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Sixers Mailbag Volume 6 - Joel Embiid, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, and wins!

In the 6th edition of the LibertyBallers Sixers mailbag, we talk about the upsides of the Sixers prized possessions, whether Brett Brown is actually a good coach, and point-JaKarr.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of the week again, where we return for volume 6 of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag.

You can check out our previous installments of the Sixers Mailbags at our Story Stream.

Ladies and gentleman, the Sixers won a game! The Sixers won a game! The Sixers have won a game!

The Sixers have an amazing ability to stay out of the record books, first avoiding the longest losing streak ever when they beat the Pistons last year after 26 consecutive losses, and now falling one short of tying the NBA record for worst start of the season.

Which also limits the amount of media interest in the club, both nationally and locally. They won't be an interesting story again until they challenge 9-73. Which is fine. For us, however, life goes on, including the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag.


Q: I feel like with all the losing, the narrative between the supporters of the plan has switched from "don't worry we have a bunch of assets to create our future core" to "don't worry Embiid is our savior". How fair is it, to a) put such a heavy burden on a 20 yer old kid, who won't step on the court until he's 21 and b) disregard the relative failures of some of the assets already playing (MCW, Noel, Thompson...)?

Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I was never as high on Michael Carter-Williams as others were, and have always had my doubts on his ability to be a franchise point guard. He was better last year than I expected, but when I took a look at his jump shot last year, I noted how I still worried about how his lack of a jump shot, struggles off the pick and roll, and propensity to turn the ball over would fit in an offense where other star(s) are dominating the ball. I also said that I thought Dante Exum would end up becoming the better player.

I also noted back in February of last year how I'm not heading into the 2014 draft looking for a guy who necessarily fits with Noel and MCW. As much as I liked those players, they were never my franchise guys, my saviors. My hope was that they could grow their skill sets to fit a complementary role. I was higher on Noel, as I think he has the upside to one day anchor a defense, but I openly questioned whether we would maximize his value next to Joel Embiid. Yet, despite that, I always had Joel Embiid at the top of my big boards, from February's big board right up through the day before the draft.

So, for me, the narrative never changed. I always questioned whether MCW could improve enough shooting the ball to be a franchise point guard, always thought Noel could develop into a defensive game changer, and always had Embiid ranked as the guy in the draft with legitimate franchise player potential, and the key to the Sixers rebuild, at least among players currently on the roster.

As for others? Hard to say. I would say some people changed their tune after the draft. I don't think many expected us to be able to get a legitimate franchise big man, so the thought was barely entertained, and instead you focus on what you do have. And some certainly changed their tune after rough (in MCW's case) or inconsistent (in Noel's case) starts to the season.

And if they did, shame on you. Good or bad, incredible or terrible, 7-10 games from players who had not played competitive basketball in a long time should not change your opinion. If you thought MCW was great after last season, you should still think he's great. If you were concerned his jump shot would always hold him back from being great, you should still be concerned. But we're human, so I think some people couldn't help but react to how poorly he played to start the season.


Q: What's your opinion on how injuries, especially non-freak ones, (or a lost season) affect upside? Will next year's Embiid have the same upside compared to the one we saw last year prior to the injuries? What's the cost of the lack of practice and in-game experience for such a young player? And how confident are you that Embiid will be healthy for the next decade (i know you are very high on him)?

That's tough, especially for an injury like the Navicular bone that Embiid suffered. There are enough examples where guys came back to be dominant, and enough examples where guys were never the same, to not really know for sure. My main push for Embiid was because of my confidence in his skills. I was more comfortable losing out on the potential of Wiggins, Parker, and Exum than I was on losing out on the potential of Embiid. That I'd rather roll the dice with injuries (that some have successfully come back from to be great) than I was rolling the dice on players who I didn't think had that potential.

But, I will say, for as athletic as Embiid is, I think even if he's never the same athlete, his footwork, fluidity, size, and emerging skill level, he could still be a very, very good player even without his unique explosiveness. His upside could drop and I still think he could end up being the best player from last years draft. The key is really whether he can stay on the court.


Q: Can you talk about Furkan Aldemir a little? Will he be better at guarding 4's or 5's? Would he fit next to Noel? How is his pick n roll D? O? I know he can't shoot, but does he bring any other offensive skills other than rebounding? Passing? Is he coming over?

He's a little undersized to be guarding 5's full time. He's also a little slow laterally to be guarding some of the 4's in the league on the perimeter. He can probably defend either position adequately, but won't really be a plus at either one. You may want him playing the 5 just to keep him in better defensive rebounding position, though.

He has good technique defending the pick and roll, but, again, he's not the quickest laterally, so I do think he's going to struggle at times with that.

Offensively? He sets good picks on the perimeter, and looks to dive at every opportunity, which is where he gets most of his non-offensive-rebounding half-court offense. He has good hands and goes hard to the basket, but he's not the most explosive player for an NBA big man, and might struggle to finish consistently around the hoop. As you said, he has virtually no outside shot or real perimeter skills.

His rebounding, on both ends of the court, probably earns him an NBA roster spot, but I think he's a 10-15 minute per game role player in the NBA. I like him, but I think the expectations might be a little bit unrealistically high.


Q: So, is there a chance that Brett Brown is actually a really bad coach? I understand developing talent but if that's the case, why the hell is Mbah a Moute starting, or even playing for that matter?

A bad coach? I don't think Greg Popovich would have kept him employed for 15+ seasons if he were a bad coach.

But, is he miscast as a head coach? I don't think so, but it's not impossible. The truth is, we really have no idea at this point.

As for player development, K.J. McDaniels is playing roughly 33 minutes per night over his last 4 games, and just under 30 per night since he played 11 minutes in the game against Boston. Luc Mbah a Moute is playing 25 minutes per night since Boston. Could Mbah a Moute play a little bit less at the 4 to open up minutes for Robert Covington, who Brown doesn't like defending small forwards? Sure. But there's nothing to suggest that Brett Brown can't develop talent because Luc Mbah a Moute is playing. While Mbah a Moute is frustrating to watch, this issue is completely overblown.


Q: Is next year the year they draft guys that play for the team next year and actually go after "role player" free agents?

(Related question):


Q: We miss a shooter, but do you think we will acquire one by FA or via draft?

Yes, I honestly believe it is.

I think the Sixers are going to want to do the following before they have to re-up Embiid:

1) Show that Embiid and/or the 2015 draft pick are legitimate, future franchise players

2) Get the Sixers, on the backs of those two guys, to the point where they're starting to show themselves as a legitimate team

If Embiid plays next year, and the top 4 from the 2015 draft plays next year, and they're able to use their cap space on a key piece this offseason, I think you could see the Sixers drastically jump towards respectability, and thus increase greatly as a potential free agent destination.

I've talked about going after Jimmy Butler in a previous mailbag. While I'm still not sure I see Chicago refusing to match an offer, it's absolutely something I could see Hinkie doing. If this team goes into next offseason with Embiid, a 2015 top-3 pick, and Butler, I think the trek back to legitimacy is going to be much quicker than some people expect.

And in order to greatly improve, they're going to start to need to get guys who complement Embiid and/or 2015 pick. I don't think the "no-shooters" approach to roster building is actually how Sam Hinkie intends to build his team, but I think it's an effort to find an undervalued asset who can be greatly improved upon by learning a teachable skill. If it works out for one or two of these guys, then great. But I do think shooters are going to be a trait the front office eventually starts to value, and I think it could be as soon as this offseason.


Q: How would you rank the draft picks Carter-Williams, Noel, Saric, and Embiid, in terms of looking at the future and how much they can contribute individually?

In terms of prospects, I go Embiid, then Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, then Saric. I think there's a pretty big gap between Embiid and Noel, and a decent gap between Noel and MCW/Saric. I had Saric rated as a better prospect than MCW heading into the draft, but with what MCW has shown since he's been in the league, I'd probably put him above Saric as a prospect.

(Note: I have more concerns about Saric defensively than some, even if I absolutely love his offensive game. I had him rated 9th heading into the draft. A good, intriguing prospect, but one that i have some concerns about).

Now, in terms of the Sixers future? I'd probably go Embiid, then Saric, then Noel, then MCW. I think fit with Embiid is big here, and I have huge concerns with Noel's ability to be enough of an offensive threat to not hurt Embiid. That being said, I'm going to hedge my statement here. I go back and forth on Saric and Noel, as Noel's defensive potential is so incredible and so unique that I'd be incredibly cautious of moving on from, even if somebody offered incredible value, and even if he may not maximize that potential by playing next to Embiid, and out of the paint, more than I'd like. And I question MCW's ability as both a catch and shoot and pick and roll player to truly excel as a point guard next to Embiid. On the flip side, I think Saric's skill set fits in perfect next to Joel.


Q: Was Jakarr at point the spark for the Sixers win?

Absolutely. Did you not watch the game?


Q: Could the Cavaliers beat the Sixers in a best of 7?

Man, that's tough. I'd probably go Cavs in 6, but if JaKarr can run the point like he did last night, it could tip the scale in the Sixers favor.


Q: Can you give your breakdown of your choices for the 4th pick if Okafor, Towns and Mudiay are gone in

Oh man. That's depressing as all heck. I look at these players and evaluate them in case they fall, or in case Sam Hinkie is able to move up to be in a place where he can acquire them along with their own top. But I'd be more than a little bit deflated if the Sixers aren't drafting in the top 3, even if I know there's a very real possibility of that happening. But I'll deal with that scenario after the lottery if I have to.

The guys who will most frequently show up as options for the 4th pick include incredible defensive wings in Justise Winslow of Duke and Stanley Johnson from Arizona, wings Kelly Oubre and Mario Hezonja, who are getting limited playing time for Kansas and in Barcelona, respectively, and an incredibly athletic 7 footer in Kristaps Porzingis, who is drawing rave reviews, and who I wrote about over the summer. Kevon Looney (UCLA) and Myles Turner (Texas) are two freshman big men who have been incredible to start the seeason. I'm going to need more time to really rank them, or to get too in-depth profiling them, especially as many haven't played all that much yet this season, but they're ones to keep your eye on.

That will wrap it up. Thanks to everybody who submitted questions, and my apologies if I didn't answer yours. If you want to submit a question for next week, either hit me up on twitter (include #sixersmailbag in the tweet) or send me an email.

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