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Sixers Mailbag Volume 18 - 1st Half MVP, Draft Day Targets, and Letting Wiggins Go

In the 18th edition of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag, we talk about options at the top of the draft, the Sixers first half MVP, and moving on from Andrew Wiggins.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the 18th edition of the LibertyBallers Sixers Mailbag. You can check out the previous installments at our story stream.


Q: Is Robert Covington the team's first half MVP?

I think he would almost have to be.

Consider this: Before the All-Star break, the Sixers played 1,219 minutes with Covington on the court, 903 minutes with him on the bench. With him on the court, they had a 94.9 offensive rating and a -6.0 net rating. With him on the bench they had an 87.7 offensive rating and a -14.0 net rating.


Granted, some of that was a product of the skill set simply being so missing from the team, but Covington's ability to make himself a threat, despite not having much space, was a big reason why they were all of a sudden playing competitive basketball. Some shooters would have been eaten up by the lack of space and neutralized without a real shot creator next to him, but Covington found a way to flourish despite that.

Full season MVP? Nerlens, no question. But first half? That was some unwatchable basketball before Covington joined the team.


Q: I'm getting a good feeling this year about Justin Anderson and Christian Wood. Any chance they can fall to the 2nd round?

Doubtful. I think they both end up going in the 20‘s. Wood just has too much length and athleticism, and there's always demand for a 3-and-D guy, and there are few in this draft better at that role than Anderson.

I recently wrote about Anderson for DraftExpress, so go check that out.


Q: In terms of timeline, how should Sixers fans want these 1st rounders to come in? Is it ideal for the Sixers to get them all this year?

In theory, spreading the picks out makes sense, since not only does it spread out when money will be tied down on cap holds and re-signing players, but also because you're less of a victim to a bad draft.

That being said, when looking at them on an individual level, I think it's clear you wanted OKC to convey this year, since that pick is likely going to be 6-7 (or more) spots worse next year. I also think you want both the Lakers and the Heat picks to convey, in large part because I really think the 3-8 portion of this draft is strong, so getting another pick in that range would be great, and having the Heat at 11, where one of those 8 could very realistically fall, would be great as well.

So, my answer: I'm hoping each one of the picks conveys, but, since it makes sense to spread them out, I'm not broken up if they don't, either.


Q: Does the fact that Noel hits restricted free agency 1 year before Embiid play into some peoples belief that he won't stick?

I don't think so, no.
To me, there are three questions that determine Noel's long term fate:
- Does he improve.
- Does he fit with Joel Embiid.
- Does Joel Embiid remain healthy and prove to be a piece you build around.

Extensions off of rookie scale contracts are generally good value. I don't really worry about the Sixers willingness to pay these guys when the time comes (unless they hit on 4 superstars).


Q: I can't stop thinking Wiggins rightfully belongs on the 76ers. Where do you place him in relation to this year's draft? What would it take to pry him out of the Timberwolves hands? If we get the #1 pick (unlikely), do you trade Okafor for Wiggins even up?

As I wrote about earlier today, I think you have to be impressed with Wiggins' rookie year. His efficiency, for a teenager who carried such a high offensive burden, was actually pretty good, and suggests a good future going forward. And I'm especially bullish on that because of how frequently he got to the line in the second half of the season. In the last 29 games of the season, Wiggins had a 24.3% usage rate and a 53.3% true shooting percentage, buoyed by a drastic increase in his free throw rate and a developing post-up game.

If I thought handling in traffic was Wiggins' swing skill going into the draft last year, I'm certainly more confident in him becoming a legitimate 1st option than I was on draft day last year. Because of that, and because I still think Wiggins has some potential as a defender (even if it was largely unrealized this season), I probably put him #2 overall, behind only Towns.

(Although I think Hezonja could ... )

Now, I wouldn't trade Towns for Wiggins, despite team need. I also don't think Minnesota would entertain an offer for even the #1 pick, so this whole point is moot. Really, let Wiggins go.


Q: Packaging OKC's pick and the Lakers top 3 protected pick for 2016 (since I don't see that one conveying this year), how far up can we get in this draft?

(Note: this question was asked before it was found out that OKC's pick wouldn't convey)

With OKC's pick likely being late next year, I'm not sure it's going to get you much. You *might* be able to get the Lakers projected draft positioning next year this year by including the OKC pick. Basically, including the OKC pick is the cost of getting, say, the 7th pick this year rather than the 7th pick next year. Even that I'm not sure of. At this point, the OKC pick has minimal value, and it's the type of pick that you can buy (relatively cheaply) from a team on draft night.


Q: After running the cap numbers on ESPN's trade machine, Chicago is going to be more than $20 million dollars above the luxury tax lines if they resign Jimmy Butler and pay him close to max money. Notably, the only player they have coming off the books is Mike Dunleavy. Would they be willing to move Taj Gibson's contract ($16 million over 2 years) and their first round pick to avoid such a large tax bill?

The cap next season is projected to be $67.1 million, with a tax of $81.6 million. I see about $64 million in committed salary for Chicago next year (Rose $20m, Noah $13.4m, Gibson $8.5m, Pau $7.5m, Mirotic $5.5m, Hinrich $2.87m, McDermott $2.38m, Snell $1.535m, Moore $1m, Bairstow $845k).

Butler's max deal should start somewhere in the range of $16m. They'll be a couple of million over, including a little bit for the 1st round pick and to fill out the roster, but I don't see them being $20m over, unless I'm missing something.

Taj and a #1 for cap space? Sure. I just think they're going to find an easier way to fit the contract in.


Q: If the 76ers landed the no. 2 pick and the Lakers no. 6 pick convey this year, how do you think a D'Angelo Russell at PG and Mario Henzonja at SG backcourt would look for the 76ers next year?

That's pretty much the ideal outcome, isn't it? I mean, Towns and Hezonja would be more my dream scenario, but this is pretty close.

That being said, if the Sixers got #2, I'd still look to trade down to 3 or 4, get an additional pick in the process, and still walk way with one of Russell or Mudiay + Hezonja. If it ends up being Mudiay instead of Russell, I'm not losing much sleep over that. In fact, Mudiay's ability to get into the paint off the pick might even be a better fit with Hezonja (although Russell's shooting, paired with Embiid, still makes him the preferred target in my mind).

Even beyond that, ending up with one of Justise Winslow or Stanley Johnson, along with Hezonja, then moving back into the late-first to get George Lucas would be something I'd have interest in as well.

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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