Friday, June 26, 2015

The Sixers Draft: There Is No Trust, Or Process

Brett Brown's Reaction
I've been carrying Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's water for years. He's made any number of great trades, picks and so on... all while not putting together anything close to a team that could ever win more than a quarter of the games they play.

They've steadfastly gone for the philosophy of Best Player Available, refused to sign or trade for or keep middling talents that would lock them into the pointless middle area of lEastern Conference 8 seed basketball, and plunged the franchise into a 2-years-and-counting period where every Sixer Fan has felt like they might be a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. In a league filled with teams that tank, the Sixers have been bald-faced about it, and pilloried. They also haven't been very lucky with the things that have been beyond their control (i.e., lottery slots).

But losing with purpose and a plan has actually always been supported in this town. The Eagles in the early days of Dick Vermeil and Andy Reid lost handily and everyone was fine with it. The Sixers in the Iverson build got broad support. The Phillies in the days of Ed Wade. If you play kids and commit to it, and said kids try hard, this town cheers for them. They are far more patient than you might imagine, especially for a town that's a top ten media market, where people spend real coin to see games, and have other options.

Tonight was supposed to be about when the Sixers pivoted from developmental to watchable. With the two bigs supposed to come off the board, Hinkie would just take his pick of D'Angelo Russell and Emanual Mundiay. Finally, we'd have someone beyond a D-League point guard, and the club might get Joel Embiid and Dario Saric on the floor, to go with Interesting Pieces found in last year's year-long talent sift. Maybe even, be still my heart, make a trade that wasn't for future second round picks. The club had assets, dammit, so many second round picks that they could maybe package up and use to get a guy on an expiring deal who might be able to hit an open jumper.

So, what did we get?

Well, the Lakers fell in love with Russell, because they saw New Stephen Curry in him, and screwed up the top of the board. The Sixers then took Okafor, and while it really seems to force a trade at less than peak value for either Embiid or Nerlens Noel, Okafor was the consensus top pick not so long ago. You had to take him, fit be damned, and three young bigs to split 96 minutes is defensible, especially if Embiid's foot issues continue. Still time to save the night and the season by getting a point. Just...

Make a trade, maybe for Jerian Grant, the brother of current Sixer Jerami? Nope, he goes off the board in the first round, and the team never trades up. Take a guard with one of their high second round picks? Nope. Instead, Hinkie went for two MORE centers, both of them foreign stash guys, and I'm not going to bother spelling their names here, because there is no earthly reason to learn those names. Take someone late? No, not really, two foreign PFs to go with the two foreign Cs.

A team that went into the draft with starters like Hollis Thompson, Ish Smith and Tony Wroten didn't even produce competition for those jobs. Unless you think J.P. Tokoto, a UNC SF who profiles as a No Offense project, can come through... well, the worst position group in the league didn't get any better.

Maybe I'm wrong here. Maybe there's a trade coming down the pike for Ty Lawson, or Isiah Thomas, or any number of presumably available guards. But that's not how you build a roster, because everyone else in the league *knows* you've got to make a move, and won't give up real value.By the end of the night, ESPN was mocking the Sixer picks before they happened, the same as NFLN guys mock the Eagles for taking Best Available Oregon Duck. Short of something amazing happening, this 18 win team might win... 18 games again. I no longer trust the process, or that there is any kind of plan, other than to lose a lot of games and not pay anyone.

Honestly, is all of my laundry trying to get me to stop caring, all at once?


snd_dsgnr said...

I like Tokoto a lot, he was a fun player to watch. But best case scenario for that guy is that he falls into a defensive bench ace. I would be beyond shocked if he ever developed enough offensively to be a consistent contributor in the NBA.

Okafor was the most interesting test case in the draft to me, because he just seems to embody everything that the NBA has moved away from. He's a low post scorer who doesn't stretch the floor, can't shoot free throws, and whose deficiencies on defense were obvious even at the collegiate level. He reminds me a lot of Al Jefferson, and I don't know if you can build a contender around that kind of player in today's NBA.

DMtShooter said...

The theory among local apologists this morning is that they plug Okafor in on Day One, watch him pile up a lot of 20-10 Rookie of the Year numbers, then make a deal once trade values are up, or Embiid can go and shows himself as better. The problem with that... you are banking on the idea that the league isn't going to be able to see through the strategy, or that they are going to be able to ignore the fact that Okafor will be the centerpiece of a team that loses 3 out of every 4 games again.

When Michael Carter-Williams got moved on last year, the club brought in an actual somewhat point guard in Ish Smith. Smith spent six weeks throwing lobs to Nerlens Noel, who suddenly looked like he had an offensive game. That's what point guards do. I'm not saying that the club should have gone for Mundiay (though, well, maybe)... but Best Player Available has its freaking limits.

I think Okafor can be an element on a winning team, maybe even a starter. But I doubt he's the best player on a contender. If he's your third option, and a guy that can destroy the other team's benchies and gain margin, that's good. If he's the guy you are feeding 30 times a game, not so much.

As for the FT Woes, in Brett Brown We Trust. He got Noel up to tolerable within a year. And as for the defense, it's hard and mean to say a guy is a sieve at 19. Give him a little time, see if he responds to coaching.

Shorter: I'd feel so much better about this team if the second round wasn't spent on Stash, and that there was no trades. Make this team watchable now, please. Three straight years of tankery is cruel.

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