Welcome back to the 15th edition of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag, the first one in the post-deadline, post-MCW era. You can check out our previous installments at our story stream.
Q: In a vacuum, who is/was the better prospect Anthony Davis or Joel Embiid? Why? And how close is it?
I think there are two ways to look at this: Who was the better prospect at the time, and do I think Embiid has the capability of reaching Davis' current potential.
The answers, unfortunately, are that I thought Anthony Davis was the better prospect at the time of his draft, and I wouldn't count on Embiid becoming the better player.
But that's not really a slight on Embiid. Davis is a guy who is an elite level shot blocker, the most versatile defensive big man in the game, as athletic as any big in the game, and perimeter skills like a guard. Embiid might become the 2nd best big man in the NBA eventually, but the problem is Davis will be the best. Davis might have been disappointing (relative to expectations) to start his freshman season at Kentucky, but by the end of the season he was clearly a franchise talent.
Q: What is Jerami Grant doing very well this season? What areas has he done unexpectedly well in? What areas should he focus on improving next? With what he's shown so far, what is his long-term potential?
Unexpectedly well is a pretty easy answer: he's connected on catch-and-shoot shots at a rate nobody expected. He's shooting 45.2% on catch-and-shoot three pointers. Never, ever, ever, did I expect this out of Grant, at any point in his career really, but especially not during his rookie season. The sample size is certainly not big enough to come to a conclusion yet, but it's a heck of a start.
Improve? His handle, easily. He's incredibly athletic, but outside of an occasional quick spin move he doesn't really use it much in the half-court offensively. If he could improve his handle he could create a lot more offense for himself.
Long term potential? I still think he's a 3-and-D guy, and expecting more is probably unrealistic. But his ability to be an athletic 3-and-D guy rather than a (very) undersized 4 is a great development, brought along mostly by his crazily-improved shot.
Q: How do you project D'Angelo Russell's game as a NBA PG and do you think he might be a better option at PG going forward for the 76ers rebuild than MCW?
This question was asked before the MCW trade, but it's worth looking at regardless.
I've said before that one of Russell's greatest strengths is that he's legitimately capable of playing either guard position. He has the vision of a point guard, but the size and ability to shoot coming off of a screen that can make him effective off the ball. Plus passing is never wasted, assuming the player isn't dependent on it to be effective, and as long as his weaknesses don't make him ineffective off the ball.
That being said, if I had the option, I think Russell is better off at the point guard spot. One of his great strengths is as a playmaker off the pick and roll, and I think you're going to get the most out of that at point guard. I also think the size advantage he'll enjoy at the point would be beneficial there. His defense will be a (legitimate) concern, but the shooting would be wonderful to pair next to Embiid.
I definitely think he is not only a better prospect than MCW, but a much better fit as well.
Q: I know you covered a little about Mario Hezonja, but I was wondering if you would know about Sixers interest in him as well as his relationship with Dario. Are you aware if he is being heavily scouted by the sixers? Also do we know if he and Dario have trained much together, or just the occasional international league appearances?
The Sixers have definitely scouted him, but I wouldn't necessarily put a ton of weight into that, though: the Sixers are going to scout everybody who is that highly regarded.
How highly do they regard him? I can't say that I know for sure. They're very good at keeping that information private and, frankly, if anybody within the organization did tell me, I'd wonder why they were telling me.
Besides their international competition together, they also spent a year together on KK Zagreb in the Croatian League back in 2010-2011, but Saric had a very small role with the team and Hezonja was not with the main club, if I recall correctly. I'm not sure how familiar they are with each other or what their relationship is like, though.
Q: Can you give me your thoughts on the K.J. McDaniels trade?
I know Hinkie denied it, but I don't think the K.J. McDaniels trade happens without KJ's contract situation being what it is. Between the depth of point guards in this league, and the upside KJ has, I think KJ is somebody Hinkie would have liked to keep, all things being equal. I just don't think Hinkie wanted to keep KJ at the price he thought he would command in free agency.
I do like Canaan as a potential backup point guard for this team going forward, but I think his limitations as a distributor and as a defender will prevent him from being much more than that. The pick from Denver, though, helps lessen that blow somewhat.
Q: Would you rather have the assets of the Sixers or the Timberwolves?
Minnesota has two first round picks that they owe, but neither of them are likely to convey, at least not in the near future. If the one has not been conveyed by 2016 (top 12 protected), it turns into 2nd round picks, similar in structure to the Arnett Moultrie deal.
In terms of quantity of pieces, Minnesota has the clear edge, with Wiggins, Rubio, Dieng, and Pekovic being nice young pieces, Shabazz Muhammad seemingly having turned his career around, Zach LaVine having his fans, and a pair of top-end draft picks that should be nearly as good as the Sixers in the upcoming years, even if they don't have the number of first round picks that the Sixers have.
This question, to me, ultimately comes down to whether you prefer Embiid (which I do) or Wiggins, and whether you think the Sixers have a better chance of getting a franchise guy with their upcoming high picks (2015 1st, 2016 1st, Lakers 1st) or whether you think the Wolves have a better chance with their 2015 + 2016 1st. And that, ultimately, comes down to faith.
I like Embiid more than Wiggins, and I trust Sam Hinkie more than Flip Saunders, so I'd go with the Sixers, even if the Wolves currently have more depth. One injury to Embiid, though, and that changes drastically.
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.
Also, I updated my big board this week, so go here to check that out.