Welcome back to the 9th edition of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag, 2015 edition! You can check out our previous installments at our story stream.
Q: Jason Richardson. I am perplexed that he has not played in two years, but seems to never have been in jeopardy of losing his roster spot. Please explain.
There are a couple of potential reasons.
First, if he doesn't play, he saves the team money. Quite a bit of it. I talked about this a few mailbags ago.
Second, he is around the team, and I do think they value veterans, perhaps more than we give them credit for. This year is largely a try-out, but using up two spots for guys who can impart some of their experience down to the young players doesn't seem like something they're against.
Finally, he is legitimately working out and trying to return. Coming into the season, he fully expected to return, but then suffered a set back (stress fracture in his foot) which wasn't related to his original injury that caused him to miss last year. Even after that, his hope is to return, and probably quicker than many think. Gordie Jones over at CSN Philly had a good look at how he's working his way back. He's regularly shooting after practices and before games, and he looks to be in better shape than he was a few months ago, which to me is his biggest impediment to his being able to play NBA basketball.
I think it's a combination of all of that. If he doesn't return, the Sixers could get considerable financial savings, and get his veteran experience to help the young kids learn the nuances of the league. If they cut him, they not only lose that experience and mentor-ship, but they also lose the ability to make any insurance claims. And if he plays, his experience can help the team out even further. I think one of the things this team lacks is communication on the court, and perhaps somebody with his experience can help Brett Brown get people in the right places on the floor by communicating during the game.
Q: Can you somehow explain in very simple language what picks the Sixers have in this up coming draft.
I setup a wiki page to track this (and other things). To summarize, I believe the situation is currently as follows
- 76ers first round pick (unless we magically make the playoffs)
- Heat first round pick (unless it's in the top 10)
- Warriors 2nd round pick
- Rockets 2nd round pick
- Pelicans 2nd round pick
- Magic 2nd round pick
Q: I'm in the market for a new jersey and not sure whether to go with MCW, Nerlens, or Embiid. It would appear that these guys will be around awhile (a big factor in deciding which jersey to buy) Or should I scrap that altogether and just go with a throwback Iverson (who is also my fav Sixer of all-time). Thoughts?
I'm not a huge jersey guy, but I tend to go for guys who will be timeless. The last two jerseys I bought were Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook, and both were approaching 30 by the time that I bought them. I like to wait and find out which jerseys become timeless. I don't feel any shame in wearing a retired players jersey on the rare circumstances that I do wear one.
That being said, if you do go for a current player, I'd go Embiid. Barring an absolutely catastrophic injury, I think he has the best chance of being here 10 years, and by a considerable margin.
Q: Now that we’re a good bit into the college basketball season and you’ve had a chance to form some initial impressions on the top players, from a pure skill set perspective, how do you feel Embiid compares to the top bigs in this years draft?
(Related question from @StevieDeLuca)
Great question! Starting this week I'm going to include my Sixers-focused top 10 big board in the weekly mailbags. I'll sprinkle in Embiid into where I would rank him.
(Hint: it's at the top)
Q: Could you explain the pick coming from the Heat? Do you think it will vest this year? Will it harm the rebuild if it doesn't?
It's top 10 protected in 2015, top 10 in protected in the 2016 draft, and fully unprotected in the 2017 NBA draft.
So, if the Heat pick ends up in the top 10 this year, it doesn't vest. If it ends up in the top 10 in 2015 and 2016, then we get it in the 2017 draft no matter what.
I tend to be a gambling man with these extra picks. The thought of getting an aging Heat's unprotected #1 pick in 2017 intrigues the ever living you-know-what out of me. I tend to think that Wade and Bosh find a way to get into the playoffs one of these two years, and I think if their injury situation continues to go on like it is and it ends up in the top 10 this year we'll just get a mid-first in 2016. But I wouldn't be devastated if we didn't get it this year.
Q: What is the deal with Embiid being sent home from the road-trip? I've read the official account, but let's be real. Did he aggravate his foot? Is his foot doing better and they want to accelerate his recovery so he can play this year? Did he get himself in trouble?
Well, we'll never know the answer to this, at least not until well after the fact. I can ask as many people in the organization what the real deal is, and I've asked a few, and we're getting the company answer every time we ask it.
I wasn't with the team on their road trip, so I didn't see how Embiid was moving before he was sent back. I do think it's a little bit odd that they didn't plan on not having an optimal conditioning environment for him on an extended road trip, but right now I'm taking the at their word until I have more reason not to. With Brett Brown's focus on conditioning, I don't think it's impossible, or even unlikely, that this is his primary concern right now.
Q: Will Hinkie match an above-market value deal for KJ?
This will be very interesting to watch unfold. It's hard at this point to even really define market value for KJ. With a huge qualification that I'd prefer to see the rest of the season unfold before really defining what market-value is, I do think that, with the Sixers plethora of cap space this upcoming year, the rising cap due to the national television deal, and the Sixers dearth of talent (particularly on the wings), Hinkie would match a slightly above-market deal for KJ. But we first really have to define what above-market would be, and that's hard to do right now.
Q: What are your expectations for Embiid next year in terms of production and games played?
Just throwing numbers out there, 65 games played, 27 minutes per night, 11 points, 7.5 boards, 1.5 blocks, 1 assist. Hopefully the games will be higher, but I'm remaining pessimistic so that my expectations are exceeded, while keeping in mind they'll probably play it conservative with him and minor, nagging injuries. Overall production likely relatively similar to what he put up at Kansas, actually. I expect a big jump in year two, both in minutes and production.
Q: What is going on with Kirilenko ?
He's up in NYC with his pregnant wife, who is virtually bed-ridden due to complications with her pregnancy, the exact details of which haven't been revealed.
I do think that his desire to be with his wife is a big part of this. Might his lack of desire to play for a rebuilding team play into his willingness to leave his wife's side? Possibly. But his personal situation is legitimate.
The Sixers want him to play so they can flip him at the deadline. He wants to play for a winning team. Ultimately, both of their goals are accomplished by Kirilenko playing for the Sixers. I think he'll realize they won't cut him until after the deadline anyway, so, should his personal situation get resolved, I think he'll play for the team. That being said, the whole league knows the Sixers will waive him after the trade deadline anyway, so I'd be surprised if there was significant gain from this anyway.
Q: Which Sixer has done the most so far this season to alter your opinion of his potential?
The obvious ones. Covington and McDaniels. McDaniels, despite his inconsistency, is showing future-starter potential, a great thing for a second round pick. And Covington, despite struggles of late, is looking like a legitimate offensive player and a rotation player.
You want the answer to this to be MCW, Wroten, or Noel, and I don't think they've really done anything to alter the evaluations that you had of them heading into the year. That's not to say I'm disappointed in Noel. Not at all, actually. He's played very well on the defensive end, which is what we hoped for. But I don't think many peoples expectations of Noel have changed, they've just been confirmed, which is a good thing.
Q: MCW on his contract or Wroten on his, you can only have one.
Contract isn't a huge factor at this point. MCW has $2.4m next year (an option that was already picked up), and $3.18m in 2016-17, an option that is almost guaranteed to be picked up. Wroten has one year left at $2.179m, an option that was picked up this past fall. MCW's contract is better to me, despite being for a higher annual value, because it delays the amount of time before having to make a long term decision.
And I'm nowhere near ready to make a long term decision on either. It's no secret that I'm not MCW's biggest fan, but I'm even less of a fan of Wroten. The decision making and perimeter shooting could be fatal flaws for both of them, particularly in the confines of playing with a dominant post player and as a 3rd or 4th option. I do think MCW is better at hitting guys in their spots and the better passer overall. That, combined with his extra year before making a long term decision, if I had to cut one I'd cut Wroten.
(To be clear, I'm not advocating cutting Wroten. No reason not to let his contract play out and see if he can improve, as the potential's there to make it worthwhile).
Q: Do you think there is real concern about RFAs not signing an offer sheet with the Sixers?
I'd really have to take a hard look at a bunch of teams upcoming cap situation to really answer that. I do think that money is the ultimate factor for more players than are willing to admit, which is part of what frustrates me over the CBA and how it handles free agency. That being said, the Sixers will have to have the best offer for many of these guys, which makes it risky.
If the Sixers offer the best contract, I don't think our chances are as dire as some.
My Sixers-focused Top 10 Draft Board
I'm going to start including my big board at the bottom of the weekly mailbags. I have some thoughts here this week, but in future weeks it will be more concise, only really talking if something happened to change my rankings. Also, in parenthesis I've included where I would rank some of our current assets if they were in the this upcoming draft, although with the caveat of what we know now about their games, not necessarily just how they were rated coming into their respective drafts
Also, huge qualification: this is early. Very early. With many of these guys freshman, we're talking about a dozen out of conference games. This is not enough to make an informed evaluation. I believe my opinion is informed with the data given, but these are impressions more-so than rankings. I believe that anybody who thinks they have everything figured out at this stage of the game is doing themselves, and their viewers, a disservice. We don't have to make decisions until much later, thankfully. Again, these are impressions. They're sure to change by the time the draft gets here.
(Joel Embiid would go here)
1) Jahlil Okafor - The top of the draft is very interesting. I'm putting Okafor here, but it would be classified as "too close to call" if this were a poll. I absolutely love a big man who can command a double team and confidently pass out of it. I'm not sure if Okafor can defend the 4, but his ability to score in the post and ability to pass out of that is so advanced that I'm willing to take the chance. I've said before, but the worst position the Sixers can find themselves in is after three years they still don't a dominant player, and putting all their eggs in one basket (Joel Embiid) by trying to find the best fit with Embiid could be risky. In this draft, I have the most confidence in Okafor becoming a dominant post player. But it's a close race between Okafor and Towns. They're really the two in this draft I see as having the highest likelihood of becoming dominant.
2) Karl Towns - That being said, if there's one thing that I like as much as a post scorer who can pass out of it, it's a two way big man, and Towns has that ability in spades. Not nearly as advanced in the post, but his feel on the perimeter, shot blocking, and overall defensive versatility are much more advanced than Okafor's, and he offers great passing as well. I hate comparisons, but he kind of reminds me of Rasheed Wallace in his inside-out game combined with long arms, good build, and athleticism. But a better rebounding Sheed without the attitude problems.
3) Kristaps Porzingis - He has really improved this year. I think he's a 4, but he's the type who could fit perfectly next to Embiid, and has more than enough potential to impact games on both sides of the court to justify this spot. For those worried about whether two post-up bigs can work together, he's potentially your answer.
(Nerlens Noel would go here. Probably. At least until I get a better look at Mudiay).
4) Emmanuel Mudiay - I'll admit that he has the possibility to really jump on my board once I get the chance to watch more of what he did in China. That being said, I wasn't 100% sold on what he did in high school, and enough people have impressed me this year to drop him just a bit down to #4.
5) Stanley Johnson - Of the wings, I'm most confident at this time on Johnson. He has excellent size and defensive tools, has been consistent with his outside shot, and has shown more offensively than I expected, despite being very young for his class (he'll turn 19 just a month before the 2015 draft).
6) Mario Hezonja - The best fit offensively among the options on the wing, and he's been playing better of late.
7) Justise Winslow - Putting Winslow this low feels wrong, and I don't really view it as a negative comment about him as a prospect. He could easily end up being top 5 when all is said and done.
(Dario Saric would go here, although that could change as we get more on Oubre and Russell)
8) Kelly Oubre - Oubre started the year off really poorly, with sporadic playing time, and he was ineffective in the few minutes he did get. But his minutes have become more stable of late (at least 23 in each of the last 3 games), and he's had performances of 23 points, 10 rebounds and 20 points, 7 rebounds in those games, albeit against weak competition. He's another one to keep your eye on, and one that could jump considerably.
9) D'Angelo Russell - has the ability to play both guard positions, showing point guard-like ability to control the game with a reliable outside shot. At least at this stage of the game, he's probably the second best point guard prospect in the draft, has the skill sets to either play with Michael Carter-Williams or replace him, depending on the direction the team goes.
(Michael Carter-Williams would go around here, although this is in large part due to questionable fit of WCS and Turner. As pure prospects, I would probably put them higher).
10) Willie Cauley-Stein - Putting WCS this low seems criminal. He's played very well for quite some time, and has really been playing well since Nerlens Noel went down with his injury, but hes turned into a defensive monster this season. That being said, this is one of those situations where fit really impacts draft stock, and this being a Sixers-centric draft board, I can't see much of a situation where the Sixers took WCS.
(11 would be Myles Turner. His production has been incredible, but the competition has not been. Turner has feasted on a rather weak out-of-conference schedule, and has struggled to have that same impact when going up against NBA caliber big men in games against Kentucky, Stanford, and UConn. He could move up, and he's a lottery talent based on physical profile alone, but I'm not convinced enough to vault him up as high as some have)
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.