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Liberty Ballers Mailbag: Over/Under years in office for Elton Brand, Jamal Crawford, Markelle’s shooting

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NBA: Summer League-Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for another edition of the Liberty Ballers mailbag.

I’m going under on this one. While Markelle’s shot appears to have improved from the clips we’ve seen, it still doesn’t look great: it’s a bit slow and has a low release point. I don’t imagine the shot is a finished product, and ironing mechanics out could lead to a low 3PT%. Should a conversion rate of 32/33% be the case, confidence should ensue, not panic (also though, I’d be prepared for a number as low as 29/30%). I think what you need to see from Markelle is just a willingness to shoot it. Expecting him to be a 36% shooter from deep next season will lead to disappointment, I really don’t think it’s going to happen. I’d be much more concerned if his FT% is abysmal than if his 3PT% is.

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to observe Ben in the gym, but Mike O’Connor of The Athletic posted this over last weekend:

That is a much more fluid free throw form than what we saw last season:

So the new free throw still doesn’t look beautiful, but it’s better than last season’s, which I’d describe as being uncoordinated. If Ben’s new form is Fios, last season’s was dial-up: a long process with a lot of obnoxious steps to only hopefully connect.

There was a point in the summer when I was worried this would happen. But it seems to have cooled down, and preseason starts tomorrow. I’m going to say Crawford won’t up a Sixer, and to the benefit of the team. He’s just not a very productive player these days, and his defense could quite possibly be the worst of any player in the NBA in 2018-2019 (last season, he ranked 521st in DRPM.. out of 521 players who qualified). If the talk heats up again, I’ll do a more in-depth argument against Crawford, but my general belief is that he has next to nothing left to give the Sixers. Don’t throw out “leadership” — Amir Johnson, Wilson Chandler and JJ Redick bring enough of that.

I will note though, that Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB), who had Crawford on his podcast Scoop B. Radio this summer, has insisted again and again that something is brewing between Jamal and the Sixers — that the Sixers are just waiting to rid themselves of Bayless in a trade or buyout to sign Crawford. But Robinson also says the Warriors and the Celtics are possible destinations.

I’ll rank them rather than give you one.

  1. Zhaire Smith: Zhaire is such a unique prospect. He’s played as a big in high school and at Texas Tech, but he’s only 6’4”. He’s possibly the most gifted athlete of a stacked draft class, with the hops to baptize any defender. Speaking of defenders, Zhaire projects to be a stout one on the wing. Ben Simmons/Zhaire Smith transition opportunities could bring down the house with the speed the two have, and I’m interested to see them develop chemistry on the break so we get some lob action. For the basketball nerd in you, Smith projects favorably in analytics models.
  2. Shake Milton
  3. Landry Shamet
  4. Wilson Chandler
  5. Jonah Bolden
  6. Mike Muscala

From Liberty Ballers community member grandma Helen:

1) Will Sixers Science ever do another podcast?

2) How did Stepover become the official LB podcast? Does either Max or Jim still write for LB?

3) What is the all time SB Nation record for RECs? By any chance is 103 the record?

4) How do the traffic figures for this site compare with other SB Nation NBA team sites?

5) How about a Randy Cohen article on Chandler and Mucala?

6) Do you think the poor play of Bayless was due to lingering wrist issues or did BC just overrate him?

7) What’s your over/under for how many years Brand will be the top man in the front office?

8) Given all the cap room available next summer, what are the chances the 76ers will be able to sign a star player?

9) Where would you rank Brett Brown among his peers?

10) Five years from now who will be the better player, Embiid or Simmons?

  1. I’ll answer this in #2.
  2. SBNation has rolled out podcast networks over many of the team sites, grouping them according to city/overlapping fanbase. Philly has the Liberty Ballers stream, the Bleeding Green Nation stream, the Broad Street Hockey stream and the Good Phight stream. (You can read about them here if you are interested.) When it came time to select a show to be the official podcast, the folks at SB Nation had to look outside of Liberty Ballers because none of us currently on the LB crew were a part of an active podcast. Why it was the Stepover Pod that became the flagship show of the Liberty Ballers stream is pretty simple: it’s entertaining, informative and hosted by two guys who are Liberty Ballers alumni (they do no longer write for LB). It was a perfect fit. The door is open to add more shows to the stream, and while we’ve bounced ideas around, nothing is currently in the works. Sixers Science could certainly be a candidate for that, but we haven’t really made plans to record another episode.
  3. I don’t know the record or if there’s a streamlined way to go about finding it out, but being somewhat familiar with the network, I’d guess 103 recs is one of the highest numbers achieved in the entire network.
  4. Probably not information I can/should publish.
  5. Randy has pieces in the works after enjoying his summer, but I’m not sure he has anything in mind on Muscala or Chandler at the moment. But I can certainly propose it to him, if that’s what the people want.
  6. I don’t think BC overrated Bayless — I think he probably knew 3-years, $27 million was somewhat of an overpay, but wanted to ensure that he landed Bayless (the Collars traded for Jerryd when BC was running the show in Toronto, and BC often spoke highly of Bayless). I just don’t think that Bryan had the foresight to realize how much of an overcommitment he was making or to predict the cap situation we’re currently seeing. As far as the wrist injury, I absolutely believe it’s had major hindrances on Bayless’ game. He fell out of the rotation last season, but I think the player he used to be would have found a way to contribute from the bench.
  7. Some thoughts: The Sixers are likely entering a period of acceptable success in terms of ownership expectations, so Brand won’t have the pressure of turning a team around. He doesn’t bear much responsibility for whatever becomes of this summer’s personnel moves. Maybe the Sixers aren’t able to find a trade partner during the season to move the needle in either direction (good move vs. bad move)? All to say that Brand might not have personnel moves subject to criticism until next season. It’s possible his tenure doesn’t come under serious scrutiny from ownership until 2 or 3 years in. Hiring someone with such little front office experience indicates to me a patience. Next summer, however, is seen as the last chance to really make a free agent splash before having to pay guys like Ben and Dario, which puts a lot of pressure on EB. I put the over/under at 3.5. That might seem high, but the Sixers groomed Brand for this and they probably want some stability. If the over hits, it crushes the number.
  8. As of now, I’d say probably low-ish. A 2019 Finals or ECF appearance could maybe change some minds, but the Sixers need leaps from Joel Embiid (a small leap), Ben Simmons (a medium leap) and Markelle Fultz (a huge leap) to get there. Otherwise (or even still), Durant and Klay will stay somewhere in California, probably Golden State. Kawhi will go to California. Butler will go to New York. Or California. or Miami. Kyrie is Celtics or Knicks. (Maybe all this lack of really available free agent stars makes trading for Butler worth it?) If the Sixers are to sign a player of significance next summer, I think it’s from the Khris Middleton (please), Tobias Harris (eh), Harrison Barnes (god, no) tier. If the Sixers decide they need insurance on Fultz, Kemba Walker is a possibility. But if Fultz shows progress and the team decides to ride with him, the very last thing they want to do is bring in Walker. Imagine attempting to sell Fultz on the notion that they believe in him after giving Kemba a max.
  9. There’s an elite tier that contains Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens. A tier below with guys like Quin Snyder, Steve Kerr, Rick Carlisle, and Erik Spoelstra. I think you could make the argument that Brett belongs in that 2nd tier or just below. I’m putting him in the 2nd tier, and it’s more than just x’s and o’s, he’s built a hell of a culture. I’m sure others will strongly disagree.
  10. Joel Embiid is capable of being a top-5 player in his prime. I’m just not sure that his role allows him to achieve best-player-in-the-league status. I think Ben Simmons’ role does. Controlling the offense as an initiator allows a player to influence the game to the highest degree. The counterargument might suggest that Embiid has equal impact, but on the defensive side of the ball. I believe it’s more likely that Joel realizes his most ideal self than Ben. But for me, the ideal Simmons is nearly the perfect player. I’m going to say Simmons is the better player 5 years from now, and then burn the receipts.

From Liberty Ballers community member theanonymousduck:

1) our 2019 fa chances aren’t looking great. jimmy and kawhi have already made team lists that don’t include us. charlotte is seemingly hell-bent on keeping kemba. kyrie reportedly likes it in boston. bucks have major incentive to keep middleton and win now with giannis contract end looming. for durant golden state is golden state. in a world where all of those options fall through, how should we spend our money in free agency?

2) the washington locker-room is reportedly a tire-fire and bradley beal’s contract only will have two seasons left at the end of next season. how much would you potentially be willing to trade for him at that time? would it be more or less than butler right now?

3) the two consensus top prospects of the 2019 draft right now are a 285 pound forward/center that can’t shoot and an athletic scoring wing who doesn’t really defend and has a questionable shot. if we get the #1 pick in the 2019 draft would you prioritize bpa? or would you prioritize fit more given our already existent core?

4) if dario gets a max offer sheet in 2020 free agency, do you match? if not, what’s the most you would be willing to pay for him?

5) if, right now, you could trade robert covington for cj mccollum while still keeping roco’s and not cj’s contract (and therefore commensurate level of team control) on the books, would you?

6) o/u on amount of games or quarters or minutes it takes for fultz to hit a three? what do you think his ftr ends up being this season? ts%?

7) who plays more minutes with the 76ers this upcoming season: zhaire smith, or furkan korkmaz?

8) what player does blindloyalty end up writing a “this player is underrated/overrated!” article about in january? excluding amir johnson.

9) if one of these things could guaranteed happen, which one would you pick? a) fultz becoming a 38% three-point shooter on 7 attempts/36, b) embiid becoming a 38% three-point shooter on 5.5 attempts/36, or c) us getting the #1 pick in the 2019 draft.

10) how many entire team rosters would you take ben simmons over?

  1. If the primo crop is unavailable and the Sixers are still dead set on spending the money, there’s two guys I’d have my eye on: Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton. As you noted, Middleton probably gets offered the max from Milwaukee and I’m not sure why he would turn it down in such a scenario, especially considering I expect MIL to make significant improvements and build a buzz. Harris, though, appears much more available. The Clippers, who Harris currently plays for, will have a legit shot at both Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler and they may not have the cash to retain Harris. I think Harris fits well offensively as a guy who can get a bucket in a lot of different ways. Another option, maybe the most feasible, is to take on an albatross of a contact to acquire assets, and make a move for a stud. I wouldn’t use the cash to secure an elite bench unit — deep benches don’t win playoff games, deep starting fives do.
  2. My colleague Adam Aaronson turned me on to Bradley Beal more than I previously had been, so he deserves some credit for this answer. I’d give up a significant package for Bradley Beal. Probably similar to what I would for Butler, but that’s more so due to the fact that Minnesota doesn’t have a ton of leverage. And it would likely result in parting with Fultz. That or giving up on him. I think executing a trade is a more realistic plan than hoping to attract a free agent in 2019.
  3. If I’m picking at #1 and have to use it rather than trade it, I take the best player available every. single. time.
  4. I don’t think Dario is a max player.
  5. Probably not, but Fultz has a lot to do with it. I just think CJ’s presence could hurt Fultz’ psyche.
  6. 6.5 quarters. Won’t happen the first game, though he will attempt one. Hits his first in game 2.
  7. Tough question. I’m not sure Furkan can do anything on the floor other than shoot. If Furkan ends up with more minutes, I think it’s only because of Zhaire’s injury. Zhaire will average more MPG.
  8. I don’t want to put words in Randy’s mouth or make assumptions. But I think RoCo still doesn’t get his due. If Covington gets off to a hot start from 3PT (I’m talking ghost pepper) and goes unmentioned when All-Star talk comes around, he seems like a good candidate for an underrated piece framed in a historical context based on impact. Overrated? Would guess JJ.
  9. A) Fultz becoming becoming a 38% three-point shooter on 7 attempts/36, and it’s not particularly close for me.
  10. I’d trade Ben for the Celtics, Lakers and Warriors rosters. Outside of one of those three, I’m not sure you get enough to win a championship in the current landscape. Maybe the Thunder, but I’m not the biggest Russ fan. Pairing the Raptors roster with Embiid, RoCo, Dario and JJ makes you a contender too. I wouldn’t enjoy a team led by James Harden and Chris Paul. Milwaukee wouldn’t be too bad, getting Giannis and Middleton. Not sure there’s anybody else I’d consider — the Jazz gives you too much overlap between Jo and Rudy. Getting an entire roster to choose from is nice, but you only get 5 players on the court. And there’s just not many players I’d take over Ben Simmons and his potential.

Thanks to anyone who sent in questions! If yours wasn’t answered, I apologize — the piece was getting lengthy. Next time, I got you.