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You Need To Calm Down: Thoughts On The Philadelphia 76ers 2019 NBA Draft

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NBA: NBA Draft Combine David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

I was stunned by the reaction of the Liberty Ballers faithful to the events of Thursday night’s draft. And I was even more surprised after hearing the similar views of various writers and podcasters who cover the team. So much so that I felt the need to take keyboard in hand and write up some thoughts on drafts, roster construction, and related matters.

I chose the title of this article in part because the young people tell me that’s the name of the new Taylor Swift song and, you know, I’m trying to stay current! And also because, um, there are some folks out there who I think kinda sorta need to calm down.

Your Principle is Your Pal

Let’s start with some general principles for team-building. Life is about trade-offs, and nowhere is this more true than in sports and games that are designed to create competitive balance. So at each decision point — trade, draft pick, free agent signing, etc. — teams are forced to decide which among competing values to privilege. Here are a few important areas where trade-offs occur:

  • Whether to favor multiple lower-value assets or one higher-value asset
  • Whether to favor assets today or future assets
  • Whether to favor assets with a small chance of an exceptional outcome or those that are more certain to deliver at least some value
  • Whether to privilege talent level or fit
  • Whether to privilege character/chemistry or on-court ability

Making Their Move

Of course there are others as well, but most of the issues at play in the controversies over the Sixers’ moves this week are closely related to one or more of the issues above. In reading and listening to people’s comments, I tried to discern what set of beliefs about these trade-offs justified the opinions I was seeing. My summary of the prevailing views of LB commenters are these:

  1. It was a horrible mistake to trade picks 24 and 33 for pick 20.
  2. It was a horrible mistake to trade pick 34 for three second-round picks.
  3. It was a horrible mistake to give up the 42nd pick in order to dump Jonathan Simmons’ contract.
  4. It was a horrible mistake, bordering on pure evil, to trade the 57th pick for, effectively, cash.

Now, I can understand the logic of #1. Some people would prefer a greater number of less-probable shots at a good player to a smaller number of higher-probability shots. But here’s what I can’t understand: recognizing that as a blind person, I may have failed to perfectly link all comments with the proper authors, nevertheless I feel fairly confident that of the many, many people slamming the 2-for-1 trade-up, not a single one suggested the obvious corollary, which is that our trade for the Hawks was one of the most spectacular fleecings the Sixers have ever pulled off!

I mean, we traded the 34th pick in a famously-terrible draft for three second-round picks, two of which are likely to be more valuable than the one we gave up, since they will likely be picks in the 30s in a much-superior draft year. I know the Hawks are full of exciting young players. But that won’t make them good next year; indeed, that’s why it seems so incredibly likely they will have an awful record next season. They are going to play Hunter and Reddish and Young and Huerter, even if they have veterans on the bench who would do more to help them win. I’ll be shocked if they aren’t selecting before pick 40. And the other future second we received is the best among three different selections in a far-off year; it would be a surprise if that pick weren’t also pretty close to 35. And of course we also received pick 57 in this year’s draft. There’s a case to be made that pick 57 isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit, but that is not the consensus view of the board; the consensus view of the board was that losing pick 57 was a disaster of epic proportions!

The Marshmallow Test

Can we reconcile the set of views listed above? Well, of course it’s always possible that there are relatively few people who hated the trade up and the 3-for-1 and the sale of pick 57; that there were lots of people holding each of these views but they were all different people. But that wasn’t the sense I got reading the comments.

There is, though, a set of beliefs that reconcile all the listed opinions. We might call this the “one-marshmallow” view. Everyone knows about the “Marshmallow Test” now, right? A research group at Stanford offered kids a choice of one marshmallow (or cookie, or something) now, but told them they can have two if they can resist eating the first one for a while, say 15 minutes. Some kids eat the treat, others exhibit patience and get a double helping.

According to legend, the follow-up was accidental — a decade or so later, the researchers noticed a possible pattern in the kids in the experiment, since some of them were in school with their own children in the Palo Alto area. They collected data and it turned out the one-marshmallow kids — the ones who exhibited less ability to delay gratification — had, not always by any means but on average, somewhat worse life outcomes (presumably lower grades, increased rate of getting in trouble, that sort of thing). Oceans of ink have been spilled since arguing that nothing is more important for children than developing this kind of patience; it’s related to the whole “grit” movement.

For the record, it now seems the whole thing was a big misunderstanding. As best we can tell from subsequent research, the way it really works is this: the people who grew up in more difficult life circumstances were more likely to eat the first marshmallow, perhaps just because they were hungry! But also perhaps because they hadn’t had totally trustworthy adults around them, so they were less inclined to believe the researchers’ promises. Or they were in houses where if you didn’t eat a tasty bit of food quickly, a sibling or someone ate it up. Anyway, the people from the circumstances where food was less scarce and adults followed through consistently showed more patience in the experiment, and had better grades and such later — again, on average. And that appears to have been the core driver of the famous finding.

Future Me Hates Me

Now, of course I’m just kidding when I call the folks who hated all four Sixer actions I list one-marshmallow people. But it does seem as though the tissue that connects all these views is a preference for now over the future. I mean, why would anyone not love the trade with the Hawks? It’s three picks for one!! But the one pick was tonight. We had Bruno Fernando in our hands. And then we gave him away, and while it’s true that we got back around twice the value, it’s still frustrating. Here’s another cool psychology experiment, you can run it on yourself:

Suppose science concocted an extremely delicious new food that has no negative consequences for your health or appearance. Let’s dub it the “Magic Donut.” Let’s say it costs $1000 per donut so normally we’d never eat them, but this experiment involves getting them free (but you can’t sell them, you have to enjoy them yourself!).

  • Choice 1 is a free Magic Donit every day this week, except Sunday
  • Choice 2 is a free Magic Donut every day for a week including Sunday,starting a month from now

Which do you prefer?

Most people would choose 6 donuts this week over 7 a month from now; your mileage may vary. Let’s say 2/3 of people would take fewer but sooner.

Now here’s Part B:

  • Choice 1B is a free Magic Donit every day for a week, except Sunday, starting a year from now
  • Choice 2B is a free Magic Donut every day for a week including Sunday, starting 13 months from now

What’s your choice now?

In my experience exactly 100% of people prefer 2B to 2A. Economist David Laibson calls this “hyperbolic discounting.” Of course a year from now, choice 2B will turn into Choice 2, and 1B will turn into 1. But, as they say, that’s future Randy’s problem. I recommend “Future Me Hates Me” by The Beths for a musical disquisition on the subject:

Trading Places

OK, enough psychology and philosophy, let’s look at the Sixers’ moves and see what all the fuss is about.

Trading picks 24 and 33 for pick 20

According to Kevin Pelton’s draft pick trade value chart, this was a fair trade. I know that seems hard to believe, since pick 33 turned out to be fan favorite Carson Edwards, who could end up being as good as #20 selection Thybulle. I myself was very unhappy about the trade; as Boston was on the clock I was thinking, hey, there are 5 guys left I love, we’re going to get one of them without trading up! Those guys were Thybulle, Grant Williams, Brandon Clarke, Bol Bol, and Kevin Porter.

Before we dig into players, though, let’s just talk draft value. Pelton gives the following figures:

20 — 980

24 — 750

33 — 230

54 — 100

24 + 33 — 1080

20 + 54 — 1080

In other words, we overpaid by 100 trade value points, or the equivalent of pick 54. Which is to say, by pretty much nothing. Given that we were the team that was eager to trade, and the eager partner always pays more, and we were the party trading up, and the up-trader typically pays more, the fact that we gave only 100 more of value than we received means this was a completely reasonable deal. The people who are outraged about it have no justification based on pick position. The only good reason to be upset with the deal is if you believe you know more about player evaluation than the team does. Which is fine, when Chip Kelly selected Marcus Smith II in the first round, I strongly felt it was a terrible decision, and the fact that Chip is a professional football guy and I am not did not dissuade me. But there’s a big difference between “this trade was objectively foolish” and “given the players available, I think the team made the wrong call.” This one is in the latter category. You may feel that this year was special; that normally there are big gaps in quality between 20 and 24 and 33, but not this time around. And perhaps you’re right. But my guess is if you look at past years, you’ll find this one was not so special in that regard after all; I remember having just the same feeling while watching Shake Milton slide down into the 50s a year ago.

Matisse

So let’s turn to: selecting Matisse Thybulle with the 20th pick

A lot of us liked Thybulle, so the selection itself didn’t lead to the same kind of outrage as the night’s other activities. But since it’ll probably have more impact on the team’s future than everything else combined, humor me while I delve into the saga.

One thing that bothered some observers was the presence of Brandon Clarke on the board at 20. If you’re going to pay the price to trade up, why not grab a guy who, as my esteemed colleague Dave Early noted, some experts had as a top five or even top three prospect in this draft?

I am not a draftnik, and like many here I’m generally a believer in picking the player who fell down the board. Clarke has a very high box +/- for his college play, and as I discussed at length in my Zhaire Smith posts, that has been a good predictor of success in recent years. If we’d gotten Clarke, I’d be celebrating. But by the same token, I’m not going to cry over not choosing him, seeing as how we’re talking about a 6’8” player with a 6’8” wingspan who can’t shoot the three. It’s awfully hard to see how someone like that thrives in the NBA, and exceptionally hard to see how he could thrive on this Sixers team.

It’s weird, basketball Reference lists Clarke as G-F, but most people describe him as a small-ball center in the NBA. But the basic story is this: it’s hard to see a wing player who doesn’t shoot three-pointers effectively (Clarke attempted few and hit at a poor rate in college) getting any run with the Sixers. But if he’s a big, well... is it really possible to protect the rim in the NBA with that height-wingspan combination? I won’t pretend I know, but if Elton Brand and Brett Brown say they don’t think it’s likely to work here, I’m not inclined to tell them they’re crazy!

Almost for sure someone we selected Thybulle over will end up being a star, or at least better than MT himself. But I can’t see anyone on the list I’d rather have than Matisse. Bol Bol fell all the way to 44; knowing that, is anyone wishing we’d grabbed him at 20, or even at 24? Hell, Jontay Porter wasn’t drafted at all! I have no doubt that Brad Stevens will squeeze some productive years out of Grant Williams; I mean, guys like Shane Larkin were effective in his system and Jae Crowder played like a star, so why not Williams? But while I’d have been fine with Williams at 24, I’m even happier with Thybulle. If you didn’t like the Thybulle pick, do us all a favor and, in comments, tell us whom you’d have picked instead so we can make a one-to-one comparison, rather than matching Thybulle up against whoever does the best of the next 40 players selected.

Promises, Promises

However, there’s another set of issues around the handling of the Matisse situation. There are two popular narratives here. In one, Oklahoma City promised MT that they would select him at 21. So the Sixers paid the price to jump ahead of OKC and grab him. This seemed correct on draft night, as, once MT was taken, OKC immediately traded down. In this story, the Sixers look very smart. I mean, if you don’t think MT is the right guy, then of course you won’t like trading up for him, but if we take as given that they believed in Matisse, then they traded up just enough to get him and, as noted above, paid a reasonable price to do so. Well played!

But then Thybulle himself gave an interview which suggested a very different narrative: it was the Sixers who made a promise to Matisse. Based on that promise he agreed to not work out for other teams. Then the Celtics got wind of our desperate desire for MT, and so they drafted him and forced us to pay through the nose to get our guy.

Obviously I don’t know exactly what transpired, but given all we know, I’m going to guess the following scenario is what happened, and that’s the one I will comment on.

  • Sixers promised MT, in return for an agreement not to work out for others.
  • Sixers then didn’t make much effort to work out lottery talents who might fall, because even if that happened, we’d have to take MT because of the promise.
  • OKC also liked MT and would have taken him at 21 had we not traded up.
  • Boston knew we loved MT, and also knew OKC had interest, so was able to demand a fair price for the trade-up, even though their possession of a pick at 22 and their intention to trade out of one of those two selections meant the pick at 33 they got for trading down was basically found money for them.

I think this is pretty much the view of the raging hordes who consider our front office to be an unholy marriage of clowns, jackanapes, and secret Celtic-fan moles.

So let’s take it as given and ask: if this is what happened, why does it make team management a bunch of idiots? The best answer I can see is: if Matisse Thybulle sucks at basketball, then this was indeed a very foolish move. In that case we were going to either have to take a sucky player at 24, or, worse, trade up and take a sucky player. And the promise kills any chance of taking a falling player like Clarke.

Obviously no one knows at this point which players will be good and which not. But there is a natural human tendency to lock in on one outcome, and this can lead to sub-optimal results. The real estate people say “he who cares least, wins.” If you determine that you absolutely have to own that one specific house, you’re going to end up paying market price, and maybe a lot more. Whereas if you look around with the view that you’re open to lots of house sizes, types, neighborhoods, then at some point you’ll probably run across a huge bargain, and you’ll be able to take advantage of it. The Eagles almost certainly didn’t go into the draft determined to take a left tackle. But when a tackle with star potential fell to them, they grabbed him. Well, actually, he fell almost to them and then they traded up to get him, so in reality it wasn’t so different from the Sixers after all, but let’s not spoil the narrative: Eagles, smart and patient; Sixers: panicky idiots! Amazing what winning a championship will do for people’s perception of your decision-making!

Anyway, the core point made in the paragraph above is correct: there is a real cost to locking in, making a promise. You lose flexibility and put yourself in a position for smart guys like Danny Ainge to take advantage of your intense desire. The internet seems split between those who think Ainge “Pantsed” Brand, the younger generation who say Ainge “pwned” Brand, and the even harsher group who feel Ainge “bent Brand over.” Man, don’t give up 100 points of draft pick value in this town! But, the critics have a point — commitment is costly.

Reader, I Married Him

What I find puzzling, though, is that I’ve read so many words about the cost of commitment but so little about the benefit. The benefit of the commitment was... Matisse Thybulle refused to work out for anyone else!! I shouldn’t have to explain to this particular fan base why two exclamation marks are merited; the 2015 draft wasn’t that long ago. Remember that one? Kristaps Porzingis refused to work out for us, so we didn’t feel comfortable drafting him, and ended up with the immortal Jahlil Okafor instead? Refusing to work out for people matters! It mattered so much that Thybulle fell to pick 20.

Now, if MT is the 25th-best player in the draft, as some think, then we paid a significant commitment price and got no benefit. But the top post on LB as I write is from a scout who ranked him #13. Of course we can’t cherry-pick one scout, no doubt others had him lower. But here’s the thing: HE DIDN’T WORK OUT FOR ANYONE!! You know all those guys who race up draft boards late in the process by blowing people away at the combine or in team workouts? That didn’t happen with Thybulle — maybe because he’s not all that, but maybe because we (in our assumed scenario) MADE A DEAL TO KEEP IT FROM HAPPENING!!

Now, we could have tried to do that deal with anyone. Why Thybulle? Well, presumably we really liked him, had him closer to 13 than to 24 or 30 in terms of the team’s overall talent evaluation. But that’s just for starters. Now add in that the Sixers see him as a need fit (we need a 3-and-D wing), a scheme fit (he’s super-switchable and plays great off-ball), a chemistry fit (there’s only one ball and with all our stars we can use a guy who’s willing to let others handle and shoot), a timeline fit (older player with a clear elite NBA skill who will, hopefully, be playable by the 2020 playoffs), and a culture fit (all reports say he’s a great guy and a hard worker). Remember all those trade-offs I listed above? It’s pretty obvious the Sixers, already in possession of between three and five stars if we run it back, depending on how high you set the bar, put a lot of weight on fit and culture. And quite likely in Thybulle they see a player who offers benefits on all those measures while not costing them much in terms of talent sacrificed. (Have you seen his block and steal numbers?!?!) .

With any pick or trade, you can say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating — either he’ll be good and we’ll be happy (unless Ty Jerome or Carson Edwards is better!). Or he’ll be nothing and we’ll be irritated. That’s always true, and rarely interesting; process not results, as we say here in Philly.

But this is that rare case where the outcome may tell us a lot. If Matisse Thybulle comes into training camp and is just obviously terrific, that won’t just mean they got the talent evaluation right (though it will mean that too, of course). It will also mean that they quite likely pulled a strategic coup. They realized before others that he was special, and they paid the commitment price to try to take him off the market. The price was significant, the critics are dead right on that point. But it’s possible that the benefit is far, far larger, giving us access to an ideal player we would have had little shot at (under this theory) if other teams had had a chance to work him out. A while back a friend of mine who was something of a devil with the ladies treated the folks in the office to a long monologue on the insanity of committing to a single woman when there were so many millions of wonderful, desirable, available options out there. But less than six months after he made that speech, he was engaged to the woman he later married and had a son with. There are legitimate arguments against commitment, but there are also real advantages, which is why, despite all the wisecracks, most people end up making commitments a big part of their lives.

Trading Pick 34 to Atlanta for Three Second-Round Picks

I discussed this above, and, honestly, there’s not much to say here. This was obviously a fantastic trade. We had too many picks this year, so if all we’d been able to do was push the pick forward into the future, that would be a win. Instead we more than doubled the pick’s value. I understand that it’s Christmas morning and people want to open their presents now, not wait and receive them in March. But this is a marshmallow test; let’s pass it! Think of all the fun we’re going to have next year, and in 2023, evaluating draft prospects and, eventually, having them on our team, playing for us. Except we’ll have two guys as good as Bruno Fernando, rather than one. The only way one can argue that it’s unwise to turn a pick into multiples this way is to say that we really need a specific, available player on the team, either because someone particularly amazing is on the board or because there’s a perfect fit we could take. Neither is the case here. Allow me to defer the question of the Sixers’ needs until a bit further down, rather than delve into it at this point.

The Admiral and I Don’t Get Along

Sorry, that was just for my own amusement; it’s an obscure quote from Otto the Bus Driver on The Simpsons, when asked about his father.

Sixers Trade Pick 42 and Jonathan Simmons for $1M in cash

Pick 42 was used by Washington to take Admiral Schofield, a player a lot of Sixer fans liked. Another player who was still on the board was Bol Bol, Manute’s son, who many had mocked in the lottery.

I admit to frustration with this trade. Bol has a number of red flags, including a navicular fracture, supposed attitude issues, and a skinny frame. But it would have been lots of fun to dream about the possibility of a 7’2” giant with a sweet stroke from three joining us on a cheap deal. As to Schofield, I haven’t followed him closely but, whatever, he’s a player with a chance to be good, maybe a 1% or 2% chance but a chance, and now the Wiz will benefit if that occurs rather than us.

On the flip side we have Elton Brand’s comment, which is that the team has a plan, and they need every dollar to execute that plan, and so dumping Jonathan Simmons’ $1M, rather than paying it this year or over three years, was a necessary part of the plan. I’m willing to suspend judgment and see if that turns out to be the case, but due to the careful efforts of Grandma Helen and others to educate us about the cap, the tax, and the apron, I now see that in fact it’s pretty plausible that these small amounts of money really can make the difference between, say, being able to add Patrick Beverley and not. And, let’s face it, even a 15% chance at Patrick Beverley is worth a lot more in expectation that Admiral Schofield.

57 Varieties

When the team announced that they had traded the 57th pick in the draft for cash and a future Miami pick, I thought it seemed too good to be true. The 57th pick is worth very little; as we have learned, good players who slip that far, e.g. injured ones like Jontay Porter, let teams know they are not interested in signing for the minimum and so teams often let them fall through to UDFA status. Teams are thus left with guys who were neither good enough to be taken nor self-confident enough to take a hard negotiating stance, and that leaves slim pickings. Of course occasionally someone taken this late makes a splash in their NBA career, just as some undrafted players like Fred VanVleet do. Anyway, it appears it was indeed too good to be true, as the pick appears to be so heavily protected as to be basically worthless (though the wording is sufficiently unclear that I can’t swear exactly how it works). The team sold the pick for $2M, which is a good price for a pick that low, but of course the money doesn’t go to me, whereas Jontay Porter as an asset would legitimately bring me pleasure.

The problem, of course, is that Porter is a compelling enough prospect that he could demand a decent contract. And the Sixers say they need every dollar. What would make me feel great about the whole thing would be a credible promise from the team that in future years we’ll use the cash in question to buy some draft picks. Then these pick sales would just be a more-efficient way of moving picks into the future. Of course no such guarantee is forthcoming. It helps me a little to imagine that the pick-sale money helped pay the cost of our superb training facility and other amenities that help make this a place guys want to play. But I can’t deny that in my ideal world, ownership would happily pay for all that and still not be a seller of picks. All that said, this is truly much ado about nothing. The 57th pick truly has close to zero value; of the players available at that pick that will end up on NBA roster someday, probably 90% were still available when the draft ended a few picks later. People are often not very good at magnitudes — the pleasure we get from finding a great parking space and from finding out via a second opinion that we don’t have a dread disease after all are within a factor of 10 of one another, rather than being a million-fold apart as logic would seem to suggest. I have spent 100 times more energy being disappointed that we sold Pick 57 than I should, and the truly angry among us are probably at a factor of 100. We should all try to keep things in better proportion.

The Big Picture

So, look: the Sixers turned picks 24, 33 and 34 into Matisse Thybulle and two early seconds in future years (plus some cash!). If we had selected Thybulle at 24, almost everyone would be absolutely thrilled. And if we’d traded 33 for the Hawks pick next year and 34 for the best of three seconds in 2023, only the most flagrant members of Team One Marshmallow would argue it wasn’t approximately a break-even. So I just can’t see how our use of the 24/33/34 assets can be viewed as problematic by reasonable people (unless they just are down on MT).

At Pick 54 we picked a guy, maybe you like him and maybe you don’t, but let’s face it, none of us really have a clue and the player you like better probably didn’t want to sign the contract the Sixers feel they need. So that leaves us with 42. And on 42, first, it’s a pretty minor asset, and, second, it’s pretty clear we can’t judge the move intelligently until we see if cap space is really so tight that it was necessary to trade J-Simm away.

But some critics, quite reasonably in my opinion, are focused not so much on the details of these moves as on the big picture. Don’t we need some cheap young players to develop in order to a) fill out the roster this year and b) have affordable bench guys down the road, when Ben Simmons gets his expensive new deal?

The extreme version of the basic arguement goes something like: we only have five players on the team — don’t we need some second-rounders to fill out the roster? Actually it’s more like this in most cases:

WE ONLY HAVE FIVE FREAKING PLAYERS ON THE TEAM!!! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIIIIIIE!!!!!

Honestly, I know a few people connected to the Sixers, and although I have not asked them this question, I feel 100% confident based on my interactions with them that they are aware of the need to end up with a significant number of players on the roster. Let’s see what’s lying around in the cupboard, shall we? I’ll start with a standard Run. It. Back. scenario. The roster limits allow 15 players plus two two-way contracts, but Grandma Helen has argued convincingly that we will probably only use 14 roster spots plus the two-ways in order to avoid the apron -- as I understand it, even players earning the minimum, though they don’t count toward the cap, _do_ count toward the apron. The two ways will be the Iowa State guy we picked at 54 and someone else, presumably, so let’s say Haywood Highsmith (whose brilliant Twitter handle, I want to point out again for those who missed it in the past, is hay_iamhigh).

Here is a 14-man run-it-back roster.

Under contract (5)

Joel

Ben

Zhaire

Jonah

Matisse

Signed using bird Rights (3)

Jimmy

Tobi

JJ

Signed using that 125% of last year rule (2)

Mike Scott

James Ennis

Signed using the “exception” (Room, Mid-Level, or whatever applies) (2)

Jeremy Lamb (I’m assuming Pat Beverley will be too expensive)

Shake Milton

Signed using veteran minimum (2)

JJ Barea

JaVale McGee

Obviously I have no idea who the vet-min guys will be; just throwing some names out there!

So, here’s my question: which of these people are we desperately desirous of replacing with Admiral Schofield? I’m not saying cases can’t be made, of course. But go ahead, critics, pick your guy; let’s say it’s Ennis. What I want to know is, are you sure? Like, is it so totally obvious that this team won’t need a not-great-but-solid 3-and-D guy like James Ennis that not only would you prefer to give his roster spot to Schofield, you think that if the Sixers make the opposite choice they must be a bunch of total idiots? Why? Because it’s such a dead-solid lock that 35-year-old JJ Redick will be healthy that there’s no need to have another wing around besides him, Jimmy and Lamb? Or is it that we’re 100% sure that either Zhaire, Shake, or Thybulle will be a solid, calming presence come next April? Even if you think those things are likely enough that you’d take the risk in return for the 1-2% chance Schofield is a really helpful player before his first contract expires... are you so confident that’s the right answer that the Sixers’ seeing it differently is proof of their cluelessness? I just don’t get it.

If it isn’t Ennis, then whom? Not Scott, a real professional who showed he can be counted on to be playable deep into the postseason. Right? Not the hypothetical backup center and PG, right? Clearly this team needs a competent ballhandler to get us through the regular season without overworking Ben and Jimmy. And the lack of a decent playoff center forced us to play Joel to the point of collapse in game 7. We don’t want to ditch those guys for AS, do we? But then whom? Bolden and Shake? But those are exactly the kinds of guys the critics are saying we want more of, not fewer! The roster above has the starting lineup from last year, a playoff-plausible backup for each spot in Barea-Lamb-Ennis-Scott-McGee, plus four unproven kids. Doesn’t that seem just about right? Can we at least agree that if Grandma and Elton are right that every dollar counts, and so we can only afford 14 guys, that we don’t want two more second rounders? Or three?! Suppose we had followed the advice of the Hive and we’d gotten lucky, with Thybulle falling to us so that we obtained Thybulle and also Carson Edwards, Bruno Fernando, and Admiral Schofield. That’s four roster spots, add Shake, Jonah, Zhaire and you’re at seven of the 14. Now we have our five starters, so we’re at 12. You’ve got two roster spots left to cover non-Jonah backup center, backup PG, backup PF, and any non-kid wings you’d like to have come playoff time. It’s pretty clearly a disaster in the making. The more I play with the roster options, the more I understand what Elton was talking about when he said that you can’t just have young guys on the playoff roster.

Now, there’s another scenario where we lose Tobi and JJ, in which case we might not keep Scott or Ennis either. Then we’d have $30M or so to fill out the roster, and it’s hard to predict whom we’ll go after. Maybe there are scenarios out there where we’ll wish we had Admiral, and if one of those occurs, we’ll assess the damage. But Elton actually knows stuff about how likely those scenarios are. Perhaps his willingness to push pick 34 into the future is evidence he thinks he has enough talented players to fill out the roster. Indeed I say it is evidence the front office thinks that. Maybe they’ll turn out to be wrong, in which case the critics can make their case that if only we’d sacrificed the cap space so we could have made Pick 42 all would be well. But for now, it seems to me that the only thing a logical fan should be bothered by is the selling of pick 57, and that should bother us about as much as a mid-October loss to the Pacers.

What’s so frustrating about all this is: we should be full of joy! We just drafted Matisse Thybulle, who has the potential to replace Rock Covington on the hardwood and in our hearts! We’re heading into a free agency period that is scary but also full of potential. The team was a lucky bounce and five good minutes away from facing a very beatable Bucks squad in the ECF. I want to wallow in all the good vibes, but all I see online and in the podcasts is doom and gloom. And all of it over things that either are wrong, might be wrong, or are entirely trivial. I say, buck up, little buckaroo!