Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Sixers at 3, Or Here We Go Again

Fear Him. Fear Him Much.
Before we dip into the preview of Thursday night's NBA draft shenanigans for my favorite laundry, let's look at where we were a year ago. Cleveland was all set to take Joel Embiid. He fit a need, they loved him in workouts, and Sixer Fan was cautiously optimistic that a year of tankery was going to get them lust object Andrew Wiggins, since Milwaukee was locked into Jabari Parker. Wiggins would fit in right between Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams, the team would be athletic and get into the open court, and while the club wasn't going to be a real playoff threat, they'd be watchable.

Then Embiid got hurt, Cleveland took Wiggins (eventually to trade to Minnesota for the end of Kevin Love's deal), and Dark Lord Sam Hinkie pulled the heretofore unprecedented double tank, taking Embiid for the medical redshirt, then doubling down with future asset Dario Saric. The team opened up 0-17, eventually found and developed enough assets to compete, then dealt Carter-Williams in an unprecedented doubling down of the reset.

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. The Sixers loaded up on second rounders, got no love or luck in trying to get additional first rounders with the Heat and Thunder picks, and find themselves, once again, with the third pick of the draft, and a high probability that their fans will have their preferred pick pulled out from under them.

What should happen is that the Wolves and Lakers take the safe approach and lock down the 1 and 1A bigs, Karl-Anthony Townes and Jahlil Okafor. Townes is the better pick for Minny's defense-free situation, where he can anchor and start breaks, and save them from the limited work of Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. Townes is great defensively now, and could be good on offense later, and stands out as the Guy With No Weaknesses. Then the Lakers should come in and take Okafor, the best low-post guy and a Dookie who should give no one any attitude issues, leaving Hinkie with his choice of point guards, either the smooth gunning  D'Angelo Russell or the athletic world traveler Emmanuel Mundiay. In our April daydreams, Russell turns into the hybrid James Harden / Stephen Curry of our dreams, Embiid becomes magically healthy and delicious, Saric got out of his deal, and we suddenly had the East's most fun club, and maybe something in the realm of 40 wins and scaring the hell out of a high pick.

Of course, all of that dreaming also had the Lakers and Thunder picks working out. And they didn't. And those dreams didn't have scary as hell rumors that Embiid's feet still weren't right, making last year's pick look like a stone cold loser. (Note: last year's draft is looking truly horrible at this point, so much so that Embiid at #3 is still defensible, even without him ever getting on the damned court.) Saric's still in Euroland... and there are rumblings that the Lakers don't want Okafor, because he's too similar to last year's injury washout (Julius Randle), and everyone in the NBA is suddenly small-happy because we all need to be like the World Champion Warriors. Which means the Lakers might take Russell, leaving the Sixers with the same damned choice as last year -- another big, another year of not very watchable ball because the guards aren't up to snuff, and who knows, maybe another foot problem. With six, you get eggroll.

Oh, and that's the *sane* approach. Which Dark Lord Hinkie might not go for at all, considering that the only thing better than an unprecedented double-tank is a mind-crushing triple tank. Which bring us to Door Number Three, aka Kristaps Porzingas.

If you've never heard of Porzingas, you shouldn't feel bad. He's a 7-foot 19-year-old from Latvia who spans the gamut from Dirk Nowitzki to all of those horrible sticks that weren't Dirk. (Skittish Villi is my favorite, but modern NBA guys will say Yi Jianlian.) As you might guess, I want no parts of this, because tall 3-point shooters make me wince with the fact that they normally don't have a defensive position, nor a Better Idea when opponents start giving them body work. To me, the Sixers will take Okafor or Russell, depending on who the Lakers leave for them. If we get into Porzingas Time, that's telling me the reboot is getting to perpetual, and that the club won't be able to get a quality FA, for, well, ever.

Which brings me to what I want to see happen with the rest of the draft. My club has more 2nd rounders than any team might ever use, and so much cap space that it's nearly a problem. What I'd like to see them do is package some of those 2s for a veteran that can shoot -- sort of like last year's Jason Richardson, but hopefully with a little bit more tread on the tire. If we're going for maximum feisty, if you get Okafor, work out a deal to get Ty Lawson here from Denver, and live with his defensive shortcomings with the bigs erasing blow-buy drives. After a year of getting his teeth kicked in the West, treading water in the East will seem like career rebirth to Lawson, and after two years of watching non-PGs who can't shoot, Lawson will seem like Mo Cheeks II to the Philly Faithful. If the club gets Russell, do a cheaper deal with Minny for Kevin martin.

Personally... I'm hoping for Russell, despite the fact that the last time the Sixers took a high Buckeye, it turned into Evan Turner. (Shudder.) Mundiay's shot woes are a little too on the nose for a club that seemingly wants to keep developing Tony Wroten, and the less said about Porzingas, the better. Dealing down to stockpile more low picks gives me the heebies, because for heaven's sake, I just want to see more watchable ball this year, and something very much more than 18 wins.

Hinkie, of course, will not trouble himself very much with how watchable the team is in 2015-16, or hold off on trading Noel if other guys make him superfluous, because the Dark Lord is more than happy to outfit the jerseys with Velcro. And sure, you can't argue with the asset collection, and the moves have all looked fine in retrospect... but man alive, three years of tanking, especially in a town where a tanking team actually might deliver the most smiles, is just too much to bear.

I want hope. I want watchable hoop. I want to not have to defend the franchise from clueless people any more. I want Russell, and if I can't get him, I'll take Okafor.

But please, please, don't let be the only thing you do to make the roster better for next year.

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