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Sixers Mailbag Volume 13 - Tony Wroten's Injury And The 2015 NBA Draft

In the 13th edition of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag, we talk about Tony Wroten's injury and take a look at a few of the prospects the Sixers could target in the 2015 NBA draft.

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Welcome back Sixers fans to version 13 of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag. You can check out our previous installments at our story stream.

We have a lot of questions to go over, so we'll jump right into the questions.


Could you talk about if SG Justin Anderson from the Wahoos would be a fit for 76ers with the Miami pick?

A strong 6'6" wing with a 6'11" wingspan, who can defend multiple positions, and is a knock-down catch and shoot player? Yeah, he'd probably be a fit.

Anderson's defensive ability, and ability to defend multiple positions, have always been evident, and his development into a consistent jump shooter (something he lacked in previous years) has sent his NBA prospects soaring. There are few better developments for returning prospects than Anderson's improved consistency from the perimeter.

Of wing players that could be available at that spot in the draft I would prefer Devin Booker, but Anderson's definitely an option there. He's been a very big part of Virginia's defense, which is as good as any defense in the country. He's not as freakishly athletic as guys like K.J. or Grant, but he'd be a steadier player, on both ends of the court.


While it is very unfortunate that Wroten will need to have ACL reconstruction surgery, do you think that this opens up an opportunity for Hinkie to sign him to a discounted extension this summer?  Would you do 3 years for $10 million?  4 years for $20 million?

Even with the rising salary cap, I honestly don't touch Wroten for either of those numbers. Besides the questions about whether, and when, he could come back from his injury and be the same physically, I'm just not enough of a Wroten believer, or confident in his ability to fit with Joel Embiid, to offer him a long term contract.

I don't see the demand for Wroten being high in the summer of 2016. I let him play out his final option year, prove that he can come back from the injury, see if he can make any progress on the jumper, and make decisions from there. If I had confidence in the improvement, yes, lock him up when you can at a low price. As it stands, it sounds more to me like buying a lottery ticket and hoping the ticket turns into more. I think he has to prove he's a long term fit before you prioritize shaving a million or two off of his average annual salary.

Noah (and Scott):

A few week ago, numerous European news outlets were indicating that Dario Saric doesn't necessarily have a two-year contract with Efes. Given what you know, what is the likelihood that he comes over next season?

Everything that I had been told is that he has very little chance of coming over this summer, and I have not been told anything that would change that.


Hey Derek I've been dreaming about D'Angelo Russell running the PnR with Embiid. Where do you see his fit with the Sixers and is he worthy of a top 3 selection?

I remember, after watching about a game or two of his at the beginning of the season, I remarked "man, if we could get him at the Miami pick, what a steal that would be." Not long after that, I moved him up to the top 10 in my big board. But #3? I'm not sure I'm ready to go there yet. I'm considering it, but I'm not 100% sold.

That's not to say that Russell isn't a fantastic basketball player. He is. He's incredibly, incredibly talented. My only concern is the quickness of his shooting release. Whenever there is a guy who is an average athlete, but shoots as well as Russell does off the dribble, he almost always gets compared to Stephen Curry.

And his release isn't Stephen Curry-quick. It's not slow by any means, and he does a great job with his footwork and balance to get the shot off despite constant pressure, but in order to succeed with that style of play it really needs to be exceptional. Sometimes the difference between effective and inconsistent, between translating that from working against Northwestern to working against the NBA, is that fraction of a second. I need to really study his shot more to see whether I think it's quick enough to translate (in a high volume) against NBA defenders.

And don't take this the wrong way: I'm not saying it isn't quick enough. In fact, I'm leaning to yes, and I'm leaning towards moving him into my top 5. I'm just not 100% there yet.

In terms of fit, his style of play fits in very well with Embiid and he's the type of player the Sixers desperately need in their core. He can shoot off the catch, he can clearly shoot off the dribble, and he can pass off the pick and roll, all skills the Sixers desperately need.

I also like that Russell isn't really a combo-guard in the traditional sense, which usually means somebody who plays like a shooting guard but should really be defending points. He's a guy who legitimately has the physical profile and talent to play two positions effectively. That's an incredible benefit when trying to build out a team.

I'm probably about the least exciting draft guy to follow, because I have almost no interest in being the first to an opinion, to beating the consensus, or to being sure of something in January. My only real goal is to be (relatively) confident in June. Or, at least, to be as informed as I can possibly be in June. So I apologize if I'm a little slow-moving at times.


How concerned are you about Okafor's low BLK+STL numbers? Is it an athleticism thing? An effort thing? Or is Okafor simply so skilled on offense that he'll just outplay his bad defense?

I'm not worried at all about his block and steal numbers.

I'm going to preface this by saying that this response is a little bit unfair. I know exactly what you mean, and you expanded on that in a follow-up question.

This was touched upon briefly in the comments in a past mailbag, but my background is in computer engineering, network and systems (Linux) engineering specifically. We use numbers all the time. There isn't a decision made that doesn't involve numbers. Data collection is a very big part of our world. If the website blips, we darned well better have the metrics to try to piece together *why* the website  blipped.

But the telling of *what* only provides limited value. Great, the page took 25 milliseconds longer to load than normal. Why did it take longer to load? Was the time spent in database queries? Or was it spent in the caching layer? Can you definitively know whether the round-trip time to get to and from the caching layer changed? Are we spending more time waiting on disk IO? Are more queries performing sequential scans than they were before? Did anybody make a change that you can correlate the increase to?

All of this is to say that stopping my investigation on 'what' is really no investigation at all, and I treat scouting, and basketball in general, the same way. Whenever I write, whenever I scout, my focus is on the why. Even if there's a predictive model that is *perfect*, that I buy in to 100%, I still want to know the *why* behind the numbers.

So when I address something like this, I never really try to address it as whether or not his low steal and block numbers concern me. I want to know why his steal and block numbers are low, and then determine whether *that* concerns me.

And, again, you did follow-up your original question with those exact 'why' questions, so I don't meant for this to come off like your question was wrong in any which way, it's just something I see people do far too frequently that I don't really agree with.

And after that rant about delving into the 'why' being more important than the 'what', Jahlil Okafor's low steal and block numbers are definitely representative of legitimate concerns, in my opinion. His lateral mobility absolutely gives me some pause, especially when evaluating his ability to play next to Embiid. His average explosion around the hoop certainly does limit him as a team defender. If neither of these deficiencies are improved upon, he's going to be limited defensively. He has the size, strength, and length to be able to hold his own in the post and on the glass, but ideally you want your #1 pick to dominate on both ends, and the questions on the defensive side of the ball for Okafor are legitimate.

However, I think there are two things right now that are also major contributing factors to his lack of defensive production.

First is his conditioning. It's better than it was in high school, but it has a way to go. The Sixers focus, a lot, on fitness level, and I think there's a chance you could see modest gains in Okafor's athleticism, particularly his quickness off his feet, if he were in the 'career best fitness' that Brett Brown is undoubtedly going to try to get him into. If he improves his explosiveness and shot blocking even a little bit, that helps him make an impact on that side of the court on a more regular basis.

The biggest gain to be had, in my opinion, would be improving his defensive awareness. I think, even with his current athleticism, Okafor is physically capable of providing more on the defensive side of the court than he currently is. That's not to say there's much chance of him becoming a dominant defender with his current physical tools, but I think he could be an average defender if his awareness and recognition were above average

But they're not. Far too frequently you'll see Okafor simply hesitant, slow to react, or flat out making the wrong reads. He seemingly prioritizes defensive rebounding positioning over weakside rotations, remaining earthbound and a step slow rather than truly altering shots.

For as instinctive as Okafor is offensively, the opposite is true defensively. He's likely never been asked to really concentrate on that end of the court before in his career, always getting by with his immense size advantage, and it shows.

I suppose the good news in that is, at having just turned 19 years old, I think there's some untapped potential there. He has a 7'5" wingspan and a ~9.3" standing reach, which are both well above average for either the power forward or center position. To put that in comparison, Andrew Bogut, who measured in 1.5" taller, only had a 7'3" wingspan and a 9'2.5" standing reach. His measurables, at this point, have been underrated. If Brown can get him reacting quicker and thinking less on the defensive side of the court, even if he may never be a defensive stud, I think he has the tools to contribute on this side of the court. On top of that, I can't help but be curious what a world class strength and conditioning program could do for his explosiveness and lateral mobility.


Two years ago on draft day, Hinkie shocked us with the Holiday trade.  Last year, he shocked us by drafting more "red shirt" players.  What could be in store this year?

I would also add drafting Saric to the 'shocking' list, but for another reason: he didn't fit the supposed mold of long, athletic, defensive-minded players. I think Sam Hinkie has a lot of surprises up his sleeve, and that will be fun to watch over the coming years.

I don't think anything is off the table. More big men? More red shirt players? More players who won't come over right away? Trading a member of our current "core"? All in play.

I think what might be the most entertaining would be if he traded the pick we're getting from the Heat for a future 1st round pick. Not that I'm predicting he will, or that I necessarily want him to, but it would be fun to watch the local media absolutely lose their minds.


I find myself simultaneously sympathizing and salivating over Caris LeVert's injury woes and his consequent potential slide down draft boards. Is he at the top of your bargain-buy wishlist? Do you have any other early favorites for second-round steals?

That Michigan team was just a bad situation for LeVert to be in. With the amount of offensive talent that they lost (Stauskas, McGary, Robinson, etc), they went from a team that was as good offensively as any team in the nation into one that really, really struggled, and this placed LeVert into a situation that he wasn't likely to succeed in.

They needed LeVert to be D'Angelo Russell, and that's not LeVert's game, nor does Michigan have the three point shooters for LeVert to really be successful in that role. Still, while LeVert didn't take the jump that many expected as the top option, if you liked Caris LeVert's potential and fit heading into the season, that should still be the case.

The good news: the recovery time is only expected to be about 12 weeks, which means he could theoretically take part in workouts before the early entry withdrawal deadline (June 15th). The bad news: two stress-related injuries on the same bone in the same foot only 8 months apart does give me some concern.

I have absolutely no idea how to gauge his draft stock, though. His struggles carrying (a depleted) Michigan caused some people to be disappointed in his development, and the injury is a definite concern. I tend to think there will be options that I like better with the Miami pick (for example, Devin Booker or Justin Anderson), but if he does manage to fall to the second round I definitely jump on that opportunity.

That will wrap it up. Thanks to everybody who submitted questions, and my apologies if I didn't answer yours. I will likely be releasing my updated big board sometime within the next week, so look out for that. If you want to submit a question for a future mailbag, either hit me up on twitter (include #sixersmailbag in the tweet) or send me an email.

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