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Sixers Mailbag Volume 1 - Roster Decisions, Draft, MCW's Jump Shot, And More

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We're going to start up a weekly Sixers mailbag. Here is the first iteration, as we head into year 2 of the Sam Hinkie era.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With the season now starting, we've decided to run a weekly mailbag, which will run every Thursday. Please either email me or send me a question on twitter for upcoming mailbags.

Since this is the first mailbag, it's going to be a little bit longer than normal, as we address offseason and training camp related questions, and it's less focused on what has happened during the past week. Still, feel free to ask more long-term questions going forward, as that will obviously be a big part of the interest around the Sixers going forward.

Roster Questions

ThaOneNOnly [reddit]

Q: I remember during Hinkies' post draft press conference he mentioned that while MCW shot poorly in college, he actually shot pretty well in high school and I've seen it mentioned from time to time that his actual shooting form is actually pretty decent. Well I recently saw an interview with MCW (pretty sure it was on Sixers.com) and when he was asked about his recent surgery for that torn labrum, he mentioned that he's had it since his freshman year of college and has been dealing with the pain since then.
So putting all that together, do you think that his poor shooting through college and the NBA so far could have actually been a result of that lingering injury?

This is a great question, because improving Michael Carter-Williams' jump shot is so integral to the Sixers future, because the long-standing shoulder injury was such new information, and because it's impossible to know exactly how much it it impacted his mechanics and effectiveness.

I wrote last summer about some concerns I had with MCW's footwork. The coaching staff has also spent the summer working on improving his guide hand. I also tend to think he wrests the ball too deep in his palm at times. All of these are form issues that I don't think are necessarily related to his shoulder injury, but it's impossible to know for sure. We haven't seen him shooting off the dribble too much so far in practice, so it's tough to say how much progress he's made on his footwork, but I would still say that his hand placement is a little bit inconsistent from what I've seen. It's hard to say for sure, but I'd have a hard time pinning all of the inconsistencies in his form on his shoulder injury.

Lorax1515 [reddit]

Q: What do you anticipate in terms of minutes for KJ McDaniels this season? I realize it's premature to expect him to crack the starting line up any time soon, but is 20-25 min a night reasonable?

To start the season, I'd say 20-25 is a reasonable expectation, considering the emphasis Brown is placing on defense this season, and McDaniels' relative upside relative to many of the other pieces on this roster. It wouldn't surprise me if he's starting fairly early in the season, though. Brett Brown might like a calming influence in the starting lineup, which is why I expect Luc Mbah a Moute to start once he gets back, but I can see K.J. starting by 2015.

digiskunk [reddit]

Q: What sort of impact do you predict newcomers such as Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson will make, either short-term or long-term?

I was not a fan of Grant's coming out of college, and wasn't in love with his selection at 39. I like JaKarr, he has good physical tools and a good work ethic, but he has quite a bit of perimeter development to go before he can really play the wing in the NBA, and he struggles at times to play within his limitations. Both have the physical tools to make it worth trying to develop them, but I would set your expectations fairly low on both of them, and any real contribution they make is gravy.

JohnJohnsonJohansen [reddit]

Q: What do you think of the roster cuts/trades before opening night? I feel like Williams and Teague would have been pretty inconsequential, but I kinda wish we kept Moultrie to see if he could have showed us anything.

I'm not a big fan of Marquis Teague. I think he had a long way to go to become an NBA point guard. He has physical talent, and if he had the work ethic it may have been worth while keeping him around for the year to see if he can make anything out of it, but I couldn't see them picking up his 4th year option (which had to be decided upon by the end of the month). I'm not losing a whole lot of sleep over the fact that they didn't keep him around.

Moultrie it wasn't so much about talent, but culture and dependability. This is speculation, as nobody from the team has told me why he was traded, but I have heard enough rumblings from people in the league about Moultrie, combined with his issues staying in shape, the suspensions, and some of his comments last season, that I'm not sure there was a whole lot of trust in him going forward.

Williams I thought was surprising. He seemed like he was making progress this preseason, particularly on his jump shot. And with so few ball handlers and legitimate wing players, I never even prepared for the possibility that he wouldn't make it.

WarRoomPHLSteve [reddit]

Q: How do you see the lineup forming in the future with the current prospects that the Sixers have? Obviously if everyone pans out as expected we have Embiid and Noel in the middle and MCW at the point. Is Dario Saric capable of playing SF defensively or will he be a sixth man?
Additionally, the Sixers have passed on shooters multiple times in order to acquire athletic wings with defensive prowess. Is the belief that Brown will be able to teach these players to shoot, as opposed to teaching a shooter to play defense?

I think Dario Saric would be a 6th man.

That being said, I do think Embiid and Noel will not play as much together as many expect. They'll start the game and the half playing together, but I think Brown is going to try to keep an elite shot blocker on the court as much as possible. That means one of the two (probably Noel) will go to the bench relatively early, then come in towards the end of the quarter when the other one needs a break.

With this in mind, I think Saric is a great fit next to both. His jump shot is still a work in progress -- it's looked good from midrange so far, but he hasn't had much success from three point territory so far with Efes -- but his combination of ball handling, passing, and hopefully by the time he comes over a somewhat reliable jumper, will be a really good fit with both Noel and Embiid. The high-low action between those two, and the ability for both to hit cutters with timely passes, is great to think about.

@NBA_Spen [twitter]

Q: If you could make a diet plan for Nerlens Noel to put on weight, would you make his primary food a Philly Cheesesteak?

Hah. Oh, Spencer.

While I know this is a joke, I'm guessing they're hoping to have a higher protein, less fat diet for Noel.

@mikelaskey [twitter]

Q: Why do you think the Sixers cut Elliot Williams?

@Sixers_Fan1243 [twitter]

Q: Why chris Johnson instead of elliot?

Addressing both of the questions above with one answer.

Wish I knew. I sent around a few texts after I found out to try to see if I could find anything. Maybe there was some cultural or work ethic thing that I didn't know about? But everybody I talked to said he was a great kid. I honestly have no idea. If I get a chance to get Sam on the record about this, I'll let you guys know.

@nick_49s [twitter]

Q: Did we trade Vuc because Doug loved lavoy so much?

I don't think it had to do with Vuc vs Lavoy, at least from our end. I think Orlando legitimately wanted Vucevic. Was there a way, any way, the Sixers could have finished the deal without including Vucevic? I'm not sure. But I do know that Vucevic was high on Orlando's list of wants in that deal.

j_alt [reddit]

Last year we saw the Sixers take chances on lots of young players who were never able to live up to their potential or never got chances to play to see who could become effective role players in the NBA. Of the new players on the team this year, who do you see being able to establish them self as at least a role player in the NBA?

I would get used to players not working out. People frequently cite that 2nd round picks only work out 5-10% of the time, so why stockpile them? It's because they only work out 5-10% of the time that Sam is stockpiling them. If teams are going to give away basically free second round picks, the more you have the more chance you have of actually getting a useful player.

It's similar to the top of the draft. Yeah, you're much more likely to get a long term contributor in the top 5, but getting a superstar is still far from a guarantee. Whether it's due to injury, the lottery gods not favoring you, a miss in scouting, or just a draft where there aren't any franchise players available, things can go wrong. So, you get as many chances as you can. It's not just trying to find multiple superstars (although that is obviously the preferrable outcome), but also about risk diversification. 5 top 11 picks over 3 seasons provides that.

As for the newcomers, I think K.J. has the best chance to be a long term contributor. I actually think he has a fairly good chance. At DraftExpress, we had K.J. ranked 22nd when the college season ended, so we liked him quite a bit.

I've also been impressed with Malcolm Thomas. He really looks like he's diversified his offensive game since San Diego State. I haven't had a chance to watch his D-League games from last year yet, but just looking at his jump shot in practice, it looks true. If he has added three point range to his shot blocking, he has some intrigue.

j_alt [reddit]

Q: With the roster effectively gutted, who can we trade for more 2nd round picks?

Oh, you can alwyas trade for more 2nd round picks.

Most of these trades don't involve the Sixers sending out pieces. They involve something, because NBA rules stipulate that they have to send out something. This could be guys like Arnett Moultrie or Casper Ware, who were not likely to be on the roster much longer anyway, or heavily protected 2nd round picks that the Sixers will never actually trade away.

But having gutted the roster doesn't really impact their ability to acquire more second round picks, which they're mostly doing out of their ability to help teams shed contracts (Travis Outlaw) and/or gain trade exceptions (Hasheem Thabeet).

The Draft

015unknown [reddit]

Q: If the Sixers get the number 1 pick and the unanimous number 1 pick is Okafor, how do you think Hinkie handles this situation?

That depends on a lot of factors.

First, it depends on how Nerlens Noel plays this year and how indispensable Hinkie feels he is when the season ends.

Second, it depends on how far Okafor has separated himself from the rest of the pack. More important, it depends what the ultimate upside Hinkie projects Okafor to have. Being the top ranked in a class is less relevant than their overall ability relative to the league.

It's just impossible to say. If Hinkie views Okafor as a potentially dominant player, I wouldn't rule out him drafting him. If he's just barely the best player in the class and maxes out as a potential all-star, don't rule out trading down.

ImJustAMan [reddit]

Q: Do any college prospects jump out to you as good potential fits for the Sixers/ "Hinkle picks"?

Too early to say. Right now at DraftExpress, the top 7 US-based prospects are all freshman, and I want more time to really scout them before saying.

Karl Towns, Kelly Oubre, Justice Winslow and Stanley Johnson all fit the profile, to some degree. How much these guys separate themselves against college competition will be interesting to watch this year.

joecity856 [reddit]

Q: Can Emmanuel Mudiay by far the best guard prospect in the draft play the 2 in the NBA?

I never really worry about having too many ball handlers in a lineup. Having duplicates of that skill set is not a problem.

Where it does become a problem is whether they *need* the ball to be effective. Can they cut off the ball? Can they operate in a catch and shoot? Is there enough floor spacing between the two for them to be effective?

From what I've seen, Mudiay has a ton of talent getting to the rim off the pick and roll. He also has struggled in the past with his outside shot. Those two things make me wonder if he'd really reach his ultimate upside playing alongside MCW. But, I do think he has the tools to defend multiple positions, so he has that working in his favor. It really comes down to how much progress he makes with Guangdong this season and how his jump shot comes along. It may come down to whether you think he's a better overall talent and easier to build around than MCW. Ultimately, I haven't seen enough to know for sure whether he'll be able to co-exist with, or whether he's worth drafting to replace. They're both questions I'm going to monitor throughout the season.

@Mr_McCann4 [twitter]

Q: With Okafor and Towns battling it out for number one, is there a SG or SF worth taking in say the top 3?

See above. Mudiay is the most likely, but I'll have to see more to know for sure.

@JakeMarc23 [twitter]

Q: Do the Sixers have the Heat's first round pick in the upcoming draft?

As long as it doesn't fall in the top 10, yes. If it does fall in the top 10, then they will get it in the 2016 draft, again assuming it doesn't fall within the top 10. Finally, if it falls in the top 10 in both 2015 and 2016, they will get it in 2017, regardless of where it falls.

LeM1stre [reddit]

Q: Will Hinkie just continue to draft bigs until he hits, thinking he can fill out the rest of the roster once he has those pieces in place?

I don't think it's necessarily a big thing. I think he's drafting the best player. It just so happened that the last two drafts, the near-consensus best player in the draft fell on draft night due to injury concerns. Other teams are operating on a different timeline, so that impacts their decision more.

If Okafor is rated by Hinkie as by far the best player and he falls to the Sixers? I wouldn't dismiss the possibility of him being drafted. But I don't think they're necessarily targeting bigs, I think they're targeting talent.

Team Building / Leaguewide questions

@The_answer_5 [twitter]

Q: Are the sixers being too bold in their tanking efforts? Could they make a signing or two to improve and still suck?

No.

I don't really believe in doing something half-assed just because some in the public aren't ready to accept it.  It makes more sense to use the roster spots -- and playing time, a valuable, scarce commodity in the NBA -- rather than on veterans who don't want to be here, just to pacify the mob.

And I think that last point is key. The Sixers are able to maintain a positive culture despite losing because of the youth on the team. These are kids who just want a sniff in the NBA, who want a chance to show that they belong. They're going to work hard, give effort, and listen to coaches. Established veterans may not view the spot the Sixers are in as an opportunity, and may be vocal about their displeasure. That may not be a good environment for our young kids to grow in.

@philly08865 [twitter]

Q: I know you have written about draft/salary cap reform before but could you tl;dr it for me?

Here's a tl;dr of the long version:

The league has minimized the effectiveness of free agency for teams that aren't attractive destinations due to maximum contracts, restricted free agency, and a soft cap. They have also reduced the risk at the top of the draft due to slotted rookie salaries, which they have made increasingly attractive with only the first two seasons being guaranteed. Teams tank not because they're bad people, but because it's their best avenue until they get a superstar. It's a reaction to the landscape the NBA has willingly created.

@philly08865 [twitter]

Q: Do you think there are teams that won't do deals with the sixers due to "outrage" over the way the team is running?

Absolutely not.

First, from those I've talked to, the outrage is more from the owners. There are some GM's who may not approve, but the vast majority understand why Hinkie is doing what he's doing. Furthermore, I get the sense that many are not mad at Hinkie, but jealous that they would not have the backing of their own ownership to see a strategy through. Josh Harris has given Hinkie an uncommon amount of leeway, which is critical for this plan to work.

Even if all of the GM's despised the Sixers strategy (which I don't believe is remotely true), none of this will cause GM's not to do deals with the Sixers. GM's are ultimately employed to do what is best for their own franchise, not to take a moral highground. If the Sixers present the best opportunity for another GM, he will take it.

@philly08865 [twitter]

Q: Would you be worried if you were a kings fan after some of the crazy the owner has shown? Seems over involved.

I'd only be worried if he actually overruled his management team. Making a suggestion, even outrageous ones, isn't ultimately a problem if he doesn't demand final say. He is an interesting one thus far, though, that's for sure.

Various

@Gator_Hokie [twitter]

Q: We're really looking forward to this season?

Absolutely.

Besides it being basketball, and it's impossible not to get excited for basketball, we also get to watch the development of Nerlens Noel, K.J. McDaniels gradual improvement of his jump shot, and MCW's continued growth. I think there's some excitement in that.