Monday, December 2, 2013

The Sixers Keep Calm And Keep Losing

Stiff Upper Everything
Today in Detroit, while the area's attention was anywhere but on them, the Sixers dropped their 12th game of 18, and if you want to be unkind, their 12th of 15. Detroit moved to 7-10 with the win, which was mostly accomplished on the inside, with man child Andre Drummond going for 31 and 19, while The Old Spencer Hawes was back and held to 11/9/5. Detroit led my 24 at the half, gave some back in the third, then locked it down in the fourth.

Today's loss showed just how lacking the team is in the front court. The Pistons shot 20 more free throws and had 16 more boards, but none of that should be a surprise. Hawes is an erratic finesse guy, Thaddeus Young had five boards in 29 minutes, and the usual solution of getting a little from everyone and trying to create turnovers and transition wasn't working. The small but significant genius of going as up-tempo as the Sixers have this year is that you get to a true level; better teams win with more possessions, so if you are trying to develop players more than win games, it's just the right move to make.

The next step that anyone who cares about the laundry want to know is if Evan Turner (20-4-3 tonight, with 3 steals, having his best year by leaps and bounds, but still something of a sieve on defense and probably bound to regress) and Hawes (erratic, but a thread from the arc, and it's not as if the Association is blessed with dozens of playable big men) are on their way out of town, and if so, for what. The big takeaway that I'd have from this is that, well, what about GM Sam Hinkie's performance to date has made any of us qualified to make moves for him? He got Tony Wroten from the Grizz for office supplies, and Wroten has been downright great, and looks like a quality bench piece on the next playoff team in town. He drafted Michael Carter-Williams, who has merely played like the Rookie of the Year. Head coach Brett Brown looks like the perfect hire for this mission, and shooting guard James Anderson, acquired for some telephone headsets and duct tape, also looks like he belongs in the league, if not as a starter. They snuck up on teams early, haven't quit to date, aren't tolerating poor play... and oh, by the way? Really haven't cost themselves any big number of lottery balls. Let's look at the bottom, shall we?

Utah 3-15
Milwaukee 3-13
New York 3-13
Sacramento 4-11
Brooklyn 5-12
Cleveland 5-12
Philadelphia 6-12
Boston 7-12
Orlando 6-10

Of those nine sad sacks, a few are not staying. New York and Brooklyn have guys coming off injuries and veteran cachet; they might not be world-beaters, but they aren't going to lose 55+ games. Cleveland shouldn't be down here either; they got a big game out of Andrew Bynum of all people recently, and will either get something out of Dion Waiters or trade him for some value. Too many young guys on that roster with talent to stay down. Boston still has a home court, and Orlando will get back Tobias Harris at some point and get mediocre. I also think Boogie Cousins and Ben McLemore will drag the Kings into some wins, especially once they get some non-conference games on the schedule. When it comes to actually awful, I think it's a 3-dog race between the Sixers, Bucks and Jazz...

And, well, there's reasons to like the Sixers in even that anti-race. As they've shown with Young, Hawes and MC Dub, they aren't interested in rushing anyone back from injury, while the Bucks are pushing guys like Larry Sanders and Caron Butler to hurry back and keep them from getting their heads kicked in. Utah get back Trey Burke, and while he looked bad in the pre-season, that wasn't the case in his early action that counts.

So if you really want to Tank For Andrew Wiggins... well, starting 3-0 isn't going to matter in the long run. First, because this is going to be a deep and solid draft, and it's not even a given that Wiggins will be the best pro in the draft. Second, they also have the Pelican pick (currently two games out of the 8th seed in the West, and they just lost Anthony Davis with a hand injury, and Davis is everything to that team), and while it's lottery protected, having two picks is going to matter a lot in this draft. Third and final, the Association has a way of foiling tankers (witness what has happened to Charlottes's draft picks, as opposed to the Cavs); you can call it a fix, you can call it karma, or you can just look at the history and note that losing while trying seems to do more for you in the long run.

The Sixers are 6-12, and everything is going according to plan. Isn't a nice to root for a franchise that finally has a plan?

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