Sixers will select third overall in 2017 draft

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

On a night when Sixers fans expected to be either incredibly elated or disappointed, the results of Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery were firmly in the middle, the living personification of the shrug emoji. Thanks to the incredible foresight of Sam Hinkie, the Sixers will select third overall in next month’s draft.

Philadelphia’s own pick did not move up, falling one slot to fifth overall. However, because Sacramento was the team who jumped them into the top-3, the Sixers were able to swap selections courtesy of Hinkie’s 2015 deal with the Kings. Moving up two spots in the draft feels like a tremendous use of cap space to me. How about you, Joel?

While missing out on Markelle Fultz is unfortunate, the Sixers only had a 14.7% chance at the first overall pick after all. Seeing him join an already good Celtics roster will be tough to swallow, but that’s Brooklyn’s fault. Remember that Philadelphia did move up one spot from where their record slotted them and will have their pick of a number of terrific prospects in what’s considered a deep draft. A starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Jackson, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid is something I can get behind.

As for the Lakers pick, yes, it would have been awfully sweet to see Magic look foolish for guaranteeing they wouldn’t lose it (with LA losing its 2019 first-rounder to Orlando as an added bonus). But having their 2018 first rounder unprotected is a tremendous consolation prize. Personally, I’m going to have an inordinate amount of fun rooting for whatever team is playing the Lakers each night. No more hoping they’re bad, but not too bad, because of top-3 protection on the pick. Just lose, baby.

In the end, for the third time in the past four years, the Sixers will have the third overall pick. The team’s past two selections in that spot resulted in Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, and I can’t imagine covering a wider range of possible outcomes than those two players. In all likelihood, like Tuesday night’s lottery result, this year’s selection will fall firmly in the middle. And that’s just fine.

Guide to the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

At long last, the NBA Draft Lottery has arrived. Through some combination of strategic planning, bad luck, and inept management, approximately half of the teams in the NBA will have a significant portion of their futures decided by the bouncing of ping pong balls. Over the course of about 15-20 minutes beginning at 8:00pm Tuesday night, we’ll find out exactly to what degree their fortunes will be determined.

For the Sixers, this lottery represents a culmination of sorts regarding the Process. It’s the final of the two pick swap opportunities with Sacramento (although the 2019 unprotected first-rounder still awaits), and the last time we will be left wondering whether the Lakers pick will convey to Philadelphia or not (it either will this year or it’s entirely unprotected next year).

As highly anticipated as the Lottery has been for the City of Brotherly Love, you may already know the Sixers’ odds by heart. If not though, here’s the quick breakdown:

#1 overall pick (including Sacramento swap): 14.70%

Top-three pick (including Sacramento swap): 45.27%

Lakers pick conveys to Philadelphia (landing 4th-6th): 53.10%

In Hinkie we trust.

Now, here are the important things to watch for during the broadcast, whether you’re sprawled out on the couch at home or with thousands of your closest Process supporters at Xfinity Live.

  • The Sacramento pick should fall in the 8th spot. Sixers fans should want Miami, Denver, Detroit, Charlotte, Sacramento (from New Orleans)*, and Dallas to be the first 6 teams revealed. If one of those teams is skipped, that means they jumped into the top-3, which hurts everyone else, including the Sixers. Sacramento would then come next. If the Knicks come up before the Kings, celebrate! It means Sacramento jumped into the top-3 and the swap is very much in play.

* – Sacramento likely has the New Orleans pick from the Boogie Cousins trade (assuming the improbable jump from the Pelicans into the top-three doesn’t happen). It will say “Sacramento Kings from New Orleans Pelicans” on the card. This is not the one that impacts the Sixers. Do not be disappointed if this one comes up.

  • Similar to the Kings/Pelicans situation above, if (when) the Lakers pick conveys, the card they hold up will have the Sixers logo on it and read “Philadelphia 76ers from Los Angeles Lakers”. While they’re still on picks 4, 5, and 6, a Sixers card reading “from Los Angeles Lakers” is good. A Sixers card with nothing else on it other than the logo is bad.
  • If Philadelphia is fortunate enough to make it into the top-3, that means we’ll once again be subjected to the commercial break, a.k.a. the most nervous three-to-four minutes in sports. Let’s hope the Sixers get that far and Embiid brings it home.

Sixers Sending Joel Embiid to the NBA Draft Lottery

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Following in the footsteps of Josh Harris, Julius Erving, Nerlens Noel, and Brett Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers’ representative at next Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery will be none other than Joel Hans Embiid.

It’s incredibly fitting that the man who has come to represent the embodiment of the Process itself will be on hand for what may be the last time for a while that the Sixers have their own pick fall in the lottery (the juicy 2019 Sacramento 1st-rounder and the possibility of the Lakers pick rolling over to next year both still await, of course). Never one to shy from the limelight, Embiid will certainly add some much-needed flair to the lottery proceedings. We might even be treated to a repeat of the moves Embiid flashed at the Meek Mill concert, although I imagine JoJo would keep his shirt on this time. It’s a shame the Bucks aren’t in the lottery, or Embiid could have tried to slide into Mallory Edens’ DMs.

A little fun is all well and good, but what Sixers fans are really hoping is for the ping pong balls to bounce their way, coming away with both the top pick and the conveyance of the Lakers pick. We’ll find out if Embiid was simply one year early last May with his prognostication for the team’s lottery results.

Free Agency Wish List: Brandon Rush

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Previous entries: Omri Casspi, Patty Mills

As I’ve discussed in each of my free agency wish list entries, shooting is at a premium for the Sixers this upcoming offseason. Whether it’s guys to spot up off a Ben Simmons drive or a Joel Embiid post-up, Philadelphia should look to surround the rest of the floor with as much spacing as possible.

At this stage of his career, Brandon Rush is little more than a three-point shooting specialist. The 31-year-old journeyman has taken more than 60% of his field goal attempts from behind the arc each of the last two seasons. And why not? Rush knocked down those triples at better than a 38% clip both years, and still features an excellent mark of 40.2% from three for his career.

The fact that Rush does less and less driving himself now, and has never been much of a playmaker, is mitigated by the current state of the Sixers roster. The team wouldn’t need him to perform those functions when they want the ball in the hands of their young up-and-coming stars as much as possible. Rush would just need to keep help defense from drifting too close to Simmons, Embiid, etc., and if the team needs a three, Brett Brown can occasionally call his number.

 

Defensively, Rush has good size for a wing, standing 6’6″ with a 6’11” wingspan. However, Father Time and the reality that he has torn the ACL in both knees over the course of his basketball playing career have reduced his effectiveness on that end. Rush offers versatility to defend multiple positions, but his advanced metrics have never really backed up the “-and-D” portion of 3-and-D. His defensive rating has been consistently below average throughout his career, while his defensive box plus-minus has been about neutral.

Rush signed with Minnesota last offseason, meaning he’s willing to hear offers aside from simple ring-chasing opportunities. Having received only a 1 year, $3.5M deal with the Timberwolves, he could be a bargain at around that price for the Sixers. He certainly has those intangible veteran qualities Bryan Colangelo is seeking. Rush was a rotation player on the two Warriors teams that went back-to-back to the NBA finals. Plus, he would give Joel Embiid another guy to talk Kansas Jayhawks basketball in the locker room.

You could certainly make the argument that the Sixers would be better off using their limited open roster spots on higher upside players. Yet, if Colangelo is once again determined to supplement the roster with veteran presences, Rush would be an affordable option who would benefit the development of the young building blocks on the court. If the signing were to happen this summer, I’d rush to announce my approval.

Free Agency Wish List: Patty Mills

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Previous Free Agency Wish List entries:

Omri Casspi

One of the most heavily discussed topics around the Sixers over the past year has been the idea of Ben Simmons playing point guard. It’s why when talking about the team taking a point guard prospect in the upcoming draft, we hear about their potential to also play off the ball. Or why Jerryd Bayless has been written about more than you would reasonably expect for a veteran journeyman who has played three games with the team. This offseason, Philadelphia would be wise to pursue a slightly more dynamic version of Jerryd Bayless by the name of Patty Mills.

Like Bayless, Mills is 28 years old, but the Aussie is seeking his first big payday in the NBA after making just $3.2M last season in the last year of his deal with San Antonio. Mills is a 39.5% career shooter from behind the arc, including draining 41.3% of his triples this past regular season. Although he’s nominally a point guard at 6’0″, he has plenty of experience playing off the ball offensively, whether it has been Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, or Kawhi Leonard functioning as the primary initiator of the offense over the years.

While he’s not a shutdown defender by any means, Mills has never been a huge negative on that side of the ball. In fact, his net rating of 12.0 was the best of anyone on the 61-win Spurs during the regular season. Although the Sixers will occasionally want to employ lineups with Simmons at the point surrounded by a bunch of tall wings, you only have to look to the recent Bulls-Celtics series to see that you need a smaller guy to cover the likes of Isaiah Thomas in certain matchups. Mills could function as that guy alongside Simmons.

With Tony Parker getting increasingly long in the tooth, San Antonio is certainly going to make an effort to resign Mills. The Sixers should be able to get a meeting though, if they so desire, based on that Australian connection. Patty Mills started for now Sixers head coach Brett Brown on the Australian National team during the FIBA World Championship in 2010 and the 2012 London Olympics. Of course, Brown was with the Spurs when Mills signed with San Antonio in 2012, seemingly a large reason the point guard signed there in the first place.

When the Sixers and Spurs played this past February, Mills had glowing remarks about his former coach,

“I love him. He’s one of my all-time favorite coaches. I remember how passionate he is. He uses a lot of his time and energy to making sure that whatever he’s doing, he gets the most out of it. It’s good when you have a leader or a coach that puts everything into it … I think the word I would use to describe him is ‘genuine.’”

Like San Antonio, the Sixers roster has a heavy international influence, not to mention a fellow Aussie in Ben Simmons. Besides that fact that Mills and Simmons would make a complementary pairing on the court, the two could discuss their favorite bevvies, how to properly cook prawn, and whatever dumb things us Americans do that Australians make fun of us for.

Mills won’t come cheap. As I mentioned, this is his first big shot at a payday so you’re looking north of 8 figures if you want to obtain his services. Still, Mills at $14-15M per year might make more sense than going after somebody like Kyle Lowry, who is a much better player, but a few years older and would command over $30M per year. If Colangelo wants to show he’s out there spending money, Mills would be a great option. He fits the team both culturally and on the court, while leaving the team plenty of flexibility moving forward.

Chant it with me, Sixers fans: “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, oi, oi!”

A quick word of caution about Sixers playoff expectations

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Optimism is the feeling of the day among Philadelphia 76ers fans. Despite finishing toward the bottom of the standings once again last season, fans are understandably pumped that the team has its young stable of talent in place, with some of those pieces possessing true superstar upside. The prospect of one, or possibly two, high lottery picks added to the fold this summer only increases the anticipation for next fall.

Therefore, it’s not ridiculous that the word playoffs are getting thrown around a lot in regard to next season. I mean, the team played one good month of ball back in January and everyone from Joel Embiid to your local street vendor was talking playoffs for the team last season. I was as caught up in the whirlwind of excitement as anyone. But, while the playoffs are certainly a worthy and attainable goal, especially in the (L)eastern conference, let me add a dash of cold reality for why it’s not the “certainty” many Sixers fans believe.

To succeed in the league, teams need to be able to take care of the basketball. It’s no coincidence that the bottom four teams in the NBA – the Nets, Suns, Lakers, and Sixers – all finished in the bottom 6 of the league in turnover percentage. The Process-era Sixers have been particularly horrific in this regard, finishing last in the NBA last season with a 16.4 TOV%, next-to-last with a 16.2 TOV% in 2015-16, last at 17.9 TOV% in 2014-15, and last at 16.4 TOV% in 2013-14.

Sure, a lot of that was due to an abundance of sub-replacement level talent on the roster over the years. As the young players continue to learn the game at the pro level, and the organization brings in more established veterans, those numbers are bound to improve. When you finish no better than 29th in the league in turnover rate, there’s nowhere to go but up after all.

However, it’s probably not going to be an overnight turnaround heading into next season, especially considering the two players around whom the offense will be centered. As incredible as Joel Embiid was in his rookie season, he did have a looks-like-a-typo-bad 39.9 TOV%. Despite his severe minutes restrictions, the big man still had 3.8 turnovers per game, the 5th-highest mark in the league. Learning to dominate the game without turning it over 2 out of every 5 plays he has the ball is the next stage in his evolution. I’ll remind you that evolution doesn’t usually happen rapidly.

Then there’s Ben Simmons, who had a 17.4 TOV% himself in his lone season at LSU, a year that featured two 8-turnover games and one 7-turnover line. Granted, Simmons had less help around him than your average blue-chip college prospect, but a 1.42:1 assist-to-turnover ratio doesn’t exactly scream prudence with the basketball. Small sample size of 6 games, but even in last year’s summer league, his A/T ratio was again only 1.44:1. The facts that Simmons is shifting full time to the “point guard” role and adapting to the NBA game after a year off the court should both make it difficult for him to clean up those turnover woes immediately.

Now, I’m not saying fans shouldn’t be optimistic about the future or excited about seeing these guys on the court together during the upcoming season, especially if the lottery gods are particularly kind next month. The team is absolutely heading in the right direction and these young guys appear fully capable of being franchise-altering talents. I’m just pointing out that maybe the playoffs-or-bust mentality should be curbed a bit. Simmons, Embiid, and whoever else is brought on board via the draft are all going to have their growing pains, and learning to take care of the basketball is a big part of that growth. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the Process.

Free Agency Wish List: Omri Casspi

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

At the moment, many Philadelphia 76ers fans are (rightfully) laser-focused on ping pong ball combinations for next month’s lottery and what franchise building blocks the team could select in the subsequent draft. Yet, there’s another facet to this summer’s roster construction worth examining.

While these signings didn’t exactly headline SportsCenter, we saw last year with the acquisitions of Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, and Sergio Rodriguez that general manager Bryan Colangelo is more apt to pursue veterans in free agency than his predecessor. In the coming weeks, I’m going to take a look at players I would like the high-collared one to pursue heading into the the 2017-18 season.

With Ben Simmons poised to direct the offense in the fall, the top priority for the Sixers needs to be surrounding him with as much shooting as possible. One unrestricted free agent who fits the bill is Omri Casspi. Turning 29 years old in June, Casspi is a career 36.7% shooter from behind the arc, who shot better than 40% on three-pointers during both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons in Sacramento.

Casspi had a down year last year, partially attributable to suffering a broken thumb immediately after a trade to New Orleans, and also surely due in some part to whatever general malaise was hanging over the Kings franchise. After his broken thumb healed, Casspi was rumored to have interest from a handful of playoff teams, but he strangely opted to finish out the year with Minnesota.

In addition to being an above-average shooter, Casspi has a career total rebounding percentage of 10.7%, a solid number for a small forward. He’s shown an ability in the past to slide between the two forward positions, so he could certainly fit the role Bryan Colangelo mentioned of getting another stretch four in the rotational mix.

Like Bayless, Henderson, and El Chacho, Casspi is in the sweet spot in his career arc where he is not past his prime, but has been around long enough to satisfy Colangelo’s “veteran leadership” criteria (for whatever that’s worth). More importantly, the Sixers would not have to break the bank to acquire his services. The last deal signed in the summer of 2015 was for a mere 2 years, $6M, and prior to that, he was making league minimum. A contract in the ballpark of 2 years, $10M would probably get the job done, keeping plenty of Philadelphia’s glut of cap space free should the team decide to pursue a big ticket player in the market.

A native of Israel, Casspi would fit right in on a Sixers roster heavy with international players. More importantly, the outside shooting and positional versatility at the forward positions are the exact qualities the team is looking for alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Signing Casspi wouldn’t be a top trending item on Twitter, but it would be a solid, incremental move in advancing the franchise forward. Hopefully, Bryan Colangelo feels similarly come July.

Sixers achieve glorious defeat in season finale

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

New York 114, Philadelphia 113 – Box Score

They did it! All the Marshall Plumlee playing time in the world couldn’t keep the Sixers from what was rightfully theirs – sole possession of the 4th-worst record in the league and all the juicy lottery balls that come with it.

In a game that was more or less a farce, with as many open three pointers and uncontested drives to the rim as the All-Star game, the outcome remained in doubt up until the very last seconds. After Justin Holiday and Nik Stauskas exchanged triples, a jumper from all-around terrific person Maurice Ndour found front iron, backboard, and rim again, before falling through and putting the Knicks back in front. On Philadelphia’s final possession of the season, Stauskas was blocked by Plumlee on a drive, and after a subsequent jump ball, Sauce missed a final three-pointer to send the Sixers to glorious defeat.

With the loss, and Orlando defeating Detroit in another game that went down to the wire Wednesday night, the Sixers no longer have to split any lottery balls with the Magic. They have a full complement of 119 lottery balls for their own pick, which means an 11.9% chance at first overall and 37.8% at a top-three selection. Except…

We also have to factor in the Sacramento pick swap. If the Kings lose as expected to the Clippers (update: the Kings did lose), they will finish in sole possession of the 8th-worst record. Those extra lottery balls would bump the Sixers’ chance of the first overall pick up to 14.7% with close to a 50-50 shot at a top-3 pick (45.3% to be precise).

So thank you to Dario Saric for only playing 81 games and sitting out this finale. Thanks to TJ McConnell for only playing 19 minutes. No thanks to Justin Anderson for clearly trying three times as hard as anyone on the court and scoring a career-high 26 points on 9-10 shooting. Thanks to Brett Brown for sitting Anderson down the stretch.

Fingers crossed for lottery night.

Sixers Set to Finish Season in New York

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

The zombie Sixers will conclude their long trudge to the finish line tonight at Madison Square Garden. It will be the last chance for Dario Saric to make a case for his Rookie of the Year candidacy. Most importantly though, hopefully, tonight will be the last time for many, many years, when fans are hoping for anything but a Sixers win.

Philadelphia is deadlocked with Orlando with the 4th-worst record in the league. As it stands, they each receive 103 or 104 lottery balls next month in the secret back room of the league’s lottery. If either team separates from the other via a win tonight (Orlando plays host to Detroit), it will have significant implications on the team’s chances at a higher pick.

Both Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis are likely sitting out tonight, but with the Knicks either finishing 6th-worst or tied for 6th-worst, I’d like to believe their tanking incentive is lower. Avenge your brother’s trade with a big night, Justin Holiday! I’ll lay out the full odds below.

In other news, I’m happy to report that thanks to the Lakers beating New Orleans last night (their 5th straight win!!!), they are locked into the 3rd-worst record in the league. There will be a 53.1% chance that the Sixers receive the pick this summer. My fingers will be metaphorically crossed for the next four weeks straight.

As for Sacramento, the plucky Kings defeated Phoenix last night, moving them into a tie for the NBA’s 8th-worst record with Dallas. The Kings are on the road against the Clippers tonight, who are deadlocked with Utah in the battle to see who gets home-court advantage in their first-round matchup. Sacramento can fall anywhere from tied for 9th-worst with New Orleans to tied for 7th-worst with Minnesota.

Lakers pick (locked into 3rd-worst record):

– 53.1% chance of conveying (4th – 22.6%; 5th – 26.5%; 6th – 4.0%)

Sixers pick (currently tied with Orlando for 4th-worst record):

Sixers -3 @ New York

Magic -2 vs. Detroit

– Both Sixers and Magic win or both lose – each team receives 103 lottery balls. A coin flip determines who receives a 104th lottery ball, as well as which team drafts 4th and which 5th if neither moves into the top-3.

– Either Sixers or Magic win with the other losing – loser receives 119 lottery balls and the winner receives 88.

Sacramento Swap (currently tied with Dallas for 8th-worst record):

Kings +15.5 @ Clippers

Pelicans @ Trailblazers (no line posted)

Mavericks +7.5 @ Grizzlies

Timberwolves +8 @ Rockets 

As mentioned above, the Kings are tied with Dallas and sit one game below New Orleans and one game above Minnesota. I’m not going to go into all the iterations here. Just know you’re rooting for the Clippers, Pelicans, Mavericks, and Wolves. Happy end to the regular season!

Sixers Fall in Home Finale to Pacers

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Indiana 120, Philadelphia 111 – Box Score

In the final home game of the season, in front of fans who have put up with an inordinate amount of losing the last few years, it initially looked as though the Sixers would go quietly with another listless effort. Having a huge last month of the season as he guns for an all-NBA spot and the associated eligibility for a super-max contract when he next hits free agency, Paul George nearly outscored Philadelphia by himself in the first quarter. The Pacers superstar scored 17 of his game-high 27 points in the opening stanza; Indiana would lead by as many as 21 points in the first half.

Instead, the game turned surprisingly competitive, even violent at times, led first by an 11-0 Sixers run in the second quarter to get back into the game. Richaun Holmes was at the center of that surge, scoring 10 of his 17 points in the frame, mostly via rim-rattling dunks. Myles Turner had a nice game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks, but as we already learned earlier this season, Holmes has absolutely no fear of challenging the young Pacers center at the cup.

In the second half, as the Sixers pulled within as close as 5 points, it was rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot dominating for Philadelphia. TLC went off for a career-high 24 points, shooting 4-5 from three and looking increasingly comfortable as a shot creator. He canned a mid-range turnaround jumper at one point, something I’d never even seen him attempt before. These late-season reps as a starter have been great for Luwawu in expanding his game beyond a passive 3-and-D role on the court; it can only help him down the road.

Things got heated down the stretch, particularly between Gerald Henderson and Paul George. The pair got into it with each other earlier in the second half, tussling as Henderson attempted to body up George on the defensive end. The pair each picked up a technical. Then, with a few minutes remaining in the game, Henderson threw a nasty elbow to the George’s face while driving to the hole. Video later revealed it was a retaliation for George throwing an elbow to Henderson’s back as the two players were running up court. Henderson ended up with a flagrant-2 foul, while George also got a second technical. Both players were ejected. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time left for it to matter that the Pacers had lost their superstar for the rest of the game.

With only Wednesday night’s contest on the road against the Knicks remaining for the Sixers, they still sit tied with the Magic for the 4th-worst record in the league. Given that Orlando just lost by 47 points to Chicago, I’m not holding my breath that they will do much of anything against Detroit. The Sixers will need to reconcile one more loss to give themselves the best chance in next month’s lottery.

Other Game Notes:

  • Alex Poythress hit his first 5 three-point attempts for a career-high 15 points. The D-league call-up was 1-9 from behind the arc entering the game, so let’s not crown him the league’s next stretch-four, but certainly a nice game for Poythress.
  • Longtime Sixer Thad Young had a great game, accruing 20 points and 8 rebounds with his usual brand of hustle and scoring in the margins of the action. I’m glad it looks like Thad will get back to the playoffs after he bounced around with some very bad teams the last few years.