stigma that came with tanking. If that's the case, then Colangelo is set up to fail. With the salary cap set to rise astronomically and a lot of relatively unproven guys set to cash in on near-max contracts, there's going to be a sucker out there giving away a ton of money to average players. Bryan Colangelo just might end up being that sucker with the checkbook.
Philadelphia is also going to be dealing with a roster full of mismatched pieces, and Colangelo hasn't really shown to be an expert puzzle solver. He spent a lot of time tinkering with Toronto's roster with moves like trading for Rudy Gay and Jermaine O'Neal, and Hedo Turkolgu and Landry Fields. None of those moves really panned out. I'm not sure if he's the one to be trusted to figure out the logjam of big men the Sixers currently have, or fit the right pieces around those guys.
From a draft perspective, Colangelo seems like a solid add. But his track record for rushing to make trades and free agents has me feeling like he's going to take a blowtorch to Sam Hinkie's orchard.
@jongdc: If the Sixers end up with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and four first-round picks, who wins Rookie of the Year in 2017? Sixers or the field?
I think it would depend on where the Sixers top overall pick lands. If they're fortunate enough to end up with LSU's Ben Simmons, then I would definitely take Philadelphia over the field. Despite my love for Brandon Ingram, I still believe Simmons is the most talented player in the draft, and I think he'll have much more of an immediate impact on the game than Ingram would. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean Simmons will go on to have a more prosperous career, but I anticipate he'll stuff the stat sheets right out of the gate. His ability to score, pull down rebounds and distribute the ball makes him the obvious frontrunner for an award like this. Ingram's game doesn't necessarily have all those components. I think Saric will make for a nice NBA player but he's going to need some time to adjust, and I don't anticipate him putting up any sort of numbers worthy of the honor. Joel Embiid should be able to give Simmons a run for his money, but I still can't help but worry about his body holding up over the course of the season, and I imagine the Sixers will be giving him a handful of nights off to make sure he stays healthy. If Philadelphia goes into the 2016-17 season with both Simmons and Embiid, I'd say there's a really high chance one of them brings the award back to Philadelphia. I'll take the Sixers to have their second Rookie of the Year in the past four years.
@DLDubs: Did Mike D'Antoni make any difference last year as a coach?
His impact from a statistical standpoint is really difficult to tell. Philadelphia's pace was already 8th best in the NBA prior to D'Antoni's hiring, and didn't increase much from the end of December to April (99.47 to 100.69, according to NBA.com). The Sixers offensive production did see a substantial increase, as their offensive rating rose from 91.8 B.D.A. (before D'Antoni) to 99.5 A.D.A. (after D'Antoni), but his hiring happened right around the same time the Sixers traded for point guard Ish Smith. I would guess that that Smith's ability to run the point and his already established chemistry with Nerlens Noel had more of an effect than anything D'Antoni brought from the bench. With that said, I think the most important thing hiring D'Antoni did for the Sixers last year was it helped keep Brett Brown sane. It was clear that the two developed a camaraderie, and for Brown to have a well regarded offensive minded coach to bounce ideas off of or at the very least vent to helped him get through a very arduous season.
Going forward, I would anticipate D'Antoni having a more notable impact on the team's offense, provided that he does stay in Philadelphia. Having someone like him who saw great success in Phoenix with a dominant pick-and-roll tandem will be helpful for a guy like Jahlil Okafor, who desperately needs to drop some of his isolationist tendencies and learn how to set screens. I imagine the Colangelos will also turn to him for advice on some of the top ball handlers in this year's draft class to see who would be a good or bad fit with this current group of big men. The longer D'Antoni stays, the more prevalent his fingerprints will be on this team's offense. He's not a guy I would want to lose right now.
@FREDFFIV: Any chance Nerlens Noel's offensive game takes a big leap forward next season?
His most useful offensive tool last year was throwing down lobs, and I think it'll continue to be that way for the time being. Noel's game is obviously best suited for the low block, but Philadelphia wanted to experiment with him at the four to try and make things work with Jahlil Okafor. That proved to be a real waste of time, and the effort he spent into making his awful jump shot less awful should've been put towards developing post moves. The re-concerted effort into making him a threat on the low block probably won't result in immediate success in 2016-17.
One thing that could really help him advance offensively would be to work on his hands. He struggles to catch any passes below his waist, so feeding him with bounce passes through traffic is almost impossible. That'll be key in allowing him short-term success, and give him the chance to do more than just play with his back to the basket or finish alley-oops. If he focuses on improving his hands this offseason, then you'll definitely see a better Noel next season.
@sftnhill92: With Dario Saric likely coming over, who out of Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes and Christian Wood is most likely to be cut/change position to SF?
I think Philadelphia will try Dario Saric at small forward, but I don't think he has the mobility to defend players at that position nor the shooting stroke to be a primary wing scorer.
Wood is most likely a goner. I wrote about how I think his potential could be worth keeping him around as the 15th man on the roster, but he was a Hinkie guy. I think the new regime will look for more experienced players to play a reserve role on the team. Richaun Holmes is a surefire power forward or a possible small ball five, in some instances. He doesn't have any of the tools to play on the wings, and he's been a force around the rim. Philadelphia has experimented with Jerami Grant as a small forward and seen very minimal success with it. That three-point shot he's supposed to have been developing has not come around at all, and I have my doubts about that becoming an effective tool for him. He's taken over 300 attempts from beyond the arc and is shooting under 28 percent. His inability to knock down shots from the outside means the team doesn't have enough space on the floor to play him at the three.
There's some serious value in keeping Grant around from a defensive standpoint, as he is a tremendous help defender. I wouldn't be surprised if they moved on from Holmes. He's got the potential to be a solid contributor at the NBA level, but with the amount of guys Philadelphia has manning the paint, he may get caught up in the numbers game. He's probably only worth a second round pick via trade, but it's better than eating his guaranteed $1 million salary. Holmes isn't the type of guy you just give up on, especially after a productive rookie season, but the Sixers are in an unusual predicament. They may not have a choice but to part ways here.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please help team Liberty Ballers qualify for the $2 million The Basketball Tournament this summer in Philadelphia! The roster includes FORMER SIXER John Salmons, and great local talent like C.J. Aiken (St. Joe's), Ryan Brooks (Temple) and Garrett Williamson (St. Joe's)! Vote for Liberty Ballers here and possibly win some money if we win.